“Hello, Amelia Speaking” – The New Face (or Voice) of Call Centres?

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Back in 2014, emerging technologies giant IPsoft unveiled Amelia – a new artificial intelligence computing system. Named after pioneering American aviator Amelia Earhart, the software promised to transform the global workforce – and now, she could be coming to a call centre near you.

Unlike previous artificial intelligence, Amelia ‘understands’ the full meaning of the information she takes in, as opposed to simply recognising specific words. The ‘understanding’ involves being able to grasp context, apply a logical solution and consider all possible implications.

So how does this apply in the contact centre solutions landscape? Amelia is designed to assume responsibility for the often tedious and laborious tasks call centre operators must carry out, freeing up ‘human’ time for more detailed or creative roles. This includes data collection; using complex speech analytics, Amelia can assess the information provided by the customer – the spoken word. The system can pick out key facts which are then analysed; allowing Amelia to ‘decide’ where to take the call next.

Amelia uses a flow chart, written in English, to solve queries in a wide range of business processes. These ‘process maps’ allow Amelia to work out what to do with the information, rather than relying on time-consuming and costly programming. The interesting thing about Amelia is that she can learn – at a dramatically fast rate. If asked something that isn’t in her remit, she calls in a human operator who will type in the answer or appropriate response. Amelia then watches this and learns for the next time she encounters this topic, gradually phasing out the need for assistance from her living, breathing counterpart.

In a call centre environment, this technology is proving to indeed work. Amelia is now being tested by several companies to determine if and when she will be efficient enough to replace online call centre operators. During these trials, Amelia has gone from answering very few queries independently to around 40% in the first month. By month number two, this had risen to 64%. That’s one fast-learning robot.

The ethics behind the development of AI software are a very grey area – many in the industry believe that technology like this will result in the loss of thousands of jobs and crucially, one thing that customers really do crave; the human element to a company’s contact centre solutions.

Some say that this kind of disruptive technology creates new jobs while eliminating old ones, simply displacing workers – not replacing them. IPsoft believes that the future of call centres will compromise a mixture of human and virtual employees, in one ultra-productive, cost-effective digital workforce. As the ‘parents’ of Amelia, this stance is par for the course.

The introduction of AI software might be dividing the call centre industry, and the future of contact centre solutions may be uncertain – but at least one thing is guaranteed. For the frustrated customers that turn the air blue on when speaking on the phone, there will be no hard feelings from Amelia. She’s a robot remember, she has no feelings at all.