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Pros and Cons of Alexa in the Call Center

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

As Amazon races toward domination of voice-enabled technology, including revolutionizing call centers, what are the pros and cons for businesses?

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockRecently, tech media buzzed with excitement over rumors about that Amazon's Alexa would soon disrupt customer service and call center operations. Specifically, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been working on Alexa-aligned tools that allow businesses to build their own customer service applications, using bots and voice controls, first reported by The Information.

MORE: Best Business Uses for Alexa

Amazon's digital assistant Alexa can already help companies streamline day-to-day business operations across many functions — from logistics, scheduling, communications, and productivity. Industry experts speculate that Amazon is developing a full suite of contact center software fueled by Alexa capabilities that will be completely self-service from the perspective of callers.

A rollout of new contact center tools by Amazon has begun.

The Latest

In late April, AWS announced that Amazon Lex, the technology that powers Amazon Alexa, is now available to all customers. Lex is an artificial intelligence service that can engage in conversations using voice and text, and the service brings the sophisticated algorithms that power Alexa to all developers as a fully managed service.

Credit: AmazonCredit: AmazonLex's chatbot tools leverage Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, and enables developers to build chat features into their own apps. The tools address longstanding customer frustration with clunky menus and navigation paths and the limited ability of legacy customer service technology to respond to questions. Lex runs as a service in the cloud, rather than on on-premises data centers or desktops.

Amazon says developers can use Lex to build chatbots and other types of web and mobile applications to support engaging, "lifelike interactions." Amazon is driving toward building tools that can take over some of the basic functions that human call center agents currently perform. Lex is believed to be one part of a new, Alexa-powered technology suite to handle customer contacts that will include Amazon's text-to-speech program Polly.

Concurrent with the Lex rollout, Amazon announced that it had taught Alexa to whisper, pause and express emotions in her responses — some of the key steps toward achieving the goal of making Alexa sound more human and naturally expressive.

Developers can add these speech enhancements (and more than 12,000 other Alexa Skills currently available on Amazon's marketplace) to make the user experience even more personal.

Amazon Lex was first introduced at Amazon's AWS conference in Las Vegas last November and was offered to companies in Amazon's US East Region. The American Heart Association, Freshdesk, Hubspot and others have previewed it.

Expect more announcements of new tools as Amazon continues to create the building blocks of what is anticipated to be a robust suite of Alexa-powered customer contact center tools.

Meanwhile, it's time for companies to begin weighing the pros and cons of adoption of voice-driven artificial technology. Here are some opening considerations:

Pros

  • Callers can skip those frustrating phone menus and gain more direct access to answers to their questions
  • Increase in overall business efficiencies and cost-effectiveness, and the ability to control costs
  • Efficiencies for callers, depending on the task; for example, no waiting in a live-queue to handle a reservation, set or change an appointment, or get an answer to a simple question
  • Reduced capital expenditures to accommodate the needs of human call takers, such as desks, phone sets and so on
  • Expected costs of cloud-based contact service should be a fraction of employee expense

Cons

  • Companies will still need human customer service representatives for complex questions
  • Potential temporary or permanent loss of data due to equipment failures, cyber-attacks or connectivity issues
  • Although Amazon is working on incorporating compassion and empathy, the lack of personal connection with a human might be a problem
  • Brands may suffer some fallout with customers when replacing the jobs of human workers with software or machines
  • Companies may need to plan for higher levels of quality and competency in human engagement at other, non-routine points of customer contact to avoid frustration or loss of customer loyalty

Will your company consider using Alexa to augment its tech support efforts? Or do you think it removes the essential human touch?






 

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