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AI and Call Centers—Everything You Need to Know
Aaron Boatin

By: Aaron Boatin on July 11th, 2024

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AI and Call Centers—Everything You Need to Know

How Answering Services Work

You're probably aware that the customer service landscape is changing by the second.

The need for a cheaper, more efficient, and consistent customer service solution grows greater every day, but what if that solution is already here?

That new groundbreaking solution? AI call centers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) as you may have heard is a recent technology that has completely changed the game in many industries. The answering service and call center industry is no exception.

In this blog post, we will delve into the inner workings of AI in contact centers, exploring what they are, how they work, their pros and cons and how they will transform the customer service experience for your business.

  1. What Exactly is an AI Call Center?
  2. What Makes AI Call Centers So Special?
  3. Should We Fear AI Being Used in Call Centers?
  4. Will AI Replace Call Center Agents?
  5. How is AI Trained For Its Use in Call Centers?
  6. Benefits of AI Call Centers
  7. Challenges of Implementing AI in Call Centers
  8. Future of AI in Call Centers

Now, let's dive in and uncover the fascinating world of AI call centers.


What Exactly is an AI Call Center?

An AI call center is a call center that uses advanced tools like natural language processing, predictive analytics, machine learning, and smart routing to handle calls faster, smarter, and in greater volume.


What Makes AI Call Centers So Special?

ChatSpot—HubSpots AI Assistant used by Ambs Call CenterOne key component is the integration of AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants.

These handy tools handle routine inquiries, bookings, and product recommendations.

So, the virtual agents, or yourself, can focus on more complex issues that need that personal, human touch.

Plus, these AI virtual assistants are always learning from every customer interaction, so their responses and decision-making get better over time.

Take this example on the left for instance.

Here, the AI-powered chatbot, ChatSpot, by HubSpot is in use to locate my subscription tier.

This being utilized by AI call centers (or even your business!) allows a quicker navigation of their site while saving the cost of what would have been a really short phone call!


Should We Fear AI Being Used in Call Centers?

Call centers and technology have a fascinating history.

Many people thought—at one point or another—that new technologies would cast out the need for a call center. It turned out to be quite the opposite. 

As new technologies emerge, the best call centers embrace them to deliver better value to their clients and staff.

The Introduction of Call Forwarding

For example, when call forwarding was invented in the early 1960's, it was supposed to bypass both answering services and call centers. At the time, many asked: 

"Why would a business owner use a call center service when they could forward their calls to their phone at home?”

In reality, call forwarding allowed for explosive growth in the industry. 

Why? Business owners realized that with growth, their need for someone else to answer their phones didn’t change. It even grew in some cases. What happened was they became free to call forward to many, many more call centers located outside of their area.

The call centers that refused to embrace the technology were dissolved, making room for the ones that saw its potential. This new technology saved them time and the money of hiring someone in-house.

The introduction of Pagers and Mobile Phones

Pagers and mobile phones had the same effect too. These technologies allowed for a tighter connection between call centers and their customers. 

Mobile phones and pagers keep agents and the businesses they support connected, even when away from their desks because they were embraced to work with humans. We still use them with some of our clients, particularly in the medical industry!

Three Pagers With A Message Saying Were Back

Truth is, some amount of machine learning has already been used by call centers for years. Where? In the call evaluations for the answering service. Many call centers use this tool to measure how fast they answer calls, how often their agents hit their target phrase counts like "thank you" and "have a good day", and more! (When you see a call center win an award, chances are they are based on these metrics.)

And today, artificial intelligence is leveling up the call center companies who once again choose to embrace technology.

But today, AI is the latest "threat" to answering services. However, that's just not true. It should be looked at as being the co-champion of the industry. Why co? Because all it does is support the human call center agents—the real champions.

Call centers don't run and hide from new tech. They embrace it! And now, these tools improve agent efficiency to deliver the best customer service, leaving everyone happy.


Will AI Replace Human Call Center Agents?

In short: No.

In today’s call centers, AI works alongside virtual agents, enhancing their capabilities rather than replacing them. Think of AI as a helpful assistant that makes human agents even better at providing customer service.

Human Call Center Agent Shaking Hands with AI Call Center Agent

AI is great at handling routine and repetitive tasks, like answering basic questions or providing information about product features. This lets human agents focus on more complex and emotionally sensitive issues where their empathy and problem-solving skills really shine.

If an AI is stuck on a question (non-routine task) from a caller, they'll patch it over to the call center agent or business' staff who can provide greater expertise on the topic.

This collaboration between AI and humans results in an ideal customer experience, where customers receive prompt assistance, and human agents don't waste their time on routine messages.

So, don't worry, AI isn't here to replace human agents. Instead, it's here to enhance their capabilities and productivity while improving your business' customer satisfaction.


How is AI Trained for Its Use in Call Centers?

With a lot of patience and time, really.

So, we've been talking about AI's use in call centers fairly generally so far. Let's get into the weeds of it now.

There are two kinds of calls that call centers take: inbound and outbound. As you can imagine, AI can assist with both types of calls—but we'll get to that in a moment.

