One-Year of ChatGPT: How the Contact Center Could be Transformed with GenAI
By Josh Feast, CEO and co-founder, Cogito
As we recognize the first anniversary of OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT in November, it's evident that generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) technology, which powers tools like this, has ignited quickly in just one year — proving its potential to transform a multitude of industries.
In particular, contact centers, which handle a large volume of customer interactions, were among the first places where GenAI-powered features were considered for deployment. Known for its ability to produce human-like text generation, GenAI has the potential to be beneficial in areas like improving real-time agent assistance and bettering self service by enhancing the natural language processing of chatbot conversations.
In turn, these tools have the ability to help improve not just the customer experience but the agent experience by enabling them to more effectively handle increased demand and adapt to ever-evolving consumer expectations of immediate assistance. And given these capabilities are not just time saving but also cost effective in nature, it’s clear why contact centers are considering GenAI to maintain a competitive advantage in today’s market.
As with any new technology, it’s likely to experience significant interest during the initial hype; however, as time progresses the initial peak settles and organizations can look to true adoption from there. For example, ChatGPT usage saw a 10% decrease compared to the previous two successive quarters. It’s important to note that while the potential deployment of GenAI in the contact center raises concerns around privacy and replacing the workforce, enterprises remain cautiously optimistic. Ethical and responsible use of AI in the contact center space is essential to harness the positive aspects of these technologies, while also mitigating any potential risks.
In this article, we’ll explore the substantial impact that GenAI could have on contact centers, as well as the existing limitations that must be addressed before integrating it into business operations.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
As consumer expectations evolve, organizations are considering GenAI to gain a competitive edge in the pursuit of customer loyalty and market dominance. For instance, GenAI has the potential to significantly enhance customer experience (CX) by making interactions more personalized, efficient, and satisfying for customers through chat summarization–the process of condensing and summarizing a conversation or dialogue between two or more individuals, typically in a chat format. These capabilities help to effectively distill essential information, key points, and main ideas from a chat conversation while removing redundant content.
First, GenAI could be used to generate more personalized, natural responses in agent-assisted or chatbot-driven conversations based on customer preferences, gleaned from data gathered from previous interactions, customer profiles, etc. For example, based on past data, GenAI could help predict what might help resolve a customer issue, such as offering free credits based on a past positive reaction in a similar situation. This level of personalization is not just strategic in streamlining customer inquiries, but also could help to ensure customers feel valued and understood by the company they’re engaging with. When the CX is tailored to best meet the needs of the customer, they’re more likely to continuously go back to that brand, which helps to establish loyalty for the long-haul.
Perhaps one of the most significant advantages there could be in improving the CX is via enhanced self service through GenAI-powered chatbots’ ability to provide 24/7, seamless support. Considering 72% of customers want immediate service, according to ZenDesk, GenAI can automate routine inquiries so that customers can be assisted no matter the time or day — this could allow contact centers to stay ahead and lead to a better overall experience. In turn, this would help to increase brand loyalty further, as Forrester found customers are reportedly 2.4 times more likely to stick with a brand when their problems are solved quickly.
Reducing Operational Costs
Through its automation capabilities, GenAI can ensure that customer inquiries are resolved more efficiently and effectively — decreasing handling times, increasing first-interaction resolution, and reducing operational costs as a result. When automating part of a customer interaction, GenAI can enhance real-time agent assistance to enable contact center agents to have more meaningful and effective communications with customers.
For example, GenAI can power script generation, providing agents with actionable guidance, recommended next steps, and personalized customer insights in real-time during customer interactions. These augmentation capabilities can ensure that agents follow consistent, compliant, and effective messaging, leading to a reduction in costly errors while flowing to a resolution faster. It can also help maximize revenue-generating opportunities by coaching agents on cross- or up-selling moments.
