The AI Invasion: Breaking In From The Citizen Communications Beachhead

Martin Taylor

In the past couple of years, contact centres have suddenly undergone an extreme character makeover, from asset-sweating tech laggard to leading light in intelligent automation. How has this ugly duckling turned itself into a digital swan?

Under pressure to differentiate service offerings and add personalisation, many organisations in the private sector have been quietly deploying key AI technologies — especially natural language processing (NLP), image recognition and data analysis. The application of these general-purpose AI technologies in contact centres is transforming their efficiency, as well as how they model and predict call volumes, enable new automated self-service channels, and evolve the role of their oft-maligned workers. It’s time for the public sector to follow suit.

Thriving in a Post-Pandemic World

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, contact centres that had pioneered the application of cloud-based AI technologies and decision tools were able to pivot their operations at speed as citizens flocked online and onto their phones.

Organisations that had not previously invested in these technologies found themselves ramping up their implementation of cloud and AI solutions, to upscale operations, handle a tsunami of unanticipated workloads, and reinvent citizen communication.

Let's take a look at how some key industries responded to the new technology requirements.

Health Care — Operationalising AI to Serve a Variety of Needs

Before COVID-19, AI technologies were already being applied in advanced medical research to great effect. Health care providers used AI tools to deliver connected services across the spectrum, from public health to family doctors to hospitals. However, during the pandemic, they were also tasked with making critical decisions as to how best to deploy health and care resources in emerging COVID-19 hotspots.

In the UK, Content Guru were able to help parts of the National Health Service (NHS) to take a pioneering approach to these issues by applying AI to automate call routing, bolstering the performance of its NHS 111 online and telephone urgent care service, allowing them to respond faster and more effectively to patients seeking information about COVID-19. The service was already able to track and prioritise patients with developing or known medical conditions, and these capabilities have now been expanded to prioritise the routing of patients with complex or long-term health issues, who are identified as most at-risk of COVID-19. By directing users to the most appropriate professional the first time, and providing advisors with the relevant patient records, NHS 111 ensures that these people receive tailored medical care from the outset.

At a macro level, the pandemic prompted the rapid deployment of AI technologies to evaluate multiple data sources. This allowed health providers to understand how the virus spreads at a local level, identifying which members of the population are most at risk, and predicting how best to divert service users to the facilities best able to care for them. Crucially, all of this is based on current demand, resources, and staffing capacity — essential in a fast-changing environment.

Retailers — Satisfying an Uptick in Omni-channel Consumer Demand

In the face of national lockdowns, shoppers had to head online to purchase nonessential items, place grocery orders, and personalise how they took delivery of goods. Retailers were forced to redesign customer journeys as consumers embraced a digital-first approach en masse. For some, the answer was to convert stores into virtual warehouses that could satisfy demand from consumers for a range of click-to-order, personalised, and safe shopping options. That meant using AI to integrate stock data from across their store and distribution networks to ensure they were able to optimise on-demand deliveries, minimise the risk of localised stockouts, and ensure complete harmonisation between their online and physical channels.

With consumers now embracing omni-channel shopping on a massive scale, many retailers are investing in advanced AI technologies to boost operational efficiencies, manage supply chain issues, and initiate new engagement hubs that empower them to serve customers in multiple channels. In a Darwinian economic environment, those with the best-adapted tech are most likely to survive.

Looking to the Future — Adapting Fast to New Citizen Engagement Preferences and Expectations

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many of the digital CX and engagement trends that were already in motion, highlighting why operational agility is vital. Citizens now expect to be able to contact public sector organisations whenever they like, wherever they are, and from the channel of their choice. However, the unexpected spikes in demand caused by intermittent national lockdowns have made meeting these expectations challenging.

Fortunately, today's cloud technology is giving organisations the scalability they need to deal with rapid fluctuations in contact demand. By implementing AI, public sector organisations can take these enhancements to the next level, and transform their contact centres into sophisticated citizen engagement hubs, where data points taken from every channel are integrated to deliver a 360-degree view of the citizen.

The first step for organisations looking to begin their journey in AI is to find the right partners, ones that can help them take advantage of the democratisation of AI technology. AI can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. The path to utilising AI is not the same for every organisation, so contact centres should first and foremost look to specialists who can tailor the variety of AI technology now available to their specific needs and requirements.

Discover a bespoke AI solution for your contact centre here