How Conversational AI and Voice Assistants are Transforming the Enterprise
Voice AI helps to solve B2C communications challenges that have been a thorn in CX
Artificial intelligence (AI) relying on voice commands to receive and interpret directives may seem like a sudden, recent development, given that it has only exploded in popularity within the last few years. The idea still sounds like science fiction in which, a computer is able to understand and process spoken language (including accents, nouns, and speech patterns) and is even capable of communicating back to humans. However, in reality, conversational AI has been a development 70 years in the making.
The world’s first voice-controlled AI system came into being in the 1950s with rather limited functionality; Bell Labs’ Audrey could only recognise numbers spoken to it. This was followed by IBM’s Shoebox, which could comprehend up to sixteen words – an impressive feat in the 1960s!
American military research throughout the next two decades helped to vastly expand Voice AI’s vocabulary. And with the personal computer boom, greater processing power and memory space emerged, and by the 2000s, technology companies like Google were bringing Voice AI and assistants to the masses.
A rapid sequence of Voice AI developments has ensued since, with the likes of Siri, Alexa, and Cortana taking root in our homes and assisting us in our everyday activities. Futuristic, speech-based technologies that can assist human living efficiently and inexpensively are now a reality, which otherwise, would not have been possible without the convergence of several key technologies such as:
- Cloud computing has helped push the boundaries for Voice AI too, easing access to resources and lowering cost barriers for cloud-based products
- New AI algorithms have helped Voice AI become smarter day by day, easily filtering out background noise while recognising important sounds, without being stumped by regional or colloquial names, accents, and voices
- Big data generated by millions of computers, handheld devices and other sources have laid the foundations for AI deep-learning – training Voice AI to sound more human
These developments have been benefitting contact centres ever since. Processes that once took up significant time and energy – such as debt collection or frequently asked questions in customer support – can be instantaneously automated and resolved by a single Voice AI platform.
Voice AI also has the ability to adapt to the ever-changing norms of customer service and experience (CX). While CX has always been a top priority for customer-centric organisations, its importance is arguably even more so now, as the pandemic has changed customer experience forever.
Today, with AI, the sky’s the limit – enabling companies and businesses to solve their long-standing B2C communication challenges, legacy issues and replace antiquated technologies that have been a thorn both in operations and customer service.
This can be a lot to take in, and that’s why we’re here to help. Are you curious about the opportunities Voice AI will create for the enterprise? Or is your business overwhelmed and unable to cope with the surge in the volume of customer calls? Let’s deep dive into how conversational AI can transform the enterprise.
1. High cost for call centres
Call centres are a massive investment and take considerable resources to start and operate. Much of the overhead cost goes to hiring, training, managing, scaling, and maintaining manpower to handle and answer large amounts of customer calls. On top of that, businesses also need to invest in offices to accommodate staff, and the requisite hardware and software to carry out their tasks.
We haven’t even considered the difficulty of scaling operations during peak and off-seasons. In such instances, businesses need to consider scaling up to avoid a collective work burnout crisis, which means spending on more space, people, and equipment. On the other hand, when the volume of calls taper down during off-seasons, businesses are confronted with the challenge of scaling down the operation in a fair and sustainable way.
2. Misconceptions about using AI to displace human jobs
An AI system can go a long way to address legacy issues efficiently, but that raises some challenges too. Misconceptions surrounding Voice AI can confuse businesses who want to embrace the technology but do not have the know-how.
For example, as it currently stands, Voice AI does not have the capability to replace the human workforce entirely. It’s not intended to do that either; Voice AI is meant to take over high-volume repetitive and predictable workflow aspects to increase workplace efficiency.
Voice AI is also distinctly different from chatbots. A chatbot works with a preset input (e.g. “Press 1 to continue or Press 2 to end this call”) and cannot match the complexity of a conversational customer experience. On the other hand, Voice AI can understand a diverse range of inputs, including accents, synonymous phrases, and more, thus making the experience more natural and comfortable for the customer.
