(Abstract: This article originally appeared in the Irish Times on December 19, 2018)
Recent research carried out on behalf of Microsoft, the Contact Centre Management Association (CCMA), and IT solutions consultancy Codec reveals that over a third of Irish organisations with customer contact centres view artificial intelligence (AI) as a high priority for customer relationship management (CRM).
The importance of AI will increase, according to the research, with seven in ten saying that AI will be a high priority in the future, both for the overall business (69 per cent) and for customer service activity (68 per cent). The growing importance of AI is highlighted by the finding that 93 per cent of organisations plan to use AI as part of future ongoing customer service activities.
However, only 14 per cent currently use AI solutions, and just 33 per cent of them plan to implement AI in the immediate future for customer service management. Interestingly, this is despite one-in-three organisations having AI technology already integrated into the solutions they are using.
Failure to utilise this functionality represents a significant missed opportunity for Irish business, according to Microsoft enterprise director Ger Perdisatt. “AI agents and tools can engage with humans to reason, communicate and answer questions intelligently,” he says.
“The application of that to customer service and customer contact scenarios is pretty clear – customers self-serving to get their issues resolved faster, human support teams able to focus on the more complex cases – and significant cost and efficiency gains as well. These are very significant benefits that many Irish organisations are missing out on.”
Ger Perdisatt explains the relatively slow adoption is due to a lack of understanding of how to implement AI in an efficient manner while bringing benefit to their business.
Tom McArdle, Operations Lead Microsoft Practice at Codec agrees. “To me, one of the key reasons organisations are slow to adopt AI in the customer service area is that they don’t fully understand the benefits it can bring,” he says.
“AI is something you hear a lot about but there is still a lack of knowledge out there in relation to it. It sounds very futuristic and that can be intimidating. Rather than talk about AI in its broadest sense we need to talk about chatbots as a practical aid and give examples of how AI can be used to enhance an organisation’s performance. We have to make the benefits more tangible.”
According to Ger Perdisatt, customer service is the use case that rates most highly at present. “We are working with customer service organisations to assist them in introducing digital customer service agents,” he says. “Organisations can take a lot of the simpler customer queries and deflect them to digital agents which can answer them at lower cost and quicker in many cases. In our experience, organisations can deflect up to 60 per cent of the most frequent queries to digital agents.”
The technology can also be used to support the management of contact centres. “We have built a system for a customer service organisation that uses AI to help them make more accurate forecasts in relation to their resource needs,” says Codec’s Tom McArdle. “It predicts the number of contact centre agents needed at different times. That’s very tangible. If you tell a call centre manager that the software can forecast how many agents they will need next Wednesday afternoon, that’s very valuable to them.”
Another key area for AI is cybersecurity. “We are using advanced AI to detect security threats. In a financial setting, it can look at the behaviour of individuals; how are they transferring money? What device are they using? How are they typing? It looks for anomalous behaviours to alert the institutions to potential threats. Most institutions have false positive rates of 98 or 99 per cent with traditional systems. AI can give much better insights. We leverage more than six trillion data points every day to protect our customers ‑ only AI can do that,” Perdisatt explains.
“Our customers can use the Dynamics platform to start their AI journey while enhancing the customer experience and adding to their competitiveness,” Perdisatt concludes. “A growing number of Irish businesses are already enjoying these benefits, but the others need to start now if they are not to lose out in the longer term.”
CCMA Ireland is a not for profit industry association representing customer service organisations operating in Ireland. The goal of the association is to promote best practice through networking and benchmarking, and to raise the profile of the sector in Ireland. It is run by industry professionals on a voluntary basis. The CCMA has approximately 2,000 members representing approximately 50% of organisations in Ireland with customer contact and shared services centres.
Codec is an Irish, Full-Stack IT solutions consultancy founded in 1985 and headquartered in Dublin with offices in Cork, Galway, Belfast, London, Cologne and Warsaw. Employing 218 staff, Codec is growing rapidly, expanding our team of industry-leading experts, while continuing to deliver on the promise of empowering businesses in the public and private sectors. Codec is Microsoft Ireland Country Partner, Data Centre Transformation and Dynamics 365 Partner of the Year 2018.
About Microsoft Ireland:
Microsoft Ireland employs 2,000 people representing 72 different nationalities operating out of One Microsoft Place, the company’s campus in Leopardstown, Dublin and our Data Centre in Dublin. Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organisation to do and achieve more, not just here in Ireland, but right across the world. From software development, Microsoft International Operations, Finance, HR and Digital Sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Ireland Sales and Marketing, we have an ambition to help everyone, through the power of technology, to achieve more.