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AI, Chatbots and the Threat to Your Contact Centre

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Warnings abound about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) and smart robots, with industry and academic experts such as Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates expressing concerns about everything from a huge loss of jobs to the end of the human race. Yet in a recent interview with the BBC, Garry Kasparov, chess grandmaster and keynote speaker at last year’s Social Robotics & AI conference, said this:

“Intelligent machines will not make us obsolete but our complacency might.”

So, should we be worried about intelligent machines taking over the world and triggering the end of life as we know it? Once seen as a far-off dream of the future and the stuff of science fiction, AI has become a reality in households and workplaces around the world. From the voice assistants on our phones to the self-driving cars in our streets to the chatbots providing customer service on Facebook Messenger, AI is having an impact on our day-to-day lives.

Customer experience professionals should also be questioning the impact chatbots and intelligent virtual agents are already having, and will continue to have, on the contact centre. The age-old debate about whether automated self-service or human-assisted support is better seems to be coming to a head as technology and generational changes are having a big impact on how we communicate with each other and companies. Are AI-powered chatbots the future of the contact centre, or are they a threat signalling the end of contact centres?

In order to get a realistic view of AI, we need to take a step back from the warnings, predictions, promises and hype to see where we are right now. The perfect place to start is the brand new whitepaper AI, Chatbots and Virtual Agents: The Threat to Mankind and the Contact Centre. This whitepaper discusses the warnings about the dangers of AI, the inflated expectations for chatbots created by unrealistic promises in the marketplace and the reality of using these technologies in the contact centre and for automated self-service. More specifically, it guides readers through:

  • A realistic view of AI and chatbots in the customer experience space
  • The impact of chatbots and virtual agents on the contact centre
  • Why chatbots should use a combination of self-learning and human input
  • How humans and machines can work in harmony to provide perfect customer service
  • Leveraging AI and chatbots to prepare your contact centre for the future

When it comes to AI, chatbots and virtual agents in the customer engagement space, organisations need to make informed decisions based on realistic expectations. Download a full copy of this whitepaper to get a better understanding of the technology and how it’s already starting to impact your contact centre.

AI Costs People Their Jobs!!!

By Mike Murphy, COO, Creative Virtual USA

You’ve seen the “Technologists” and “Futurists” with their neon-framed spectacles warning us that the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Revolution is going to put all of us out of work. Well…maybe they were right this time! We saw a couple of big news stories just in the last couple of months…first IBM Watson devoured some poor souls at MD Anderson and PWC, then Facebook lost a few fingers in the chatbot gears. The robots did indeed take some jobs…but not in the way the Futurists predicted. These folks were technology casualties because they were operating under the premise that their technology alone can do great things. And they’re right..Machine Learning and AI technology can do great things. But that doesn’t mean that it will. Luckily enough, it looks like people are going to be the key technology to fulfilling the promise of AI in automating human tasks.

It was exceptionally impressive to watch Watson beat Ken at Jeopardy. But the process that Watson underwent to get to that point was the real key to its eventual success, much more so than any inherent technological capability. And that optimization process involved lots of good, old-fashioned humans. The key to successful automation is understanding the process and the artistry behind any task. And every job has an element of artistry. Take doctors for instance. If you ever overhear a conversation between friends recommending a doctor (or mechanic), there’s a pretty good chance it’s because they are ‘a really nice, pleasant person who listens’…or some version thereof. When people share a good customer service story, there are often elements of “empathy” and “ownership” mentioned in their telling as often as “intelligence”. And who hasn’t gone back to a diner more for the entertainment value of the wait staff than for the food? The point here is not to underestimate the complexity of any job, even simple ones, that humans perform today. And betting your own job on Watson to deliver on its promise is much riskier than you may think.

There is an important lesson to learn from IBM & Facebook’s failures with AI. But it isn’t that the technology isn’t ready to make significant impacts on your business. The lesson is an old one…that, when selecting a vendor to partner with, you choose one that best understands and appreciates the complexity of your business. While we’ve helped companies automate millions of conversations over the last 13 years, we still start each engagement by first understanding how their best employees perform the task well. And we understand the importance of a close partnership that continually works together with experts within your own business to ensure our solutions are effective and consistently providing the right customer experience. Avoid losing your job from ill-behaving robots by reaching out to us for more info.

And if you’re attending Enterprise Connect in Orlando, FL be sure to swing by the ‘Contact Centers 2020: What Will Drive Innovation in the Contact Center?’ panel starting at 1:00pm on Monday.

 

Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – Confusing or What!

