Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Friday, April 10, 2020
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Call Centers Emerge as Popular AI Use Case 

AI technology adopters are displaying surprising patience in terms of the rate of return on their investment, instead emphasizing improved customer satisfaction as their highest priority while giving AI platforms a year or two to produce revenues.

A survey of company executives by the Harris Poll and commissioned by AI vendor Interactions found that ROI considerations remain important among early deployers. But so too does improving interactions with customers. Eight in ten executives polled said AI investments were driven by a desire to attract and retain customers.

Just over half said they would give AI projects a full year to bear fruit, while 40 percent are prepared to wait up to 24 months before recouping investments. “There is a strong consensus among mid-to-high level executives about the value of AI technology, specifically as it relates to improving customer experience and the importance of customer experience in AI technology decisions,” the survey concludes.

Among the early enterprise applications for what the survey dubs the “soft benefits” of AI deployments are customer-facing operations like call centers. Among the most-often cited benefits of automated call centers (the survey refers to them as “contact centers”) are reduced wait times, faster resolution of customer complaints, technical support and personalization.

The AI survey released on Thursday (Feb. 27) found that 46 percent of customer interactions are automated. That percentage is expected to rise to 59 percent over the next two to three years. Improving those interactions was seen as outweighing the cost reductions associated with automation.

Among the scenarios promoted by AI vendors is the ability of automated systems to quickly gather and pass along to service representatives detailed customer information that can be used to quickly resolve issues.

The result, the Harris survey found, is a 54 percent jump in customer satisfaction and retention. Only 44 percent of those surveyed cited cost reductions as their highest AI priority.

Call center automation also has emerged as a popular early AI use case since many executives view them as paying for themselves. More than 90 percent of those polled agreed that “AI projects for contact centers are particularly appealing because they can be self-funded,” the survey found.

Ultimately, return on investment “considerations are fairly important when making AI technology decisions, but it’s not the all about fast ROI,” the survey noted.

AI investment decisions are made primarily by company IT departments that tend to be the primary users. Despite being among the heaviest users of automation, only 28 percent of call center personnel are involved in AI technology decisions.

About six in ten managers and senior executives said they use AI to automate or improve business processes while the same percentage cited cost reduction.

The Harris poll was conducted between late November and early December 2019 among 151 mid-level to senior executives in the U.S.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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