AWS and Korean Air Team Up to Build an “AI Contact Center”

How will the decision impact the company’s customer service offerings?

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Korean Air Cargo Boeing 747 taking off from Zaragoza airport
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Published: May 20, 2024

Rhys Fisher

Korean Air has revealed plans to create an AI-powered contact center (AICC) by leveraging Amazon Web Services’ tech infrastructure.

Announced at a company kickoff event in Seoul, Koren Air outlined improvements in personalization and efficiency as some of the key benefits that the AICC will bring to the company’s customer service offerings.

By incorporating Amazon’s innovative tech solutions, the Korean airline hopes to build a cloud-based intelligent customer service platform that utilizes AI advancements to power voice bots and chatbots that will handle customer queries.

The company has also confirmed that the new AI-powered contact center will incorporate direct customer interactions and utilize call log analysis in an aim to boost service quality.

Moreover, Koreain Air believes the AICC will enhance operational efficiency through cost reduction, centralization of management, and expansion of service channels—“surpassing” the service provided by traditional contact centers in the process.

Kenneth Chang, Chief Marketing Officer at Korean Air, discussed how the new contact center will impact customer experience and trust, commenting:

“Providing personalized experiences and swiftly resolving issues are key to developing and reinforcing customer trust.

Our partnership with AWS will leverage advanced AI technologies to transform the way we interact with our customers to enhance the customer experience.

Korean Air has earmarked September as the proposed date to consolidate its current call center infrastructure into a single AWS platform, with the company also unveiling plans to integrate machine learning and generative AI (GenAI) by February 2025.

But what are the wider ramifications of pursuing an AI-only customer service approach?

All in on AI

Korean Air has described its latest AICC venture as part of the company’s strategy of enhancing its “digital transformation capabilities to maximize customer satisfaction.”

Yet, Korean Air’s customers were not exactly dissatisfied to begin with. In the annual World Airline Awards run by Skytrax, the company was voted the 10th best in the world, placing above the likes of American Airlines, British Airways, and Delta.

Interestingly, the former of these three airline behemoths also recently made news for laying off 656 members of their contact center team, as part of the company’s plan to “elevate” its customer support offerings by creating a single Customer Success team.

American low-cost flight provider Frontier Airlines actually took things step further by completing removing its telephony support option, with customers only able only to interact with a human agent over online chat.

In a discussion with CX Today’s Rob Scott, Director of CX Digital Transformation at Frontier Airlines, Leonardo Declich, described AI as “critical” to the way the company has managed to continue providing support without a designated telephone line.

“The way we are using conversational AI is in the form of our chatbot, which is our first line of support. So, this allows us to empower our customers to self-serve and to do so more quickly than they would if they had to wait to be connected to a live agent,” explained Declich.

While both of these scenarios are clearly different to Korean Air’s situation, they are still examples of major airlines investing more heavily in AI and tech innovations to enhance their customer service offerings.

Unfortunately for Korean Air, neither American Airlines nor Frontier appear to be impressing customers at the minute. On consumer review site Trustpilot, the companies have scores of 1.1 and 1.4 out of five respectively, with 94% of Frontier’s 980 reviews receiving one star.

While these reviews take in a whole manner of issues that may have nothing to do with any potential contact center shortcomings, they do still shine a poor light on the airlines’ customer support systems, and may serve as a warning to Korean Air’s AI-influenced strategy.

A Risky Strategy

Although Korean Air has not officially announced any plans to limit the number of human customer service agents, the nature of its AICC does suggest that certain human contact center roles may soon become obsolete.

Away from the negative impact that this might have on the company’s customer base, the airline should also be wary of any future AI regulations.

Indeed, in a report published earlier this year, Gartner predicted that the EU could make “the right to talk to a human” a part of its consumer protection laws within the next three years.

In response to the rapid growth of GenAI, the company claimed that by 2027, 30% of organizations will consolidate multiple roles into a single customer-facing position due to increased automation.

However, despite AI’s efficiency and cost benefits, many customers still prefer speaking to a human. Organizations that do not provide an accessible option to contact an agent may face growing backlash and potential legal requirements.

Clearly, this particular law would not necessarily impact Korean Air, but it could prove to be indicative of a wider global approach to AI, with organizations that do not provide an accessible option to contact a human agent potentially facing customer backlash and legal ramifications.

As Emily Potosky, Senior Director of Research in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice, explains:

The EU has a reputation as a standard-setter when it comes to consumer protection. If it takes this step, organizations that rely too heavily on generative AI-assisted service could need to scramble to boost their assisted-service offering, despite many leaders currently promoting the cost-savings of a digital–only strategy.

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