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Getting AI Right in the Contact Center

This lengthy Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) got a fair amount of attention last week for the picture it painted of a sometimes-fraught relationship between contact center agents and the AI-based systems they interact with in the course of their work. The context here is the continued fascination with ChatGPT and all things AI, and the desire to understand how humans will relate to AI as the technology gets deployed more widely and into more work environments.

One of my big takeaways from the anecdotes and use cases described in the article is one that those who follow the contact center space have long held: AI is a tool, and like any other technology tool, business and IT leaders need to understand and manage it, not simply deploy itas if it were a turnkey solution.

The article does make an ironic point: AI's ability to handle easily routinized tasks—thereby freeing up agents for more complex challenges—is a double-edged sword for agents. The complex challenges ensure job security – but handling a higher volume of complex challenges does make an agent’s work more demanding and potentially more emotionally draining.

How to use AI effectively is the critical challenge of the day for the contact center. No one doubts the potential for AI to take over many customer self-service functions, make agents more effective in helping customers, and leverage data as never before to provide the level of customer service to which enterprises aspire. But it will still be human beings who make the decisions about how to use AI effectively, and this is a wide-open field of exploration. That’s why I’m so excited about all of the AI-oriented content we’ll be presenting at Enterprise Connect 2023 in Orlando the week of March 27:

For example, analyst Max Ball of Forrester will be discussing how AI can help you “hear” your customers by allowing contact center management to derive meaningful insights from essentially all call recordings, not just a selection. In a similar vein, Robin Gareiss of Metrigy will show how successful enterprises are using advanced analytics to gain a better understanding of how well their contact centers are performing.

Gareiss will also present a session emphasizing one of the key prerequisites for using AI effectively in the contact center: Making sure the underlying data and systems are optimized to support the insights that advanced analytics are meant to generate. Her session is entitled, Developing Solid Self-Service Requires a Knowledge Management Overhaul.

Finally, we’ll be tackling the hot topic of Conversational AI in two sessions: A breakout session on Making Sense of Conversational AI, led by Dan Miller and Derek Top of Opus Research; and a quick “Disruptive Dialogue” with Miller on the keynote stage Wednesday morning, on The ChatGPT Effect: What AI and Large Language Models Mean for Enterprise Comms.

To date, the biggest effect of ChatGPT has been to focus not just the tech world, but the broader public discourse, on the uses and impacts of AI. This has become one of the most urgent issues for those involved with contact center technology deployment, so I’m looking forward to having so many opportunities to discuss, debate, and learn about the issue. I hope you can join us in Orlando March 27 – 30 for this and many other critical, timely conversations at Enterprise Connect 2023.

One additional note: In the Enterprise Connect Innovation Showcase, we want to see what’s new and exciting in collaboration. The Showcase is a great venue for spotlighting some of the technologies that are emerging in the field. To learn more about the Innovation Showcase for 2023, including how to apply, click here. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2023