Industry Commentary

Front-Office BPO Needs to Embrace AI

By February 25, 2019July 25th, 2023No Comments

Shall we play a game?’ For those who grew up in the 1980s’, these iconic words from WarGames bring back memories of Saturday matinees, couched in the shadow of the Cold War, and pre-Ferris Bueller performances by Matthew Broderick.  However, with the benefit of hindsight, another prevailing theme from that 1983 blockbuster is artificial intelligence (AI), which today is garnering the attention that it deserves as a technology.   For contact center outsourcing executives, marketing AI as part of their broader suite of client offerings needs to be a priority.  This technology is game-changing in so many facets of customer experience delivery, and those providers that are able to capture its potential will see net results in operational improvements, end-user experience and client loyalty.

If there is one thing that AI generates across the contact center industry, it is curiosity.  Given the hype around this technology in practically all verticals, geography or functionality, executives in customer experience are clamoring to find out more about how AI can drive better business outcomes.  This dynamic appears different from the much-hyped automation craze that infiltrated board rooms over the past several years, which resulted in confusion and (in some cases) cynicism about the extent to which RPA technology was ready for contact center prime time.  In the case of AI, the thirst for knowledge feels different, and its application to customer experience is being positioned more strategically.

This trend is a positive thing in the broader context of customer experience management. In the case of AI, executives are clearly interested in finding out how this technology can help know the individual end-user better as a means of cementing lifecycle loyalty.  Its ability to drive better operational efficiencies for contact centers cannot be underestimated, sitting alongside human talent, automated solutions and analytical platforms.  And, it is in this context that contact center outsourcers need to think long-term  in offering AI solutions to clients.

While enterprises may wish to take advantage of AI within their contact centers, the capacity to do so may not be within their reach.  The last iteration of the Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office Omnibus showed that in 2019, more than half of captive operations would face budget crunches. This spells limited opportunities to invest in new technologies of a sophisticated nature.  Outsourcers that aggressively position AI as part of an overall solution, acting as a trusted guide for clients as they incorporate these platforms into their customer experience strategy, will almost certainly find a welcoming audience.  Any mechanism that helps take the pain out of front-line interactions for agents and end-users is essential in a sector plagued by attrition and reduced consumer loyalty.

But the time to act is now, and outsourcers of all scales cannot afford to wait.  Enterprises will favor working with providers that are bold in this domain.  BPOs need to determine the model with which they will take AI to market; this could mean acquiring a developer to incorporate into their own operations or partnering with a leading name in the AI world.  Some larger, more technology-focused outsourcing firms may be on track in developing their own solutions in-house.  Regardless of approach, there is no time to lose for outsourcers.  After all, history (and classic comedy) has proven that those who dare, win