AI in the Contact Center: What Can We Learn From AlphaGo?

   By: Tim Prugar

           The nearly infinite moves a player can make in a game of Go makes it the perfect playground for AI. When DeepMind’s AlphaGo took on Go Champion Lee Sedol, the world wondered whether the AI Lab had been able to create a better Go Player. The reality was much more shocking.

            Early in the series, it became clear that AlphaGo wasn’t AI that played Go better…it was AI that played Go differently. By making moves that defied traditional human convention (an excellent rundown can be found at Quartz) AlphaGo demonstrated how to play the thousand-year-old game differently. Even more surprisingly, its human opponent was able to adapt and elevate his own creativity in ways that even confused the AI player.

            AI is a hot topic in the world of Customer Service and a constant on “CX Trends for 2017” listicles. Thought leaders debate whether Chatbots raise the specter of jobs lost to automation, while others laud the potential of AI to answer time-consuming, “quick fix” questions. Customer Service Guru Shep Hyken argues that AI has the potential to serve as a real-time Intelligent Assistant for customer service representatives, leading to more positive impacts on the customer.

            However, most of these conversations address what AI can do, not what we can learn. In five brief games, AlphaGo showed the world that even in 2017 there can be new moves and approaches.

What might Contact Centers be able to learn if they viewed AI as a resource rather than a tool?

How might AI allow businesses to find and develop entirely new ways of approaching Customer Service?

            The next leap in customer service won't be achieved by businesses that shop for AI to solve an existing problem. That leap will be made by companies who lean into adopting AI to find new and unique solutions that people never knew existed.

 

Tim Prugar is the Director of Customer Success at Next Caller. He can be reached at tim@nextcaller.com. 

Offline Interactions Don't Exist: Wisdom from Dan Gingiss

By: Tim Prugar         

           Last week, I had the pleasure to sit in The Standard Club in Chicago, Illinois and listen to Dan Gingiss present to a room full of Customer Experience Executives regarding his philosophy on social customer service. With a single, calmly delivered thesis, Dan changed the tone of the room from interest and curiosity to stunned realization: there is no longer any such thing as an offline experience.

            This point is even more pertinent during the recent whirlwind of airline controversies. Whether it’s assaulted passengers, threatened parents, slapped cell phones, or retaliatory reservation cancellations, it’s clear that what happens on airplanes or in airports is not probably going to find its way on line, but is certainly going to do so. An endless spate of blog posts have been penned expounding upon the need for empathy and knowing the full situation before reacting (or in these cases, overreacting). However, when these PR nightmares explode online, brands typically have at least a few precious hours to huddle, fact-gather, game-plan, and ultimately craft an A/B tested response with more complete information.

            But what if you’re a Contact Center agent, and your “Customer Service Nightmare” is happening with you, on the phone, in real-time?

            The strongest agents have an ability to de-escalate, gather information, express empathy (or even sympathy!) and work rapidly towards a resolution. However, even agents possessing those incredible professional and social skills start the conversation from behind the proverbial 8-ball. So what can brands do to ensure that a contentious customer service phone call doesn’t become a viral social media debacle?

            It’s simple. Arm your agents with more information before they even pick up the phone.

            If I’m experiencing a CX nightmare, and the first thing I have to do is spell, respell, repeat, and re-respell my last name? I am certainly not going to de-escalate any time soon. If it takes upwards of 2 minutes to link my call to the item I’m calling about that was never delivered? Not helping the situation. If agents are able to acquire information as basic as the name and home address of the caller, or as advanced as the caller’s email address or social media profiles, they are immediately better equipped to skip the friction-filled portion of the call and get right down to collaborating with the caller to solve the issue.  

            There is no situation where more information or more context cannot better prepare the customer-facing brand representative to do their job more effectively.

            Keep yourself off of the internet for bad reasons and on it for good ones. Give your agents the information they need to handle every interaction, every time.

 

Tim Prugar is Next Caller's Director of Customer Success. He can be reached at tim@nextcaller.com.