Managing incoming human-to-human calls, texts and chats is a daily challenge for contact center leaders. But before long bot-to-bot conversations will need to be added to the list of responsibilities.
A new report from Gartner predicts a rapid increase in inbound customer service contact volume from virtual assistants, bots, smart devices, and other machine customers. These inbound contacts might involve reporting issues or gathering product information to take back to consumers.
“Machine customers will reset customer expectations about what constitutes a low-effort experience, creating a greater competitive gap,” said Uma Challa, senior director analyst, Gartner. “Organizations that embrace them will be able to differentiate their value and close the gap by meeting this new standard for effortless service.”
By 2024, Gartner anticipates 100 million requests for customer service will be raised by smart products, and by 2026 up to 20 percent of all inbound contacts will come from machine customers.
Smart organizations will start to invest in conversational AI platforms (CAIP) to enable bot-to-bot communication, according to Gartner. That will be a step up from using enterprise chatbot channels to handle these requests at scale. “Organizations without a machine customer strategy in place won’t have a good way of distinguishing between human and machine customers,” says Challa. “They may see their non-chatbot channel performance get worse without understanding why.”
Automating customer service
Automation is also on the rise in the contact center, including virtual assistants for agents. By 2026, Gartner says 30 percent of customer service representatives will be using automated tools. Examples of self-automation activities include using quick auto-response technology in emails to customers or using call recorders to transcribe customer calls.
“While self-automation has been happening for a while in the software space, this trend will become more present internally in customer service because reps now have improved access to automation tools,” said Emily Potosky, director, research, Gartner. “Emerging resources such as AI models (e.g., Github Co-pilot, OpenAI’sm ChatGPT, and Codex) will continue to make coding more accessible to reps, regardless of their skill level.”
With this in mind, Gartner expects there will be a greater variety of products in the marketplace centered around employee automation, such as low- or no-code solutions to help with self-automation. “Customer service and support organizations that authorize self-automation will become more competitive than those that don’t,” said Potosky. “These organizations may also become more attractive employers because potential job candidates are likely to appreciate the organization’s flexibility and openness to innovation.”
Prepare For the Unexpected
With the rise of machine customers and self-automation opportunities, contact center leaders should be prepared for the unexpected – and perhaps unauthorized – uses of technology. To take just one example, hackers may use advanced automated tools in social engineering attacks. On the other side of the coin, human agents may turn to consumer-oriented applications that lack the security features of large organizations.
To prepare for an uncertain future, Gartner suggests IT leaders should:
- Create a framework for due diligence to review and approve self-automation opportunities.
- Invest in a scalable chatbot platform to make it easier to enable machine customers to interact with enterprise bots.
- Harness employees’ willingness to augment their own work processes, enabling them to create more engaging and effective ways of working.
- Measure channel performance – bot-to-bot as well as non-chatbot channels – to understand the impact machine customers have on your overall channel portfolio. With the rapid advances in AI conversational tools and support applications, it seems clear that the contact center environment may look very different by 2030 – and now is the time to start planning for a new technology-driven landscape.