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Will Australian Call Centres Be Taken Over By Robots? - IPscape - Blog

Will Australian Call Centres Be Taken Over By Robots?

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are predicted to have a colossal impact on the contact centre sector. According to Forrester Research, AI and intelligent agents are two of the top five technologies most likely to transform the tech landscape by 2021.

So where is AI at now in the contact centre world, and what can we expect in the future? Is it possible that one day robots and other forms of AI will totally take over the industry, leaving swathes of contact centre employees out in the cold?

Rise of the internet chatbot

To the first question, AI is largely still in its experimental stage in Australia. But the results to date have been promising, particularly when it comes to text-based chatbots (or ‘virtual assistants’, as they’re also called). For customers preferring to have their questions answered via a website than by calling a contact centre, chatbots can provide excellent service.

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When a chatbot pops up to a website, it comes with Natural Language Understanding (NLU) capabilities that allow it grasp the intent of what’s being asked. In other words, it mimics how a knowledgeable human would respond to the enquiry. A good chatbot is also able to seamlessly transfer the customer to a live agent when the conversation gets complicated.

An example of a successful chatbot in action is Alex, the virtual assistant for the Australian Taxation Office. Alex uses NLU, advanced resolution technologies and conversational dialogue to answer tax-related questions from website visitors. Launched in March 2016, Alex has answered over a million enquiries with a resolution rate of 80%, which is significantly higher than the industry benchmark of 65%. This type of technology has also gained traction in the telecommunications, banking, retail and financial services sectors.

According to recent research by conversational commerce company Flamingo Customer Experience, 77% of Australian customers (from 528 surveyed) are comfortable with the concept of using a chatbot to address their enquiries. Of the 84 Australian businesses surveyed, 73% believe chatbots are relevant to their business. With a solid track record already laid down, and with the technology improving all the time, internet-based chatbots are here to stay.

Live agent or robot – what’s best?

While chatbots can be good at providing simple answers to predictable, uncomplicated questions, the stakes get higher when organisations leave it to a robot to address complex enquiries. Companies don’t want to risk losing a long-time customer because of a poor Chabot experience. They also don’t want to fail to convert a prospect into a customer, because of under-developed voice automation technology.

This is one of the reasons why Australian organisations are treading carefully when it comes to voice-based AI. As things presently stand, robots simply aren’t good at certain things. Through machine learning, they can be effective in understanding what we said, but not necessarily what we meant. For example, AI technology is typically poor at detecting sarcasm – a response of ‘yeah, great’ from the customer may not mean what the robot thinks it means. An empathetic understanding of a customer’s emotional state is also not something a bot can easily pick up on. So a customer becoming increasingly exasperated may not be dealt with in the same way as they would if there was a human on the other end of the line. Also, a robot can only provide answers from which it is able to draw from its database of knowledge – a potential shortcoming when a customer makes a ‘first-of- its-kind’ type of enquiry. While machine intelligence operates within certain pre-programmed parameters, human beings do not. We’re simply not that predictable.

For contact centre operators, a key challenge lies in knowing the point at which a customer machine conversation is failing and needs to be taken over by a live agent. If a live person is too slow to get involved, the customer could be lost.

So until major further advancements are made in AI, its core strength will remain its ability to automate simple processes where human skills and knowledge are not required. This is good news for the contact centre workforce because there’s no way automation is going to replace humans any time in the foreseeable future. Rather than replace live agents, technology can be expected to complement and enhance both the customer experience and the agent experience. That all-important need for the human touch, where qualities such as compassion, an instinct for social cues and a grasp of the unique needs of a particular individual customer, will continue to be vital for organisations dependent on attracting, serving and retaining customers.

For contact centre representatives, automation will free them from the tedium of continually responding to the same rudimentary queries over and over again. Their jobs will become more stimulating and challenging, allowing more opportunities to apply critical thinking and creativity in their problem-solving.

Is AI a win-win for customers and providers?

For customers who want good customer service and for contact centre service providers, who want to deliver it, the future looks bright. For the most part, Australians are comfortable having their basic enquiries dealt with through automation. Not speaking to a human being is generally acceptable as long as it provides the desired result. In this regard, AI has plenty of runs on the board, and will only get better as its machine learning technology improves.

For government and corporates, AI has delivered some successes in reducing operational costs, while maintaining solid customer satisfaction rates. With the high cost of hiring and training contact centre staff, the reliable and efficient automation of basic functions has predictably had a positive bottom line impact.

But there is still some distance to travel along the AI path. Consistently outstanding customer engagement from an intelligent, insightful and empathetic robot is the holy grail. But, in all likelihood, it’s destined to remain elusive, despite the impressive pace of AI innovation.

The contact centre of the future is far more likely to be one that combines human interaction with automated processes to deliver the best in customer service.

Peter Anson is CEO of ipSCAPE


Publish Date: October 12, 2017 5:00 AM

2021 Buyers Guide Automation


Agara is an autonomous virtual voice agent powered by Real-time Voice AI. It is designed to have intelligent conversations with your customers, vendors, and partners without any assistance from human agents. It can handle a wide variety of calls including inbound customer care calls, outbound lead generation calls, appointment scheduling calls, and overdue payment recovery calls.

Agara is available for several industries including banking, insurance, retail, e-commerce, airlines, and telecom. Powered by advanced Real-time Voice AI that understands speech in real-time, automatically determines the right process to follow and guides the caller along in the process with natural conversation.


EVA Voice Biometrics
Powered by Auraya's patented ArmorVox engine, EVA is a voice biometric extension that provides secure and seamless identification & verification capabilities for Amazon Connect. EVA provides delightful customer experience by removing the friction of providing PINs, passwords or secret information in order to prove caller identity. EVA comes standard with active and passive modes and a simple yet powerful agent interface. This allows for personalised self-service and a more friendly and efficient experience when interacting with an agent.

Outdated security methods such as PINs, passwords and security questions have become insecure and unreliable. Forgetting passwords and security answers o...
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Consilium Software

Consilium UniCloud™
UniCloud™ is an intuitive platform that allows Enterprises to deploy and manage their Unified Communication (UC) and Contact Center (CC) services with ease and entire provisioning can be completed in seconds using this comprehensive tool supporting digital transformation. The latest release 7.0 of UniCloud™ is a multi-tenant platform that transforms the delivery, management, and integration of collaboration and contact center solutions, for both Cloud and On-Premise deployment models.
With its single-pane-of-glass views and quick provisioning tool, UniCloud™ is instrumental in reducing the time to provision an entire multi-cluster Cisco collaboration platform, including contact centers (C...
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eGain Corporation

eGain Solve
Proven, Easy, and Guided Journey to Automate Customer Engagement in a Digital+AI World


Automated Language Testing
Emmersion offers automated assessments to quickly and accurately test speaking, writing, and grammar fluency in 9 languages and counting. We help contact centers improve CSAT scores by screening for top talent and retaining top performers.

OpsTel Services

The SPEED solution solves for service level issues while cost optimizing the environment with automation.

Provides an enhanced way to speed up & optimize invoking temporary agent skills configuration changes into the contact center environment.

Speed allows you to schedule both future changes & temporary changes that auto-revert back to the original state when scheduled time expires.

Speed features:

*Automated / Scheduled Temporary Agent Skills Configuration Management
*Immediate Temporary or Reoccurring Schedule Skills Configuration Changes
*Easy to Use/Operations Administration Focused
*Descriptive Monitoring Activity Dashboard
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