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone involved with customer service, marketing, customer engagement or sales who hasn’t heard something about chatbots this year. Along with all the attention and media buzz has come a wave of confusion for the marketplace. What’s the difference between a chatbot and a virtual agent? Should I be jumping on the bandwagon and offering a chatbot on Facebook Messenger? What do my customers actually want from a self-service virtual agent? Are bots just a passing fad for engaging my customers?

If any (or all!) of these questions left you scratching your head, don’t worry.  You’re certainly not alone. Even industry analysts and experts have taken a second look at how they view and talk about this technology. A new whitepaper, aptly titled Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what!, acknowledges this confusion and sets out to demystify the names, uses and future of digital customer engagement tools. As we approach the end of 2016 and begin to look at what 2017 will bring for the customer experience and service space, this comprehensive whitepaper is a great resource for understanding automated conversational systems and how they fit into your overall customer engagement plan.  It walks readers through:

  • The names and terminology being used for these systems in the customer engagement space: Virtual agent, chatbot, avatar, virtual customer assistant, bot, virtual assistant, chatterbot – there have been lots of different names used over the years which has added to the confusion in the marketplace. The whitepaper looks at the different terminology being used and what customers expect you to call your self-service.
  • The technology and AI behind chatbots and virtual agents: “A chatbot called by any other name is still only as good as the technology powering it.” This whitepaper discusses the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in relation to self-learning chatbots. It also addresses the types of features, functionality and integrations you should look for when exploring this technology for customer support.
  • Selecting a tool that’s right for your company and your customers: Step one is to determine how the solution will fit into your overall digital customer engagement plan. The series of questions presented in this whitepaper will help you choose a chatbot or virtual agent that fits with that plan and meets the very high expectations of today’s customers for 24/7 access to personalised, consistent and accurate information.
  • Current use cases for conversational self-service: Facebook Messenger’s introduction of chatbots was certainly a big announcement this year, but this technology has also been proven successful for providing self-service on other customer engagement channels as well. This whitepaper also goes beyond customer support to explore a compelling use case for using these tools for employee self-service, too.
  • Preparing for the future of digital customer engagement: Will chatbots play a role in the future of digital customer engagement or are they just a passing fad? With so many organisations working with tight budgets and limited resources, this is an important question to explore before investing in any new technology. Backed by industry statistics and analyst predictions, you’ll get a peek into the future of the contact centre and digital engagement.

Ready to leave your chatbot confusion behind? Download a full copy of this whitepaper to help you explore the possibility of chatbots being a win-win for your organisation and your customers.

Is Your Organization Mature Enough to Implement Chatbots for Customer Service?

By the Creative Virtual Team

The recent development of AI platforms has brought with it lots of uncertainty. Many companies believe that artificial intelligence tools could help their business, but are unsure if their organization is sophisticated enough to implement such a solution.

While there are some prerequisites for implementing an AI-based virtual assistant in your organization, the barrier to entry is much lower than many believe. As technological developments make AI more advanced, they also make solutions like V-Person™ more accessible to businesses in every industry.

Artificial intelligence for self-service support: past vs. present

When artificial intelligence virtual assistants were in their earliest stages, they required a significant investment of time and capital. Companies might have had to hire one or more specialists trained specifically in how to manage an AI platform. A simple artificial intelligence chat solution might require an exhaustive long-term plan with a hefty budget to match.

Things have changed. Today, a company can set up and begin using an AI virtual assistant with an average, up-to-date machine. Creative Virtual’s V-Person solution can be easily installed on any normal computer running Windows or Linux and requires just 30 MB of disk space. There is no need to purchase high-end servers or invest in a massive infrastructure upgrade just to implement an AI solution.

Further, V-Person doesn’t require any ramp-up time once it is installed. As soon as the preliminary setups are complete, it can handle as many as one million conversations per year and will continue to learn and improve upon its customer support answers. And while we recommend providing ample time for setup and testing, Creative Virtual has designed and deployed V-Person chat solutions for complex, enterprise-level organizations in less than 30 days.

Don’t wait for the “perfect” time to implement virtual agent software

While AI customer service technology is still developing, all signs point to it being the next big frontier in technology. A June 2016 report published by market research company TechSci predicts that the U.S. artificial intelligence market will grow at an astounding 75% CAGR until the year 2021.

If you think your organization could benefit from an AI virtual assistant but don’t feel completely ready to implement one, you should work with an experienced, capable provider who can help you get started painlessly. Check out our resource page to learn more about how Creative Virtual has helped all types of companies start enjoying the benefits of V-Person for customer service and brand consistency.

As the leader in virtual customer service, Creative Virtual specializes in the science of conversation. Sign up for a free demonstration here.