3. Difficulties integrating new technology into legacy or antiquated systems
Many businesses attempting to upgrade to modern technologies may be held back by their legacy or antiquated systems. Especially call centres as they were established years before the boom in cloud computing and voice assistant technology.
These businesses might still be reliant on operating systems without the appropriate protocols to communicate with the cloud; computer-server architecture that can’t handle new tech’s increased performance requirements; and old computer security applications that won’t work with new applications.
For these companies, it can be challenging, and sometimes downright impossible, to take advantage of new technologies. Upgrading to voice assistant systems can be tricky and difficult to navigate, with many questions needing answers before finalising upgrade procedures. For instance, does one host a Voice AI system on the company premises or on the cloud?
Figuring out which one is more important for your operation is imperative, as choosing to adopt cloud services on top of Voice AI is another factor to consider.
1. The pandemic fueled an upsurge in customer call volume
The pandemic’s ramifications have spread to all aspects of our lives. Because of government lockdowns and safety concerns, we’ve grown accustomed to carrying out day-to-day activities over contactless and frictionless channels. This digital shift has led to an uptick in call centre customer calls.
Up to 35% of these are repeat calls – that is, people phoning in more than once to resolve the same issue. This eats into agents’ time and energy. It degrades the customer experience from the hassle of calling again and compromises the customer-brand relationship. Not only that, repeat calls logjam the caller queue, which again inconveniences the customer.
Agents are increasingly being tasked to handle less nuanced, complex problems that they have trained for. Further, the menial, repetitive tasks increase the likelihood of burnout, which may impact the quality of services rendered to the customer. How can businesses protect their brand reputation and empower their frontline employees at the same time? The answer to all this? Voice AI.
Even out of pure curiosity, you’ve probably tried using your smartphone’s built-in AI, whether that assistant is Siri, Google, you name it. Add the fact that smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa have also seen an increase in usage these past few years, and we see that more people are voluntarily adopting voice assistants in their personal lives.
This opens up the opportunity to leverage Voice AI at the enterprise level as the average customer has become more familiar and open to innovation.
For example, if you look at the health sector, customers and patients have embraced voice assistants as it meant safer healthcare services at the comfort of their homes. This is shown in the 5% growth of telehealth use, which in turn proactively prevented workplace burnout.
2. AI is now ready
As mentioned earlier, technological discoveries and breakthroughs in AI have skyrocketed in recent times. As Voice AI improves at an exponential rate, it will eventually have the ability to handle whatever you throw at it. As we speak, new trends are cropping up that may be more suited to handle your complex issues.
Need the accent to be familiar to the region you serve or change speech patterns to match your callers’ age group? Maybe your company’s industry is highly specialised, and you need to customise your Voice AI? That is now all possible.
Expect customisation to better suit your callers’ demographics and supercharge your customer experience and satisfaction. You can also trust Voice AI assistants to intelligently and proactively deal with customer issues. Long gone are AI interactions where you need to provide a long list of answers to narrow down your specific issue. Now, with much more detailed customer data to train on, AI can intelligently decide what response or solution is best suited for the context at hand.
Voice AI even benefits business-process focused industries, such as the financial, banking, insurance, healthcare, and retail sectors. Where legacy platforms used to perform a meticulous balancing act between accuracy and efficiency, Voice AI can now comfortably cover both bases for these industries. In fact, many of our clients in financial services have already deployed AI to handle more routine processes so that their human agents can focus on resolving specialised issues. There are also similar opportunities in healthcare and retail, where AI manages high-volume of order taking, information collection, and more.
Upscaling to meet the demand in call volume is child’s play with Voice AI. Savings of thousands to millions of US dollars can be unlocked by leveraging AI technologies to supplant upscaling and routine tasks.
1. It reduces human workload
Voice AI can take over many of the less enjoyable aspects of the call centre agent experience. If the majority of calls are the same basic or repeated concerns, compounded with the high call volume since the start of the pandemic, one can only imagine the heavy toll this takes on the average call centre agent! With Voice AI, a lot of this can be remedied to increase employee and customer satisfaction.
