If you work in the contact centre industry, you’ve probably heard a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to revolutionise the way you work. 

The initial hype cycle, in which many mused about AI replacing agents altogether, has mostly subsided. The conversation now focuses on what the IDC calls the AI-powered contact centre—chatbots, intelligent routing, and other AI technologies that help contact centres be more efficient at a much grander scale.

In a recent presentation at the SMAART Contact Centres Conference, our team presented some of the more compelling insights from the SMAART Contact Centre Best Practice Report 2022.  In case you missed it, we’ve included those insights here, all of which pertain to the use of AI.

Snapshot of the key findings from the 2022 report:

  • AI can unlock potential within a contact centre

  • The future of AI in the contact centre is bright

  • AI isn’t replacing agents at scale

1. Adoption of Contact Centre AI Has Yet to Completely Takeoff

In contrast with AI-powered contact centre technology, which continues to proliferate, adoption continues to lag. Our survey findings reveal that 35% of contact centres are not using AI at all, but plan to implement it in 2022/23. 

Of those respondents that do use AI, 23% are using AI in a “low-to-moderate” way, while 10% use it experimentally. Perhaps a spike in adoption is on the horizon, given that 68% of respondents use or plan to use AI in some capacity.

2. Organisational Change and Cost Still Stand in the Way

As to why contact centres are slow to adopt AI, the research revealed some clear insights. Respondents concentrated around two high-level obstacles: organisational change and cost. Indeed, 25% said the environment was too difficult for further change at the moment, while another 25% said the complexity of introducing further change stood in their way. Another 21% of respondents selected cost as the primary reason they’re not using AI at the moment.

3. With Respect to Improving Customer Satisfaction, Results Vary

On paper, the AI-powered contact centre should  improve customer satisfaction. And 26% of our survey respondents agree that it does. However, 24% say no, AI doesn’t improve customer satisfaction in their contact centre; another 46% of respondents are unsure. This reinforces the importance of our work building ‘smart’ chatbots that customers actually want to communicate with. Not all chatbots are created equal. 

4. Most Do See the Value in Contact Centre AI

Despite the mixed results with regard to customer satisfaction, the overwhelming majority (74%) of respondents personally see value in introducing some form of AI into their contact centres. This data is encouraging. It supports the notion that many contact centres have AI on their 2022/2023 roadmaps, but still need to overcome certain barriers (organisational change, budget, etc.) to fully implement AI.

5. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants Are Still Most Prevalent

Responses to questions about the forms of AI that contact centres are using were interesting. The majority (54%) of respondents use chatbots or virtual assistants, followed by speech analytics (41%). Interestingly, two of the next three answers are also related to so-called conversational intelligence: predictive call routing (35%); robotic process automation (30%); and natural language IVRs (24%).

Final Thoughts: The Future is Bright, If Contact Centres Want It

Overall, the appetite for powering contact centres with AI is there. Most category leaders at least have plans to implement AI in the contact centre, if they haven’t done so already. And there’s no question that the technology is there to support these efforts, specifically chatbots and tools for conversational intelligence.

Watch the video below in which James Xuereb is interviewed about the most important findings, or click here to view the 2022 Best Practice Report.

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