The impact of conversational AI on critical services

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As communication tools disappear, the phone has probably had the biggest impact on a person’s ability to share information quickly. Even before the advent of cell phones, being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone often made the difference between life and death.

In recent years, however, a variety of factors, ranging from changing generational attitudes towards telephone calls to the economic impact of running large contact centers, have made it more difficult to dial a number, to speak to someone and get or share information.

From the customer’s perspective, this can be frustrating. From a critical services perspective, this can be life threatening.

The pandemic has added a new layer of complexity – the disbursement of labor. A variety of operators across all industries, including blue light, government, food, transportation, and financial services, are grappling with major challenges. Namely, how do they continue to meet the demands of their constituents and users when labor shortages could reduce the ability to pick up the phone?

What is needed is a new way to meet user needs while easing the burden on often overworked, overworked, and budget-constrained organizations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing at breakneck speed, with the market for AI-enabled software expected to reach $ 125 billion by 2025. Very often, the focus is on its potential to disrupt entire industries. and displace millions of workers – the rise of machines and the end of mankind, to take an extreme point of view.

Yet conversational AI could also be a revolutionary communication tool for essential service providers. How? ‘Or’ What? By giving customer service departments and teams the tools to engage customers effectively and efficiently.

What is conversational AI?

Conversational AI is an umbrella term that refers to several technologies, such as virtual assistants and chatbots that engage users using natural and human requests and responses.

As IBM explains, conversational AI uses “large volumes of data, machine learning, and natural language processing to help mimic human interactions, recognize voice and text input, and translate their meaning into different languages”.

While this description makes it sound like conversational AI will make customer service teams obsolete, it’s actually the opposite – conversational AI will make human teams more valuable. How? ‘Or’ What? By expanding the capabilities of existing agents, whether that’s automatically translating queries and responses into any language, enabling self-service by pointing out the right tools and portals, or responding instantly to requests across any language. channel.

How Conversational AI Can Help Critical Services

Conversational AI helps organizations deliver vital services without having to increase headcount, a particular benefit for public sector organizations hit by austerity.

For example, residents could contact their nearest police department through a WhatsApp account to report untoward incidents in the middle of the night without having to make a phone call. A complaint about a large utility bill could start on a self-service portal on a bank’s website before being prioritized and routed to a live agent with the right skills and the right information on the bank. customer account, eg current situation and any customer requirements, such as preferred language.

While how organizations can deploy conversational AI depends on their specific needs, there are three clear ways the majority can benefit:

1. Give staff more time to focus on complex requests

Customer support teams in industries such as government, finance, and healthcare typically spend hours answering routine questions every day. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, with the average contact center seeing calls classified as ‘difficult’ drop to 20% from the usual level of 10%. This means that support agents are handling an increasing number of complex customer inquiries, in addition to routine messages. Answers to these may be straightforward, but they still take time and resources, which can increase wait times and negatively impact client satisfaction and service delivery.

Conversational AI provides a way to consolidate answers to the most common customer questions, allowing live agents to focus their attention on the customers who need it most.

For example, in Singapore, Ask Jamie, a virtual assistant developed by the Singapore government in 2014, has been updated to answer questions on topics related to the pandemic, such as the latest case count and distancing guidelines. social.

Or there’s Newham Council, which has deployed a live chat and chatbot platform to provide self-service to residents with questions about parking. In doing so, he was able to free up the call center to focus on more complex conversations about the area’s parking rules. In six months, the board was able to automatically answer over 10,000 questions, save 84 call hours and generate savings of £ 40,000.

2. Allow users to communicate on their terms

As pointed out earlier, while the phone was once the primary means of reaching an organization, there are a number of factors that lead to a decrease in usage from both the user and the service provider perspective. When it comes to critical services of a sensitive nature, such as those involving personal health, many people may be uncomfortable bringing their personal circumstances and concerns to a customer service agent over the phone. .

Conversational AI offers a solution to these problems. By deploying chatbots and live chat add-ons across all digital channels, organizations can meet users on their terms. With the proliferation of communication options, more and more people prefer one method over another, and organizations that can provide a way to converse at this point will see better engagement and better results, without necessarily involving contact centers. and human agents.

Of course, this remains an option. But having a live chat on WhatsApp, for example, means that organizations can direct users to the right sources of information, help them self-serve or, if necessary, connect them to a human agent.

This setup gives users peace of mind knowing that they can only reveal their personal information when necessary.

Additionally, conversational AI can add value to existing customer service facilities. For example, some platforms automatically translate customer queries and agent responses, which means a team may appear to be fluent in multiple languages ​​when interacting with users.

Finally, conversational AI can add value to your customer service installations. For example, at Futr, our platform automatically translates customer queries and agent responses, making your customer support teams fluent in over 120 languages.

3. Know how users feel before speaking to them

The third benefit of conversational AI is the way it can collect data that provides insight and intelligence to support service delivery.

For example, chat logs can be reviewed for sentiment analysis, with keywords to quickly establish a user’s mood and feelings. This can help identify the most pressing concerns, both in the specific conversation and in the overall relationship with the user and, if necessary, contribute to how issues are resolved.

This same data can also help improve basic services. For example, a police department inundated with reports of antisocial behavior in a city neighborhood can quickly deploy additional patrols there. Complaints about bus delays on certain routes may allow councils to take decisive action by adding more buses.

Of course, using feedback to improve services is nothing new. Where conversational AI helps is its immediacy – a chat’s data can be instantly shared with relevant departments, helping with the planning and deployment of live resources.

The future of conversational AI is here

AI can certainly divide opinions. Yet, as we navigate a complex and disrupted world, it has a vital role to play in the provision of essential services. It is not a question of taking over from machines, but of value-added tools that enrich existing teams to meet user needs. With service providers having to help users while overcoming a variety of challenges, implementing live chat facilities across multiple channels can deliver an enhanced experience without putting additional strain on already overburdened organizations.

Andy Wilkins, Co-Founder and CEO, Future

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