When Voice AI is left to efficiently deal with the bulk of your calls, your agents can focus on more important tasks, reducing the probability of human error and increasing productivity in the process. Even for transcription and customer data collection, AI instantaneously tracks and files these for you. You also don’t have to hire more agents to cope with peak seasons. Voice AI can scale up as you require, without affecting expenditure or compromising service quality.
2. It speeds up processes
Voice AI can handle multiple calls simultaneously, compared to agents dealing with one at a time. With a less congested call queue, customer wait times will become much shorter, speeding up the time it takes to resolve issues. Voice AI works round the clock, rendering customers the assistance they need when they want it. Operationally, this also means you get to reduce manpower resourcing during odd shifts.
As AI learns from experience, its capability at solving problems and determining best practices will improve over time. Voice AI will also become more efficient and productive as they learn to personalise the engagement for customers. Businesses also get access to the data Voice AI stores and learns from, allowing them to optimise operations as a whole.
3. It lessens costs and increases profits
In addition to enjoying operational efficiency, Voice AI can also help to increase profit margins as businesses offset the cost of running and maintaining a traditional contact centre where more than 80% of operating costs are spent on human agents. Having a voice AI to take up more of the workload will help to cut that expense significantly.
This spills over into other company expenditures, since less manpower means less equipment and space, as well as fewer training and retraining human resource activities.
In the case of financial services, Voice AI can automate debt, loan repayment, and insurance premium collection and reminders, which again efficiently helps to improve businesses’ bottom line and potential profits.
With lower operational costs and higher rates of customer satisfaction, expect better earnings to ensue with Voice AI.
4. It enables scalability
Even as call centres try their best to forecast and plan ahead for peak season demands based on historical insights and data, they are often left to deal with unexpected spikes in call volume due to the unpredictable nature of the business.
Having an AI onboard allows you to easily scale with these fluctuating demands. Instead of hiring or reshuffling employees to adjust to changing requirements, Voice AI eases you from this burden. The workload Voice AI takes over means that you can strategically hire as much as you need and let the flexibility of the Voice AI system pick up the slack.
1. Prepare for digital transformation
Remember that, above all else, customer experience is your top priority, so plan to minimise any impact the digital transformation process has on your CX. The grand mistake other businesses made was using voice assistance technology to slash costs rather than provide better customer service. The result? Utilising cheap or underdeveloped tech that may potentially hurt their reputation.
Even before the Voice AI is up and running, prepare and decide which areas and tasks can be delegated to it for automation, making sure that, again, your customers will be delighted with the increased speed, user-friendliness, and efficiency from AI integration.
Considering that most businesses that have made the switch report better customer relations as a result of it, preparation will absolutely be key in this.
2. Choosing the right partner
Of course, you don’t have to go through this process and journey alone.
By carefully choosing the right Voice AI service partner, you can reap all of the benefits discussed so far in full. Consider the return on investment that you want, the experience the provider has in AI, and the systems they have developed.
A reliable partner will professionally and frankly discuss the potential return on investment the Voice AI system offers. That same partner should have a respectable track record in implementing AI elsewhere; check for testimonials and feedback from other customers and look for what their AI have done for others.
You can also go a step further to request a demonstration of the Voice AI or even a product trial. This will help you to get a better overview of the guidance that you need concerning operation and strategy for the implementation of Voice AI.
AI is changing the world as we speak. When you consider the potential challenges call centres faces with regards to workload, operating costs, legacy systems, and more, and how much of these can be addressed by Voice AI, one begins to understand how powerful this technology is – and how much good it can do for one’s business.
Why not harness that power for your company? Start preparing for a digital-first world and if you need a reliable, approachable, and professional partner to help you get started, we’re here to help you to learn more about leveraging Voice AI to supercharge your customer experiences.