Future of Work News

Conversational AI Transforms the Call Center at Constant Contact


Integrated marketing company Constant Contact strives to address the many challenges faced by call centers on a regular basis. The company, which works with small businesses, has been steadily integrating AI into its customer support capabilities over the past three years in an effort to meet those challenges head on.

Constant Contact chose conversational AI technology from Interactions to enhance its offerings, thanks to its easy integration with backend CRM and data. Unlike chatbots, conversational AI enables real-time access to customer business and usage data as well as a quick history of their billing and customer support queries. According to Ben Bauks, a senior business systems analyst at Constant Contact, the company turned to AI because of growing call volumes as well as a shortage of call center workers due to high turnover rates.

“I think we’ve all gotten frustrated one way or another when you call in and you get an IVR menu and none of the options are relevant to what your question is,” said Bauks. “So you press zero and then you get into a general queue and you’re just in this non-stop loop trying to get your questions answered. There was poor efficiency, something we really wanted to solve, especially when catering to small businesses.”

The conversational AI solution from Interactions includes a custom intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) tailored to each client and hosted in the company’s cloud infrastructure. The offering features natural language processing, natural language generation, dialog management techniques and automated speech recognition. The combination of technologies creates “adaptive understanding,” enabling customers to freely converse with the AI while calling on a human if customers’ needs aren’t being met. The key differentiator of the offering is intelligent, conversational adaptivity instead of rules-based IVR, which often results in that endless frustrating loop of unanswered questions.

“Our system can understand complete sentences,” said Jim Freeze, CMO of Interactions. “So somebody says something and it comes into our system, it can be a single word or a 45-second diatribe from someone who’s angry about something. That utterance comes into our system, our own ASR is very sophisticated, it takes speech and turns it into text, and then an NLP engine takes that text and tries to extract meaning from it: What’s the intent of that caller?”

The offering then analyzes the query and assigns it a confidence score. If the score is high enough, the solution sends instructions to the IVA to execute a response to the customer. If the score is low, due to a bad connection, background noise, slurring or a strong accent, the call is routed in real time to an “intent analyst.” That person determines the intent of the call and sends a message to the IVA, which then executes a response. The instance is also tagged and added to the solution’s machine learning to improve the overall offering.

AI has been a win from Constant Contact’s perspective, with the amount of time agents spend on calls cut between 15 and 30 seconds on average. That equates to a lower cost per call along with higher customer satisfaction. An additional benefit is that customer identification and authentication is achieved roughly 80 percent of the time. Finally, call center agents are happier as conversational AI reduces the amount of repetitive tasks they need to handle, saving them time and enabling them to focus on more challenging tasks.

For more information about how AI is being integrated in the call center and beyond, TMC is hosting its Future of Work Expo in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The event, which is happening February 12-14, 2020, will explore how AI and machine learning technologies are being used to transform the customer experience and are rapidly shaping the future workplace.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Future of Work Contributor

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