Combining humans & AI: Is it an art(ificial) or a science?

Laurent Philonenko | August 13, 2018

Time magazine recently wrote that Artificial Intelligence “is one of the hottest, least understood and most debated tech breakthroughs in modern times.” You can understand why too. On one hand, AI is already a part of our daily lives in ways we might not even be aware of (think digital assistants like Apple Siri or Google Assistant, sensor data in cars to assist with driving and parking, traffic cameras, etc.) On the other hand, we’ve been watching sci-fi movies our whole lives where robots always conquer humanity. Gallop recently found that 73% of Americans expect the increased use of AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates, while 63% predict that new tech and smart machines will widen the gap between rich and poor. Is it any surprise then that the future of AI would be a little intimidating?

We need to separate fact from fiction when it comes to AI. And I firmly believe that AI plus human intelligence is the future of customer experience and the contact center.

AI Is Here to Stay

While a name that includes “artificial” may not seem natural at first, AI can provide many human benefits once understood and applied intelligently. This is especially true in the contact center when combined with the human element of customer service.

AI solutions deliver automation and predictive analytics in ways that were not thought possible before (three examples described below). In today’s digital economy, consumer buying behavior is becoming increasingly complex, and although we’re able to collect more consumer data than ever before, businesses struggle to predict future buying behavior. To this end, companies are looking for improvements across scale, speed, and application to deliver consistent, unique and positive customer experiences that adapt and change according to a customer’s needs at any given time. This is where an AI blended model comes into play.

By combining humans and AI across the customer journey, companies can deliver greater outcomes and a lifetime of superior customer experiences. There are three areas where Avaya is leading the way when it comes to AI and the contact center. Let’s take a look.

Smart Self-Service Options

Bringing self-service options that improve chat interactions and can seamlessly go from chat bot to live chat with a human will greatly improve performance and customer satisfaction. Today, our messaging AI provides customers with bots, integrated with messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat and more, as well as AI services from IBM Watson or Google AI.

Imagine a customer on your website or messaging via their mobile device, initially getting responses from AI but then being routed to a human when more complex matters arise. This transition from AI to human, however, is seamless to the customer. Think about that. This blended AI model gives customers exactly what they want: highest levels of service and efficiency. This is a very important point: humans and machines have very different capabilities, and AI will not replace humans. Machines are very good at managing data, we are very good at managing context, meaning, purpose, causes, emotions, ideas and more. This distinction will not go away anytime soon.

One-To-One Customer and Agent Matching

Imagine your customer’s characteristics and needs being automatically identified then matched to the best agent to handle their interaction. This is happening now with AI behavioral pairing, and it includes real benefits like first contact resolution, greater loyalty and higher brand recognition. Today, our flagship Elite contact center solution used by enterprise Fortune 500 customers to run their contact centers is doing exactly this. Through our partnership with Afiniti we have a combined offer that is, quite frankly, unmatched in the market.

Agent Assistance and AI

And our real time, highly accurate transcription engine simplifies processes such as after call work, agent guidance or supervisor alerts, and we’re seeing even more use cases down the road.

Imagine your customer interacting with an agent. Is it a good experience or a bad experience? Perhaps the agent claims in their wrap-up notes it was a good experience. Except the transcription made available to the supervisor team shows it was a poor experience for the customer. This information gives your management team an opportunity to resolve the issue quickly. We call this “in the moment AI” and it truly improves conversational engagement.

AI Industry Trends

The industry is waking up to the opportunities available with artificial intelligence. Amazon, Google, IBM, Salesforce and Microsoft are all significantly investing in AI. They certainly come with great technology. Our view is to leverage what we can and not reinvent the wheel; however, the contact center is a specific use case that is not necessarily well covered by general purpose engines, and not necessarily at an affordable cost.

This is where Avaya differentiates: we have domain expertise and understand contact centers. We are training and tuning our solutions in this framework. Before talking AI technology, it starts with the consultative approach we bring to analyze the customer’s existing environment and develop a blueprint approach to solving their challenges.

When it comes to the contact center, a blended approach is the future of customer service. AI is both an art and science, as such it requires both EQ and IQ. At Avaya, we have a clear view of what we need to do, what it will take and, more importantly, we are working with customers on combining their human and AI projects today. AI is Avaya Intelligence.

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