Companies spending billions to have AI answer calls

In a drive to replace human call center workers with AI chatbots, companies will invest $2 billion globally this year alone. It could save them up to $80 billion by 2026.

According to Gartner, a consultancy firm, one in 10 caller interactions will be automated by 2026, an increase from 1.6% today.

It said that a push to replace humans with AI conversationalists – in the form of voice bots, chatbots, or a mixture of both – would intensify in the coming years.

Gartner estimates that there are 17 million people employed as call center agents worldwide. However, companies still face labor shortages – which the company says is a driving force behind the increasing demand for automation.

“Many organizations are challenged by agent staff shortages and the need to curtail labor expenses, which can represent up to 95% of contact center costs,” Daniel O’Connell, VP analyst at Gartner, said.

He added: “Conversational AI makes agents more efficient and effective while also improving the customer experience.”

Many of those who had a machine answer their call or a chatbot reply to their inquiry might disagree. Quality of a conversation aside, automating customer identification alone could mean talking to an AI would take up to a third less time than it would with a human agent, Gartner said while acknowledging that the technology is “still maturing.”

Large companies with over 2,500 agents and necessary technical resources are expected to lead the way in automation.

“Implementing conversational AI requires expensive professional resources in areas such as data analytics, knowledge graphs, and natural language understanding,” O’Connell said.

“Once built, the conversational AI capabilities must be continuously supported, updated, and maintained, resulting in additional costs,” he added.

It might seem like a small consolation to workers about to have their jobs replaced by the machine, but some humans will still have a job to do – for now. It just would not include answering calls.

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