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There is nothing more frustrating than calling a business only to be put on hold for hours on end until a customer service agent is (finally) available to take your call. Originally, that’s what customer service was—a significant source of overhead for the brand, grueling and harrowing work for the agents, and “service” in name only for the customers.

Artificial intelligence has the capacity to change all of that. It can give the customers what they want: a better, less frustrating experience. It can empower brands to better serve their customers by offering them automation, analysis, and support according to this article from TDWI. And it can help employees feel better equipped to meet the needs of both their callers and their employers.

In this article, we’ll discuss types of AI, what AI uses to process customer information, and the seven unmatched benefits of incorporating AI into call centers.

IVR vs. NLU vs. PBR

The many abbreviations used when talking about call center technology can be confusing. To understand the benefits of adding artificial intelligence to your call center, let’s break down the core systems AI interacts with to do its job.

IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

Interactive voice response, or IVR, has been the system used in call centers for years. This is the typical list of options you get from a company that has you “Press 1” for a department and “Press 2” for another. 

This system is typically frustrating for customers who don’t know what they’re looking for, have called several times already, or already know exactly where to route the call (but don’t want to go through all the steps to get there). Most importantly though, these systems tend to make it difficult to get to a live agent when callers have more complex questions.

IVR helped live agents save time answering non-stop calls and transferring disgruntled customers to someone who can actually help them. But callers have been frustrated by the limitations of the technology for some time, and AI has made vast improvements possible.

NLU (Natural Language Understanding)

NLU (Natural Language Understanding) was created to help artificial intelligence systems understand and respond to spoken language. NLU is critical for any system seeking to parse, analyze, or respond to spoken language, and is leveraged in essentially every application of AI in call centers.

PBR (Predictive Behavioral Routing)

PBR, or Predictive Behavioral Routing, is meant to cut out the middle man, or numbered routing options, and immediately transfer customers to the right department or live agent. This technology features data-driven learning algorithms, using past customer experiences to inform future decisions.

Types of AI for Call Centers

Artificial Intelligence is a broad topic with a lot of very specialized disciplines under the umbrella. So, to narrow the discussion and illustrate which types of AI are most applicable to call centers and contact centers, we’ve listed below the three that most dramatically help improve processes.

Predictive Behavior

Predictive behavior comes in two forms: routing and analysis. Predictive behavioral routing is essentially a way to connect customers with the right agent for their questions. 

Rather than having callers self-select and wind up with the wrong agent because they have no way of knowing which problems can be handled by customer support, and which ones have to be routed to technical support, the AI system asks the caller to explain what they need, and then transfers the call to the department that can most likely help them.

Predictive behavioral analysis aims to significantly reduce the time it takes to address and solve customer concerns by properly distributing the workload. With fewer calls needing to be rerouted, less time is wasted, both for agents and for callers.  

Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment Analysis uses AI to gauge a caller’s attitude and emotions based on how they say things, rather than just what they say. 

Based on the tone, volume, or typing style of a customer, sentiment analysis can connect an angry customer to the right resource quicker or just send them straight to a manager.

Knowledge Bases

Sometimes, agents just don’t know the answer to a question, and getting that answer eats into both theirs and their caller’s time. The right AI system, however, can create knowledge bases—essentially databases that search themselves for information, and serves it up without the agent ever having to enter a query. 

When callers explain their problem to the agent, the system listens in, analyzes what the caller is saying, then searches the knowledge base for the relevant solution. Once it finds it, the system serves it up on the agent’s monitor, enabling them to answer the caller’s questions.

Knowledge bases can even be used in a self-service capacity, allowing callers to get answers to their questions before even being routed to an agent. A wide variety of questions and tasks can be handled this way, dramatically cutting down on the number of calls agents have to field, as well as the time callers spend on the line.

Beyond that, knowledge bases facilitate the training of agents, making them better prepared to handle difficult or uncommon caller needs.

Breakdown: Benefits of AI in Call Centers

  1. Improved Customer Experience

Everything AI does facilitates improvement to the customer experience. All the following benefits tie back into making customers happy, and keeping them that way by getting them the help they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  1. Short Wait Time

Different elements of AI can minimize the biggest problem customers have with call centers: wait time. When you have a problem, sitting on hold for a long time only makes things worse.

Artificial intelligence lowers wait times with self-service—answering the most basic questions without the need to wait for a live agent. It also utilizes predictive behavioral routing to get customers to the right person on the first try.

  1. Automation

The most important thing that artificial intelligence does is automate systems. Automation significantly increases the amount of work a customer service agent can get done. 

This is because AI uses Predictive Behavioral Routing and Natural Language Understanding to either use self-service to answer basic questions without the need of a live agent or connect customers to the right department for their concern. 

This speeds up the process and minimizes customer frustration and loss. Overall, AI automates the call center process to support live agents.

  1. Increase Efficiency Among Employees

Utilizing predictive behavioral routing and knowledge bases helps to increase efficiency among employees. AI empowers your service agents to enhance their skill sets and use them to help customers that need their knowledge.

  1. 24/7 Service

You never know when you’ll have questions, and if it’s late at night or early in the morning, you may not get the answers you need from a typical call center if they only use live agents. 

The opportunity you have to solve problems or get answers to questions any time, day or night, is a big advantage for AI powered call centers. The more people you are able to help, the better response you’ll have to your service or product.

  1. Data Analysis Capabilities

When it comes to data analysis, AI really shines. Data drives innovation, especially in the world of call centers. Sentiment and predictive analysis can help enhance the quality of service your agents give clients. 

Data analysis takes information from past calls, previous sales, tone of voice, typical searches, and other key indicators of customer interactions to predict outcomes of future client interactions.

Importantly, it allows brands to identify which problems are coming up most frequently, so brands can solve those problems proactively and prevent frustrated calls from customers.

  1. Reduced Overhead

Finally, these increases in efficiencies and reductions in workload result in lower overhead. With decreased need for agents, you can get the same work done with a smaller team, allowing you to spend that budget in one of the other 5,000 places your brand needs financial wiggle room.

Take the Leap

Artificial intelligence is a stepping stone to further innovation. Start making waves in the competitive environment of your industry with AI powered call centers. If you’re thinking about getting a call center up and running, Pentwater Connect is your full service solution. Contact us today to understand how we use AI to enhance customer service.

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