On the other hand, when automating customer interactions fully, GenAI can enable chatbots to better understand and handle routine customer questions, reducing the need for human agent support on every interaction. This could empower customer support representatives to increase their accessibility and mental capacity to handle interactions that carry more weight or complexity, without the need for additional staffing costs.
Streamlining the EX
In addition to all the proposed customer-facing benefits, GenAI can streamline the employee experience (EX) in several ways, contributing to improved efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction among employees. For many agents first entering the contact center space, GenAI should be considered for its ability to assist in onboarding and training new employees faster. Learning and improvement often comes from on-the-job experience but for agents, that can mean dealing with stressed out customers and emotional conversations. To complete the vicious cycle, agents feeling unprepared often leads to employee burnout and high turnover. While training, GenAI could be leveraged to fuel agents with recommended responses and advice during the interaction to successfully navigate complex customer conversations. Following, it can be leveraged for post-call analysis to objectively learn from interactions and glean actionable takeaways for next time. As a result, this could empower agents to feel more confident and equipped to handle future challenges.
Additionally, recent findings from The National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that when these capabilities are deployed, contact centers could expect to see a nearly 14% boost in worker productivity. When basic and repetitive customer questions are automated or augmented, agents can become more widely available — mentally and physically — to focus on strategic and value-added activities that can significantly boost job satisfaction among the workforce, as employees have more time to concentrate on tasks that require creativity or critical thinking. In turn, this enhances employee engagement and fosters a positive work environment, helping reduce attrition rates.
Limitations of GenAI in the Contact Center
Despite the plethora of ways in which GenAI has the potential to transform the contact center, there are still limitations present in the technology that organizations should consider carefully.
For starters, the cost of AI technology and solutions often presents a significant barrier for businesses looking to embrace them, especially smaller ones that may lack equitable resources. Beyond initial adoption, the integration of AI into existing workflows and systems may require significant investments in terms of time and money. This includes adapting or replacing legacy systems and ensuring compatibility.
Additionally a present concern for many companies looking to leverage AI is where collected data is stored when using GenAI. For example, when using chat summarization capabilities, the data, including your input and the generated response, may be temporarily stored on the server for various purposes, such as improving the chatbot’s performance, analysis, and troubleshooting. However, as with any data collection, there's a risk that the storage and usage of data could vary depending on policies and practices of the organization or platform hosting these capabilities.
GenAI lacks true comprehension of context and emotions. It can misinterpret or fail to address the subtleties of human communication, which is crucial in customer support. Customers' behavior can be unpredictable, and GenAI may struggle to handle situations where customers are agitated, emotional or engage in non-standard communication. Further, while GenAI can handle routine inquiries effectively, it may not excel in complex problem-solving or situations requiring creativity, empathy or negotiation skills. In replacing too many human-owned interactions with AI, this could lead to a loss of personalized support, which is valued by many customers. More specifically, it could significantly hinder customer loyalty to a brand.
Despite that when implemented effectively GenAI has the potential to reduce operational costs, its initial deployment may call for increased funding, time, and effort to integrate the technology within existing systems and train employees and models. To avoid the potential disadvantages of these capabilities, ongoing maintenance and updates are necessary for keeping GenAI systems effective and in-line with changing customer needs and company processes. This calls for ascertaining that humans remain actively involved in training and processes, including dedicating greater time and increased resources towards troubleshooting any potential challenges.
The Future of the Contact Center Relies on AI
In summary, by incorporating more GenAI-driven solutions in contact centers, businesses can improve agent and customer satisfaction — all while improving operational costs to bolster the company’s bottom line. Enterprises are aligned in the fact that there’s significant potential for GenAI, when adequately integrated across an organization; however, they must first address any present business cost concerns and the ethical challenges AI adoption could present. Despite increased focus on AI adoption, organizations mustn't avoid the fact that human to human interaction is far from obsolete. It’s key rather, to focus on leveraging humans in conjunction with AI to establish more long term efficiency gains. Nevertheless, it's important to strike a balance between automation and human interaction to provide the best possible experience.