Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) deployments within contact centres will lessen agent labour costs by $80 billion by 2026, according to analyst firm Gartner, which also said that end-user spending on conversational AI solutions within contact centres is forecast to reach $1.99 billion in 2022. However, fragmented vendor landscape and complexity of deployments will result in lower adoption through the next two years or so, it said.
Conversational AI combines natural language processing, machine learning and other related algorithms with traditional software like chatbots and voice assistants to engage users in human-like conversations.
“Implementing conversational AI requires expensive professional resources in areas such as data analytics, knowledge graphs and natural language understanding,” said Daniel O’Connell, VP analyst at Gartner.
Complex, large-scale conversational AI deployments can take multiple years as more call flows are built out and existing call flows are fine-tuned for improvement. Gartner estimates integration pricing at $1,000 to $1,500 per conversational AI agent, though some organisations cite costs of up to $2,000 per agent. Therefore, early adoption of conversational AI will be primarily led by organisations with 2,500 or more agents with budget for the requisite technical resources.
Gartner estimates that there are approximately 17 million contact centre agents worldwide today, said O’Connell. “Many organisations are challenged by agent staff shortages and the need to curtail labour expenses, which can represent up to 95% of contact centre costs. Conversational AI makes agents more efficient and effective, while also improving the customer experience,” he said.
Gartner projects that one in 10 agent interactions will be automated by 2026, an increase from an estimated 1.6% of interactions today that are automated using AI. Conversational AI can automate all or part of a contact centre customer interaction through both voice and digital channels, through voicebots or chatbots, and it is expected to have transformational benefits to customer service and support organisations within two years.
The sophistication of bots, and therefore their conversational artificial intelligence capabilities, are largely determined by the sophistication of the artificial intelligence employed.
Big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple are working hard to democratise advanced AI so that companies can take advantage of its capabilities to introduce increasingly complex experiences.
The current chatbots in the market are already capturing partial information such as customer’s name, policy number and reason for calling and this itself could reduce up to a third of the interaction time that would typically be supported by a human agent,” said O’Connell, adding that “once built, the conversational AI capabilities must be continuously supported, updated and maintained, resulting in additional costs.”