Chris McGuganApril 19, 2019

The Power of AI to Drive Change

AI presents a huge opportunity, possibly bigger than digital transformation itself. The World Economic Forum predicts that digital transformation will provide economic value to business and society that will top $100 trillion dollars by 2025. Yet with AI—which technically has been around for a long time though it is clearly having its moment in the sun now—the possibilities are tremendous and seemingly endless to drive social, business, and economic change.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, there will be an 80% reduction in missing people in mature markets compared to 2018, due to AI-based face recognition. They also predict that by that same year, hospital emergency room visits will be reduced by 20 million, due to enrollment of chronically ill patients in AI-enhanced virtual care. And IDC is saying that by 2021, 75% of commercial enterprise apps will have AI built-in, and more than 50% of consumers will interact with AI. Notice that each of those predictions are within the next few years. We have every reason to believe these predictions and more will come true—that’s the power of AI.

The ability to have this level of impact on life as we know it is because AI is a cognitive technology. It can perform and/or augment tasks, help better inform decisions, and accomplish objectives that have traditionally required human intelligence, such as planning, reasoning from partial or uncertain information.  All the while it is constantly learning in real time to help provide better outcomes.

From my perspective, there is no better place for AI to make a significant difference in how business gets done than in the contact center. Consider the IVR. Getting lost in or frustrated with an IVR will finally become a thing of the past with AI.  I’m not saying that IVRs will completely disappear. But they will be very different than what we know today. The conversation with an AI-powered IVR is more natural, more intuitive, more freeform, more satisfying.

With AI we are so close to making the IVR experience more conversational. While we’ve done command and control for years with basic speech recognition, now we can do something that’s truly unique.  But it’s on us, as technologists, to merge the data science with the conversation science. It’s fine to have a chatbot. But the bot has to be intelligent enough to provide natural continuity in a conversation. Our understanding of human conversation is how AI will learn the nuances needed to be more conversant. There is nothing more intuitive or natural to a human employee or customer than having a conversation.

While the IVR itself is not disappearing, the queue is. As we’re seeing our consumer population change, a lot of folks won’t even make a phone call because it just takes too long to sit in a queue after going through an IVR. They’re not willing to wait in a queue anymore. What we’re seeing now with AI is that we can use behavioral pairing and intent pairing when making the decision of how to best serve the customer with speed and accuracy.

Since AI can be deployed either from the cloud or on premise, we can bring that technology into the contact center in many different ways that can start to change the way the ACD or the call delivery platform actually operates. By handling multiple calls simultaneously, you’ll be able to reduce your abandonment rate because you’re making better decisions about how a particular call is even handled and brought into the contact center.  

And, that really allows us to create a unique customer journey. It’s not just about a single experience. It is also about the journey and how the customer interacts with your technology over time. Understanding the totality of the customer journey and that it is developed over time, involves different channels, different modalities, preferences, is something that continues to be a work in progress. Add AI to the mix and the ability to understand the totality of the customer’s interactions and relationship with your company can be simplified.

In fact, I’d say that with AI, the phrase “customer journey” will become “customer autobahn”. An autobahn is all about speed and ease. Let’s face it, today’s customer journey is anything but. It can feel like an actual journey to the customer—a long, drawn out, slow highway. Interacting with a company should be at the speed and ease of an autobahn, including receiving a personalized experience the whole way. Today we talk about the value to the agent having a view into the whole customer journey so that they can understand, empathize, be more relatable, more knowledgeable and ideally provide a better customer experience. But the reality is, manually assembling a 360-degree view of a customer right when the customer calls in is humanly not possible. This is where AI comes in.

Robin Gareiss of Nemertes Research recently joined me for a webinar where she goes into the 360- degree view of the customer.  When using AI with machine learning and analytics, AI can look across all databases throughout the enterprise in real time. The value of this is that the speed of collecting, analyzing and then providing the right contextual information to the agent the moment it’s needed, creates an autobahn-like experience for the customer.

If you didn’t catch this webinar, here’s the link. In addition to the 360 view of the customer, Robin has some amazing stats and success stories around AI and analytics based on her recently completed global survey of 697 companies. On the same webinar, I expand upon some of the topics in this blog. I encourage you to carve out 40 minutes, grab a cup of coffee, and listen in.

There is no doubt that AI has the power to drive real change in the contact center and beyond. It’s an exciting time to be working in technology and feel that we’re on the cusp of truly changing the world for good. It’s simply up to us—as technologists and consumers—to think outside the box, stretch our imaginations, communicate and collaborate on ideas to design a world where AI is helping us be better, smarter, happier people.

Chris McGugan

Chris leads Avaya's technology strategy development to guide future investments. His focus is on assessing customer needs, market trends and how new and emerging technologies can drive value and improved customer experience as part of the digital transformation in communications that Avaya is leading.

Read Articles by Chris McGugan

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