How Will AI Impact BPO In Fast-Growing Locations?
Will AI and robots take over contact center jobs? Mark Hillary says not entirely.
When I visited Jamaica recently, one of the recurring conversation topics repeated several times by government and trade association representatives was ‘how long has Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) got before Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over?’
It’s a genuine concern.
Some people are thinking that maybe it’s not even worth considering a BPO career if the robots take all these jobs.
In fact, two years ago The Economist actually predicted the death of the contact center. It noted that AI and voice recognition would make the role of the agent redundant.
But as we have seen, contact centers in locations such as Jamaica are still growing. The Economist prediction hasn’t quite worked out – yet. In fact the World Economic Forum predicts that AI will only automate all human jobs within the next 125 years.
The Customer Experience (CX) is being changed and influenced by several connected technologies. In fact, in many cases it is the desire to improve CX that is driving much of the research and investment into these new technologies.
However, what is important to note is that in most cases the technologies are supportive, rather than being a direct replacement for human employees.
Some AI tools, such as chat-bots, are already helping contact centers to eliminate very simple enquiries. This helps the human agents focus on more complex queries where natural language and an ability to empathize with the customer are important. It cannot be denied that contact centers will be changed because of these emerging technologies like AI, but instead of proclaiming that the contact center is dead, I would suggest that we will see these five supportive trends in the near future:
- Accuracy; imagine if agents could have the answer to every possible question the customer might ask? If you use machine learning to store every question, with the correct solution, then an AI system scanning the calls can suggest the right answer to human agents in real-time – as the conversation is taking place.
- Knowledge; you can use bots to stratify your service. Really focus on automating the simple questions and allowing the human agents to spend more time engaging with customers on other issues – so they help the brand to build a bond with the customer.
- Personalization; if your system knows the purchase and browsing history of the customer then some real-time data analysis can create a highly personalized experience – perhaps with product recommendations or special time-limited offers.
- Prediction and patterns; those same data analytics can explore customer behavior to find how they interact with your brand and to provide predictions that can create actions – such as a subscriber who might be about to cancel. Don’t let negative outcomes happen when the data already lets you predict when it might happen – be proactive.
- Dynamic pricing; of particular important to ecommerce companies, where the personalization can even extend to different pricing for different customers.
I believe that machine learning, AI, and Big Data analysis are going to dramatically change the customer experience, but it is incredibly simplistic to believe that just as customers expect a more personalized service brands would shift entirely to bots.
Smart brands will use the opportunity to automate some customer interactions and increase the engagement value of the human interactions. Supporting the agents and ensuring they always have the right answer is a great start on this journey.
Customers want to engage and get closer to brands and this simply cannot happen at present with bot technology – have you tried to have a meaningful conversation with Siri?
Voice recognition and AI will be good enough and cheap enough for brands to deploy as standard eventually, but the human interaction will remain important inside BPO companies for several more years. The contact center isn’t dead yet!