AI in the Call Center: Every Company’s Secret Weapon

Ah, call centers.

They don’t get much love.

At best, they’re viewed as charmingly quaint, a clunky artifact of a pre-digital era. At worst, they’re seen as a necessary evil – a cost center to be managed through aggressive measures like blistering average handle time (AHT) benchmarks and outsourcing.

But what if call centers were actually a company’s single most valuable, most systematically underutilized asset? After all: what better place is there to gain visibility into the mindset of the customer than through the nuanced interactions that take place in a call center?

Of course, if routine customer care interactions were actually a viable substitute for state-of-the-art marketing research or a major source of cross-sell and upsell revenue, no company would consider outsourcing its call center. Companies would look for ways to prolong service interactions, and would proactively train representatives on how to ask probing questions rather than simply transactionally resolving the issue at hand.

This clearly isn’t the case. So what’s holding call centers back from being every company’s Excalibur?

Slippery, unwieldy, unstructured data

Call centers generate massive amounts of data. But in our experience, the fact that this data is unstructured makes it a daunting challenge for enterprises to use. In contrast to many other kinds of business data (e.g., quantitative results from a recent NPS survey), voice interactions cannot be loaded into relational data stores, disseminated throughout the organization, and analyzed as is. They must be transformed into a more usable format and, ultimately, mined for insights.

It’s a tough technical challenge. A human being listening to a call would be able to infer tone (is the speaker angry? disappointed?), pick up on contextual clues about the speaker’s needs, and connect the interaction to previous conversations. A software platform must be painstakingly trained to do all these things that a human being would do naturally.

If calls centers are a company’s secret weapon – well, then like the real Excalibur, they’re stuck deep in a stone, gathering dust and waiting to be wielded.

AI: Bringing order to the chaos

This is the problem that we set out to solve at Bonobo. How can cutting-edge call analytics technology be applied to help businesses understand their customers at scale? Bonobo parses unstructured data like voice and chat to uncover key segments, help companies identify and manage legal risk, and make it easy to build deeper customer relationships.

The technological advance that helps release the sword from the stone – making unstructured data meaningful and useful at scale – is Artificial Intelligence, or AI. AI refers to a wide range of machine capabilities that mimic human capabilities, like perception and cognition. Common applications of AI include the ability to understand human speech and draw complex inferences from a long chain of events.

AI is the perfect technical answer to the massive amounts of rich, unstructured data generated in call centers. AI algorithms can be deployed to understand speech, identify and classify sentiment, and search for causal patterns and relationships across tens of thousands of hours of voice interactions.

For companies that are able to unlock the power of their call centers using AI, the results speak for themselves. An insurance focused retailer is seeing a 1% increase in overall revenue after using Bonobo to analyze which customers are at risk of conversion abandonment after submitting inquiries. And a high-end service provider has increased repeat purchase rate by 23% by identifying customers whose customer service calls revealed a potential interest in related services.

Ultimately, we see call centers as the wave of the future. So bring on the voice interactions and messy, unstructured data – when paired with the power of AI, these are every company’s secret weapon.

About Bonobo

Bonobo is the first conversational intelligence platform for organizations seeking to know their customers and grow customer relationships at scale. The platform centralizes fragmented customer interaction data from across channels and leverages AI to power action-ready insights from throughout the customer journey – driving an immediate lift in customer conversion, upsell, and retention.