Artificial intelligence and machine learning have become mainstays on the global business scene, with even small companies now able to reap the benefits of having a digital workforce. The momentum behind the growing adoption of AI-driven solutions continues to build: In a recent survey, 50 percent of business leaders said they plan to spend more on AI and ML this year, with 20 percent remarking that they will be significantly increasing their budgets.
As AI adoption grows, organizations are exploring creative ways to incorporate these solutions into their day-to-day operations. Many businesses are discovering the advantages of using AI to enhance human effort rather than replacing it, embracing the technology’s assistive qualities to make life easier and better for human employees. This approach, also known as augmented intelligence, combines the best of AI and machine. learning with the best of human talents to deliver optimized solutions. The benefits of augmented intelligence are particularly notable in the area of customer service, as one of our clients recently experienced.
What is augmented intelligence?
Gartner defines augmented intelligence as “a design pattern for a human-centered partnership model of people and artificial intelligence (AI) working together to enhance cognitive performance, including learning, decision making and new experiences.”
Artificial intelligence holds the promise of removing rote, repetitive tasks from human employees’ to-do lists, generating cost savings, reduced risk of error, and greater efficiency—and freeing humans to focus on more interesting work. All this is happening in organizations across industries, with positive results. And even as “bots” continue to evolve in the direction of closer and closer mimicking human reasoning, creativity, and empathy, a partnership is developing in which AI plays the role of helpful assistant to the person in the chair.
With augmented intelligence, digital workers and human employees are not in separate camps but working hand in hand, trading off tasks in real time according to the unique abilities of each side.
“Augmented Intelligence is the key to driving rapid business value with AI … [C]ompanies that are making headway with Artificial Intelligence, that are driving new business value quickly and have results to show from it, are usually using AI technologies to make the life of an employee better.”
– Kjell Carlsson, PhD, Senior Analyst, Forrester
Why augmented intelligence is a perfect fit for customer service
Effective customer service involves a diverse array of deliverables that requires an equally broad range of capabilities. Customer interactions can be as simple as updating an address or as complex as negotiating a financing plan. The path to resolution of an issue may require tasks ranging from analyzing large amounts of data to calming a customer who is clearly frustrated. And all this needs to be done as efficiently as possible.
Some customer service tasks are better suited to humans and others to machines. When augmented intelligence is applied, human customer service reps can leverage AI-driven applications for behind-the-scenes tasks such as data lookup and solution recommendations, while they focus on building the customer relationship and applying their own creative problem-solving skills.
Success story: augmented intelligence in action
One of our telcom clients had established a vision of creating an exceptional, fully connected customer service experience, in which the customer’s problem could be predicted and solutions made available within the first few seconds of an interaction. They knew this would require an integrated system that seamlessly blended the greatest strengths of AI with the exceptional talents of their customer service team, and they asked us to help them build it. Their specific goals included
• Relieving reps from tedious data lookups and allowing them to focus on relationship-building
• Reducing total time to resolution
• Offering recommendations faster and improving accuracy of recommendations over time
• Giving reps the tools they need for fast, intuitive access to all the information they need to resolve the issue at hand
We delivered a holistic AI-driven system with four distinct features designed to support our client’s objectives:
• Data integration to provide the representative with a complete picture of the customer
• Automated speech recognition (ASR) to accurately transcribe the contents of a call
• AI to perform in-depth account analysis, identify the best solution, and serve it up to the representative. The rep can then apply the solution to the customer’s account with a single click
• Machine learning to continuously improve performance based on actual call transcripts
The transcription portion of our solution was particularly important to the success of the project. Our client’s customer care center amasses millions of minutes of call time every day, so even slight improvements to their real-time speech recognition capabilities had the potential to make a big difference. We worked with our client to develop a hybrid solution that leverages a best-in-class transcription tool and in-house expertise for organization-specific training to optimize accuracy.
Besides relieving representatives from the need to take notes during a call, accurate transcriptions enable the AI portion of the solution to begin working on recommended solutions as soon as the call begins.
Transcriptions also deliver a steady stream of training sets to the machine learning portion of the solution. We worked with our client to combine small snippets of conversations into hours’ worth of human-labeled audio, which our client’s team then fed back into the model to improve its accuracy. As a result, our client was able to reduce their transcription error rate by more than 20 percent in just a few months, and we are working on solutions to drive it down even further.
Partnering for progress
While it’s become common to view artificial intelligence as a replacement of human effort, businesses are beginning to explore more innovative options. By combining the best of AI and machine learning with the intuition, creativity, empathy, and other talents of human employees, organizations can tap into the best of both worlds. In the area of customer service, digital workers can take on the data-intensive tasks that are so well suited to their capabilities, while human reps can focus on building and strengthening relationships, enabling win-win outcomes for both the organization and the customer.
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