The media is awash with articles discussing the virtues and pitfalls of AI, VR, AR or Blockchain. But even though you may be bewildered, it is impossible to ignore how these technologies are impacting not only our personal lives from a very basic level today but more importantly into our future. Which let’s face it is not that far away.
Before we go on, let’s pause and explain exactly what these technologies are:
AI – Artificial Intelligence – (also known as machine learning) is intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to natural intelligence displayed humans.
VR – Virtual Reality – is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds.
AR – Augmented Reality – is a direct or indirect live view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated information.
Blockchain – A digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.
Of all these technologies, the one that is getting the most attention and will continue to do so is AI. Everyone is talking about AI, from tech companies, developers, engineers, media and for good reason to. AI has been around for over 65 years, but it is only recently that we have been able to harness it. We have more computer power, more data and more companies willing to invest in it.
Just about every large tech company is investing in AI and more than likely had a major PR release showcasing their latest offerings For example, Google recently previewed ‘Google Duplex’-an artificial intelligent agent that can make phone calls- to a much heralded fanfare that amazed and shocked people in equal measure.
What was all the fuss about. Well Google Duplex was able to call a hair salon, book an appointment, ask questions, and answer questions. Easy right. The amazing part was that the human like nature of the conversation and how the receptionist couldn’t tell that she was engaging a machine. Google Duplex even had the well times human like pauses- ‘hmmm and ahhh’ to replicate a more lifelike experience. It’s well worth googling it if you haven’t already seen it yet.
Taking AI from Personal to Business Uses
What this Google Duplex example very clearly demonstrates is just how real and present AI is becoming and gives us a glimpse into how our lives will be impacted, not only on a personal level but also on a business level.
The concept of machines having the capability to replace human contact centre agents and eliminate large chunks of their existing workload is one that is not new. There are over 1 million people employed in the contact centre business in UK that are having millions of daily customer conversations. Virtual agents, machine learning, natural language processing, seamless chatbot conversations have already started to have an impact on how contact centres are engaging. The nature of business and how they reach out to customers and let customers engage with them is changing and this seismic shift is one that cannot be ignored. Every business must sit up, take note and most of all acknowledge and act to ensure that their business adapts and prospers in this new AI driven world.
WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com predicts that 55% of existing Customer Service Rep will be automates in the future. This level of automation sounds shocking and scary but looking at latest tech roadshows the figure is a lot more understandable now than it was 12 months ago.
So where does collecting customer payments fit in? The world of collections and recoveries won’t be immune to this new wave of AI and high levels of automation. The role of human collections agents are destined to change with agents becoming more skilled and their role focused primarily on complex negotiations and organising arrangements with customers rather than on low value routine customer engagements.
Why have agents conduct simple ID&V authentications, spending valuable time conducting I&E questionnaires or simply continuously chasing, chasing and chasing customers. AI has arrived and is having a positive impact on the effectiveness of the business to engage with non- responsive customers and improved the nature and way they engage with customers who do engage.
We have seen this first hand. Some of our clients who have embraced AI technology are already have up to 40% of a collections conversation automated through AI chatbots and this was achieved without too much heaving lifting on either side, so AI in collections is already here and proving its worth today.
The Channel Shift – What it Means to the Business
Complimenting this AI adoption is the way we all communicate with each other and the different channels we use. There has been a seismic shift in way we all communicate. Today, everybody Messenger and WhatsApp messaging apps, the two biggest players in the UK and EU. These two channels alone generate more than 10 billion messages a day. That is a global reach of over 3.4 billion. Just think about that figure, it is astonishing. And that figure is only going to rise.
This move to person-to-person messaging has of course lead to businesses catching up. With more and more companies acknowledging that the customer communications landscape has shifted and are engaging with their customer in the new channels. The obvious benefits are immediately visible from a consumer’s point of view “ease of use drives adoption” and done well, this can be a great customer experience with instantaneous access and responses to queries, questions or even buying something. On the other side are the benefits to the business. Let’s start with the increased levels of customer engagement all the way through to the huge efficiencies and ability to scale with being restricted by existing agent to customer ratios.
One of the lesser talked about benefits that are derived from AI is the ability to understand customers better during ‘live’ conversations and in-turn to proactively steer all conversations a path that will result in business benefit.
An example of this is Webio Propensity-X – a prediction engine that uses the customers propensity along with its understanding of “the conversation” to identify when and how to interact with each individual customer.
In simple terms, Webio Propensity-X can within three utterances of a conversation can predicated the likelihood of a particular business outcome. The accuracy rate is circa 80% and with more data and machine learning the higher that rating will go.
So, what does this mean for the business? Simply put, this allows companies to design better conversation flows and better use existing resources when and where needed. An example would be identifying customer issues like vulnerability and routing conversations to the right skilled agents.
The future is now. AI is shaping the way we live and are going to live our lives. For some this is exciting and for others a little scary. No matter which side of the fence you are on, now is the time to stop and think how AI will it impact on your business and your customers. Your businesses future is in your hands.
Mark Opperman, EVP Sales & Marketing, Webio