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Insights on responsible AI implementation from customer service

Insights on responsible AI implementation from customer service 

By Paul Milloy, Business Consultant, Intradiem

Paul Milloy - Business Express
Paul Milloy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to reshape the world of work. For contact centres, it promises everything from enhanced employee engagement to improved customer experiences.

Yet between the nuances of what AI has to offer, important ethical questions have been brewing. Most importantly: how can we employ the power of AI responsibly? Business leaders who are sprinting to adopt AI may be short-changing essential considerations like bias detection, ethical guidelines and even simple safety measures. 

Therefore, it’s vital to close the gap between theory and practice. As a sector that’s been using automation technologies for decades, customer service offers valuable insights. From online chatbots to automated call distribution (ACD) systems and, currently, new generative AI tools based on large language models (LLMs), customer service has been a pioneer in harnessing AI’s potential.

To find the best way to implement AI, regardless of the industry, there’s a lot that others can learn from the strategies and experiences employed by customer service providers. 

Responsible AI is critical

One of the biggest aspects of using AI responsibly starts with data. Customer service operations often deal with vast amounts of sensitive information, from personal details to financial data. However, the challenge lies in maintaining the highest standards of data privacy and security while using AI systems to improve customer experiences.

Just as you wouldn’t leave your personal documents on a public table for anyone to take, you wouldn’t leave customer data just lying around. Treating data with the same level of care is crucial to success. Within customer service, safeguarding sensitive information is not only a legal requirement but it’s a fundamental aspect of building trust. Particularly when 64% of consumers trust companies that actually provide clear information about their privacy policies over those that don’t.

And what about generative AI? Although it holds great promise for customer service, it is susceptible to errors. After all, it generates answers based on patterns learned from datasets and there’s a minefield of legal, financial and ethical implications if the content generated is inaccurate, inaccessible or offensive. It’s not like it has a self-correction setting either. There’s a risk of these incorrect results placing a burden on agents to remedy these issues too, making their lives harder, as opposed to easier.

This is where responsible AI implementation enters the conversation. 

With contact centres, where customer interactions are at the heart of everything, it’s important to build and retain that trust. That’s why businesses can’t just add generative AI and automation technologies for the sake of it or use it to replace workers because it’s seen as cheaper.  Customers want their problems solved with​ the nuance and empathy that only a human can provide.

Put simply, AI is not here to replace humans. But humans with AI will replace humans without it. As a result, steps need to be taken to ensure that AI is integrated ethically to avoid the pitfalls of failure.

Reimaging agent dynamics

Ultimately, AI serves as a critical ally for contact centre agents when you consider how it can be used to support them. Much like the retailer IKEA, which trained call centre workers as interior design advisers and introduced an AI bot named Billie to handle standard customer inquiries. This system allows the staff to focus on providing specialised interior design consultations while the bot efficiently manages regular customer questions. 

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Here lies the essence of AI. By providing real-time support in decision making, particularly where complex scenarios demand quick thinking, it enhances customer satisfaction and aids agents in making informed decisions to address issues effectively. After all, customers are more willing to share data if they believe they’ll receive something worthwhile in return, like solving an issue they’re having.

And with generative AI, where it can provide instant access to answers for both customers and agents, a strategic and context-specific approach is essential. Using it within well-defined boundaries and implementing safeguards for constant monitoring can help identify and address inaccuracies promptly. Putting proactive measures in place, such as regular audits, helps businesses use generative AI without compromising on the quality of customer interactions.

This instant access to data improves response accuracy and consistency and also allows agents to focus on more complex calls and value-added tasks. More importantly, it leads to greater efficiency, enhancing agent engagement and ROI through intelligent automation solutions. Don’t believe me? Then consider this Fortune 500 global insurance company that deployed AI automated technology that yielded a 3X return on their investment within the first two years. 

If it’s good enough for a Fortune 500 business, it’s good enough for anyone. But how did they get it to work so well? The answer lies in how the AI is set up.

Employee support with AI

Ultimately, AI’s effectiveness hinges on its context-specific application. By understanding the intricacies of different scenarios, AI can be used to provide more accurate and relevant responses in addressing inquiries and issues, helping agents to develop a more efficient and personalised customer experience. 

Beyond these functions, AI can also assume the role of a virtual coach, offering feedback to agents based on their call interactions. Unlike human coaches who have limited availability, many call centres use AI to support professional development for agents, as it’s accessible 24/7 whenever and wherever they need. The key thing to remember is that correct set-up of AI isn’t just a technological advancement, it’s a strategic investment that enhances the human potential within customer service.

With 83% of call centre agents saying that their work has a negative impact on their mental health, whether that’s through challenging customers, a repetitive high volume of calls or a large workload, AI can be used to support agent well-being. Research by McKinsey highlights that automation technologies can be used by corporations to reduce productivity losses due to employee burnout.And contact centres – a demanding industry if I do say so myself – are taking full advantage of the technology to improve the lives of staff.

And by improving the lives of staff, you’ll start to improve the lives of your customers.

Trailblazing AI implementation

Implementing AI responsibly not only transforms the efficiency of customer service operations but also highlights the benefits it offers between technology and the well-being of the human workforce. 

The key lies in keeping it within a context-specific approach and recognising that good data protection is at the core of this transformation. By using the right technology and abiding by responsible data practices, businesses can improve customer satisfaction and simultaneously safeguard the welfare of their staff.

Soon enough, humans with AI will replace those without it. So, if you’re looking for a way to support your staff and boost ROI, AI is the way forward. No matter the business or the sector, as long as you first consider how AI can support and protect customers as well as staff, you’re on the right track.

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