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In 2019, Contact Center AI, a Google Cloud service that promises to automate conversations between businesses and customers and deliver “intelligent” tools for customer service agents, reached general availability. A year later, Google introduced new features, including custom-generated voices and an agent assist module that transcribes calls in real time. Now, with an eye toward unifying its various contact center AI service offerings across Google Cloud, Google is launching what it describes as an “extension” of Contact Center AI that adds new integration support for customer relationship management platforms.

The goal, says director of product management for Contact Center AI Yariv Adan, is to “[make] it easier to unify sales, marketing, and support teams around common data and customer experiences.” While call centers have been slow to embrace automation historically due to budget constraints as well as challenges around technology and processes, the staffing shortages and high call volumes brought on by the pandemic prompted many to reconsider. According to a 2020 report from Canam Research, 78% of contact centers in the U.S. report plans to deploy AI in their contact center in the next three years for uses including chatbots, self-service, and AI for quality management.

Contact Center AI Platform would appear to be a response to Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Contact Center Intelligence solutions, which launched two years ago. Like Contact Center AI Platform, Contact Center Intelligence solutions enables companies to integrate their contact centers with self-service, analytics, AI, self-service, customer management, and agent assist products through third-party vendors.

“While there was no better time than the present to bring Contact Center AI Platform to market, the decision to act now was based on data-driven insights received from our customers and the retail industry at large,” Adan told VentureBeat via email. “Pre-pandemic, Contact Center AI helped our customers meet the demands of their contact centers, but the COVID era exposed tech gaps in the system that could sometimes put customer service interactions in a negative light. To address this, we identified opportunities to better help not only our customers with a solution in Contact Center AI Platform that addresses their greater needs beyond the pandemic, such as being adaptive to the demands of customers wanting to interact with agents on their smartphones, but also helps agents and all sized businesses produce more positive outcomes for both the customer and agents.”

Integrating CRM data

The new Contact Center AI Platform adds a range of features to Google’s Contact Center AI suite, including the ability to create customer experiences that can be embedded into mobile and web channels (e.g., iOS and Android apps) using existing software developer kits. Using Contact Center AI Platform, Adan says, brands can manage multiple channels without having to switch between voice, texting, and chat support and leverage customer relationship management platforms as a “single source of insight into the customer experience.”

“Contact Center AI Platform is an evolved, modernized solution that addresses customer and consumer needs beyond the pandemic. Reducing call volume … and reducing costs are just some ways in which the Google Cloud solution focuses on the future of problems being felt in the market today,” Adan continued. “Contact Center AI Platform offers streamlined experiences and seamless integrations with customer relationship management platforms and numerous telephony providers, key differentiated benefits to ensure an enriched, cost-effective solution that will continue to meet customer and consumer needs both today and in the future.”

The new offering also attempts to predict customer needs and route calls based on historical customer relationship management data and real-time interactions. Contact Center AI Platform, Adan says, can additionally automate some scheduling functions including schedule adherence monitoring (which measures whether agents work the amount of time they’re scheduled to work) and provide customers with self-service via the web or mobile apps.

“Human agents are, and will continue to be, incredibly important,” Adan said. “Google Cloud Contact Center AI enables the best experience for both agents and customers. AI and natural language processing are, and should, be used to scale, support and improve human agents, not to replace them. We see great opportunities for seamless collaboration between human agents, virtual agents, and supportive AI and natural language processing tools. Combined, they deliver excellent customer experience, at a consistent high level of availability and quality.”

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