AI in the Contact Centre: A Necessary Evil?

Generally, when Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes up in discussion groups or forums, people immediately imagine robots taking over humans. Especially in contact centres, agents tend to think that AI has come to replace them. Is that really the case? This article offers a brief explanation of what AI is all about and spells out the advantages and disadvantages of AI in Contact Centre. 

What is AI

There has been a number of definitions of AI over the last decades. John McCarthy in his 2004 paper defines AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable."

AI is a broad term that encompasses many technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). AI helps companies to enhance customer relationship through its ability to collect and analyse crucial data.

We all encounter AI tools in our day-to-day life. Whether you are searching for something on google or asking a question to Sirri, you have likely come in contact with an AI tool.

Given the drastic change brought about by the pandemic, companies that were sceptical of AI in the past has been forced to accelerate the implementation of digital technology in their organisation.

According to Dell Technologies’ Digital Transformation Index, 80% of companies fast tracked at least one of their digital transformation projects in 2020.

Let’s examine factors for and against AI in Contact Centre. 

Why you should Implement AI (Necessary)

Reduces Operational Cost

It is common knowledge that contact centres are plagued with frequent staff turnovers and the cost of training is high. Most agents say their job becomes boring because of repetitive and basic tasks. AI handles these types of tasks thereby avoiding the cost associated high employee turnover.

Furthermore, unlike humans, AI works 24/7 and does not need to take breaks, sick leaves or holidays. This singular factor reduces the operating cost of the call centre significantly.

Enhances Customer Experience (CX)

Good customer experience is one of the major factors that leads to brand loyalty. A Customer Experience and Marketing Survey by Gartner in 2017 found out that over a third of companies questioned say they compete mostly on the basis of Customer Experience.

The self-service capability of AI tools which handles common question and basic queries saves a lot of time for the caller and leaves them feeling pleased with the brand.

Increases Agent Efficiency

Unlike what many people believe, AI is not here to replace human agents but to increase their efficiency. AI helps call centres to identify different types of calls and pass these calls to the appropriate agents. It can also provide agents with information about the caller before the agents speaks with the customer. This way, the agent is better prepared to handle the call successfully.

Provides More Accurate Analysis

AI can analyse huge amounts of data which is humanly impossible. It can analyse data to depict consumer trends and even predict what a consumer’s next action might be. This enables managers to know exactly which products to market to their customers.

AI can also flag any deviation in consumer buying behaviour and the team can take immediate actions by offering deals to the customer in order to retain them.

Helps Improve Employee Management

It is crucial for call centre agents to be able to handle customer queries successfully as this will lead to enhanced customer experience and brand loyalty. AI through its ability to manage call quality can easily identify good performing employees and poor performing employees. This will help managers and team leaders to know specific training needs of employees and also inform strategy for employing new staff. 

The Downside of AI (Evil)  

No Human Touch

While we have examined at length the benefits of AI in contact centre, AI has not developed enough to take the place of actual agents completely. Research shows that most people prefer talking to a human rather than a machine. As per a 2018 study by Forester, 83% of callers said they would rather talk to a human agent since they understand their needs better.

Despite the rapid growth of machine learning technology, it is no substitute for having a human being at the other end of your call. Although automated calls can handle basic problems, they may not be able to address the customer’s problem entirely. Especially in the case where the customer has more than one complaint that needs to be attended to.

In addition, a machine is impersonal and will not express emotions when needed. For instance, humour: there are times where the agent might need to use humour to calm a client down, this is not possible with a machine.

The Upfront Cost Of Implementing AI Is Very High

Another downside of AI is the cost involved. Both the cost of installing and maintaining AI tools is very high especially for small or medium size call centres.

Another significant cost is the security system. It is indeed better and less costly to deal with an unmanageable employee than a breached AI system. 


In conclusion, although the benefits of AI in contact centre are numerous, its pitfalls cannot be overlooked. However, advancement in technology cannot and should not be ignored because technology is here to stay. In order to maximise the benefits and minimise the pitfalls of AI, you have to adopt the right Mix.

What then is the “Right Mix”? you may be wondering, Keep an eye on our blog in the upcoming months for more.

By Quinta Khan