- One in 10 contact center agent interactions will be automated by 2026, up from the current level of approximately 1.6%, according to Gartner projections released Aug. 31.
- The expanded use of automation within contact centers should lead to cost savings, as conversational AI will reduce agent labor costs by $80 billion by 2026, according to the projections.
- End-user spending on conversational AI solutions within contact centers will reach just shy of $2 billion this year.
Although the technology is still maturing, conversational AI can keep part of an interaction — or the whole exchange — between a customer and representative out of human hands. But there are a number of barriers standing between the current status quo and multi-billion-dollar cost savings.
The first factor is consumer preference. People want to have the option to talk to a human operator when reaching customers, according to data from Arelion released this week. More than eight in 10 surveyed workers said it should always be possible to speak with a customer service person without using chatbots or automated phone lines.
Businesses seeking to adopt conversational AI must start by identifying patterns in their customer service needs, an easier task for certain industries than others. In a complex setting, such as the healthcare industry, the system would have to navigate hundreds of different options and systems, said Daniel O’Connell, VP analyst at Gartner.
"That makes automation very, very difficult," O'Connell said.
Conversational AI then faces the same critical issue as most AI applications in the enterprise landscape: access to data. More than half of a company’s AI budget is spent during the data sourcing and preparation stages, Appian data shows.
To solve a customer problem, conversational AI might need to connect with multiple databases in order to get needed information.
"The data is all over the place," O'Connell said. "Sometimes it could also be in older databases, or technologies that can be harder to access."
Finally, the skills gap hinders adoption. AI roles have consistently made up around one-third of total job postings in emerging technologies throughout 2022, signaling continued demand in the market.
But over the next decade, more talent will become available and conversational AI tools will improve, O'Connell said. The shift will open the door to expanded use of conversational AI.
"All of those positive events will be working together, and that will get you the higher levels of automation," O'Connell said.