The Role of Generative AI in Contact Centres

Generative AI has been the talk of the town since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022.

Yet, the rhetoric around the technology has taken a negative turn, with people terrified it will replace them in their jobs, or that the tech will become more intelligent than humans, taking over society.

It’s a fear made more real by organisations, such as Octopus Energy, announcing human jobs are being replaced with the technology. Yet, concerns over AI are often misplaced.

In fact, generative AI is going to be the next big technology innovation – much like the mobile phone, or World Wide Web – a highly popular tool assisting us with day-to-day work and personal tasks. While it might seem roles are being replaced, it’s a fact those organisations replacing current jobs with AI will have to create enhanced job roles for humans.

The future of industry

In the infancy of a product or technology it’s always the case there are teething problems. And, we’re seeing it with generative AI – especially its use by cyber criminals to mimic loved ones voices and fake distressing phone calls to bribe family, or the tech’s ability to create malware to trick unsuspecting victims. While these uses of generative AI might be scary, and safeguards should be put in place as a form of protection, the technology is here to stay.

This is especially the case for the customer service industry. For the businesses which implement generative AI, customer interactions are due to improve massively. Whether it’s contact centre agents never needing to put people on hold again because they have real-time answers to simple queries, AI being able to provide 24/7/365 support, or the technology handling multiple customer queries simultaneously – generative AI is the future.

It’s a theory that’s backed up by the fact that, in the current economic landscape, most businesses aren’t hesitating when it comes to deciding the strategic direction they are going in. And they can’t afford to either, especially given the benefits. For example, at SSCL, we have had a 500% uptake in self-service queries by customers due to the improved speed and ease of use it offers them.

This is a new era for contact centres. Generative AI has the potential to improve customer experience, but equally as important, improve employee experience too. In fact, by acting as a co-pilot supporting contact centre agents by taking on straightforward queries which aren’t outcome based, AI can leave highly trained agents to take on higher value tasks, motivating them in their roles.

Enhancing the employee experience

While technology change is always happening, it’s important to note humans aren’t going anywhere. As long as there are humans with questions, there needs to be humans answering them – people want to speak with and deal with people.

One of the main concerns in the customer service industry around generative AI is its lack of human empathy and emotional intelligence. In fact, it may struggle to understand nuanced or emotionally charged customer inquiries, leading to potential frustration or dissatisfaction among customers. Alongside this, AI solutions can unintentionally exhibit biases which may have been present in its data, potentially leading to discriminatory or unfair responses.

It’s these issues which mean generative AI solutions – such as conversational AI, which enables computers to have conversations with humans, and Large Language Model (LLM) which focuses on understanding and producing human language – still can’t be used without the human element of customer service backing them up and supporting customers.

Saying that, agents need to ensure they are specifically trained on the AI, with the tech brought into future training courses as a necessity. The more agents know about generative AI, the better they will be able to utilise the technology, while removing any personal fears they might have.

As part of this training, it’s important for contact centres to bring data scientists into their teams to help workers to make the most of the technology for their own benefit, and the experiences they are providing customers.

Final thoughts

The more contact centres know about generative AI, the better positioned they will be to leverage the technology within their business, while reducing the fears employees have over the technology. We know generative AI will revolutionise parts of the industry and increase customer expectations, but those looking to adopt it, especially those who aren’t wasting anytime in their implementations, need to do so correctly.

To ensure generative AI becomes a trusted co-pilot to agents, executives, and everything in between, user fear needs to be addressed, training needs to be implemented, and workers need to see benefits quickly.

About the Author

Marco Ndrecaj is Director of Contact Centre Services at SSCL. Welcome to SSCL, the trading name for Shared Services Connected Ltd. We’re a leading provider of business-critical support services to Government and the UK public sector. We employ 2,500 people and our business focus is ‘Shared Purpose – Unique Solutions’. Together we play a vital role in transforming business support services, delivering digital solutions and developing innovations that make life easier for our customers and meet their unique requirements. Our strong emphasis on improving customer experience has shown a substantial increase in our Net Promoter Scores in recent years. At the same time we have delivered more than £350m of savings for the public sector to date, providing more funds for front-line public services.

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