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Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) in contact centers—the places where organizations manage interactions with customers—will reduce agent labor costs by $80 billion by 2026, according to Gartner.
Global spending on conversational AI solutions in contact centers is estimated to reach $1.99 billion by 2022, the research and consulting firm said. “Gartner estimates that there are approximately 17 million contact center agents worldwide today,” said Daniel O’Connell, vice president at Gartner. “Many organizations are struggling with agent staffing shortages and the need to cut labor costs, which can account for up to 95 percent of contact center costs. Conversational AI makes agents more efficient and effective while improving the customer experience.”
Gartner predicts that one in 10 agent interactions will be automated by 2026, up from an estimated 1.6 percent of interactions that are automated with AI today. Conversational AI can automate all or part of a contact center’s customer interaction through both voice and digital channels.
“While automating a full interaction – also known as call retention or call diversion – equates to significant cost savings, partial retention, such as automating the identification of customer name, policy number and reason for calling, also makes sense. Capturing this information with artificial intelligence could cut up to a third of the interaction time that would typically be supported by a human agent,” said O’Connell.
While the benefits of conversational AI are compelling, the technology is still maturing. The fragmented vendor landscape and deployment complexity will drive measured adoption over the next two years.
“Implementing conversational AI requires expensive professional resources in areas such as data analysis, knowledge graphs and natural language understanding,” said O’Connell. “Once AI conversational capabilities are created, they must be continuously supported, updated and maintained, resulting in additional costs.”
Gartner estimates the cost of integration at $1,000 to $1,500 per AI conversational agent, although some organizations report costs as high as $2,000 per agent. Therefore, early adoption of conversational AI will primarily be driven by organizations with 2,500 or more agents with the budget for the necessary technical resources.