First, you might want to ask "How does it know what to say?".

And that's where a knowledge base comes in. What this is, is essentially the brain for your AI.

Everything you want it to think, say, and more is stored here—questions or answers or both.

Let's look at this example for a knowledge base for an AI handling inbound calls.

AI Knowledge Base for Inbound Calls Infographic
Now, let's look at an example for a knowledge base for AI which handles outbound calls.

AI Knowledge Base for Outbound Calls Infographic

Remember: neither of these knowledge bases are comprehensive; they're just an example.

Okay, so we know how the AI gets its information, but how does it know what to say and when?

It's simple, really. AI used in call centers are programmed to follow specific prompts. These prompts can essentially be boiled down to "IF... THEN..." formulas.

AI in Call Center's Follow the Prompt:

IF (they say this), THEN (you say this)

Take a look at the example below of how an AI would handle an inbound call when a customer calls in for instance.

AI Call Handling for Inbound Calls Infographic

Now, look at this example of how AI would handle an outbound call.

AI Call Handling for Outbound Calls Infographic

Again, remember that these are only examples. There are a million variations of how a call can go, but with the right training, the AI used in the call center can be ready for all of them.


Benefits of AI in Call Centers

AI offers numerous benefits that enhance a call center's customer service and operational efficiency.

AI Can Handle Many Calls, All At Once

Firstly, with AI-powered systems, you won't have to wait long for assistance. AI can handle a large volume of calls simultaneously, reducing wait times.

If you were calling into a business that worked with an AI call center, you won't need to endure long hold times or wait for a virtual agent to become available. Instead, you'd get immediate assistance every single time you called.

Whenever You Call, AI Is There For You

AI systems aren't like virtual agents where they would need to be on shift to take a call. They're available 24/7, which means you can get customer support whenever you need it, even outside of traditional business hours. That way, your business' customer satisfaction improves.

Personalize Every Call With AI

Smile and frown on an uneven scale showing AI assessing emotions during a callEver wonder if AI call centers can tell how you're feeling? They actually can! Using fancy listening tools, AI uses sentiment analysis to identify customer sentiments like frustration or happiness. This helps the contact center understand you better and tailor their approach.

But it gets even cooler: AI can also spot patterns in these emotions, revealing common customer pain points. This goldmine of valuable insights lets businesses improve products and services, ultimately making your experience smoother and more enjoyable.

Overall, AI call centers bring efficiency to agent performance and personalization to your customer service, resulting in a friendlier, smoother customer journey.


Challenges of Implementing AI in Call Centers

While AI brings significant benefits to call centers, there are also challenges associated with its implementation and customer expectations, starting with the training.

Training AI Takes Time... A Lot of Time

Since we've gone over what goes into training, it should come as no surprise that it can take a lot of time (to do it right!).

This data is more than just prompts and their appropriate answer. What if a caller says:

What if a caller says: "Give me a second to think"

What should your AI say? Should it pause for just one second?

This is also not something you can work on without field-testing using real customer inquiries.

You'll need to spend a considerable amount of time testing your AI with other staff or real callers with customer issues to get it tuned right.

There are a million intricacies in the way we speak that AI must understand to make a conversation seem seamless, and that takes more time than most realize.

Removing Bias from AI

Another challenge is the potential for bias in AI systems. If not properly trained, AI systems may exhibit a bias in their responses or decision-making.

Will your AI say your business is the cheapest among competitors even when it isn't? Will it say your service offers a personalized experience when it doesn't?

Not only must a call center tell its AI what to say but also prepare it for what NOT to say.

Human Agents v AI

Additionally, there may be resistance from human agents who fear that AI will replace their jobs.

Call centers will need to communicate the benefits of AI as a tool that enhances their capabilities rather than a threat to their employment.

Cost of AI May Turn Away Some Call Centers

Lastly, implementing AI in call centers requires some amount of financial investment. The cost of acquiring and maintaining AI systems, training the AI as well as training human agents to work effectively with AI, can add up quickly.

For smaller call centers, the implementation of an AI service may not yield the best cost savings.

Despite these challenges, the potential of AI in improving agent performance and agent efficiency while handling customer service more consistently is huge.


Future of AI Call Centers

The future of AI call centers holds so much potential for transforming customer service.

AI systems will eventually become more advanced and sophisticated, enabling them to handle even more complex customer interactions.

AI's predictive analytics and machine learning will turn into a serious advantage as the technology improves. By analyzing customer data, AI systems will be able to anticipate customer needs and reach out to them with proactive assistance. This will lead to your customers experiencing a more personalized customer experience.

Additionally, sales teams will get a load off their back with AI-powered virtual agents being able to handle a wide range of cold calls in the future. 

Overall, the future of AI call centers is promising. With advancements in AI technology, you can grow your business with the peace of mind that your customers are being handled even faster than before.

If you're curious about how they further work, or if you're looking for a call center service that embraces new technology to better your business' communications, fill out the simple form below and one of our experts will reach out to you!


About Aaron Boatin