AI in contact centres: championing agents, not replacing them   

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is woven into the very fabric of modern business, its automated capabilities offering new business enhancements that streamline day-to-day processes. Its application knows no bounds, ranging from voice recognition to translation, piloting driverless cars and even controlling robots in factories and the home.   

But every rapidly advancing technology trend comes with concerns about its implications on the wider industry, and those working within.    

In its early conception, AI triggered mass panic amongst workforces who foresaw their jobs being snatched away and reassigned to technology – and these concerns still exist today. But as time has shown us, AI has not become the job stealing enemy as predicted; instead, it has become a supporting arm for employees across the workforce. And contact centres are amongst the industries that have felt the powerful positive force of AI in the workplace.  

Post-Covid AI  

 Back in 2021, we surveyed 250 contact centre agents to understand more about how technology like AI empowers agents to deliver upon omnichannel strategies in a post-Covid world.   

 The overwhelming majority (94%) of contact centre agents in our study said they felt that AI supports them in their roles and were positive about the role that AI will play in the future of contact centres.  

 The rise of automation has followed in AI’s footsteps, but interestingly employees have quickly understood it will help them in their daily work if they adopt it and learn to get the most out of it. In our personal lives, convenience has become king and the contact centre was one of the earliest adopters of these job-enhancing technologies to align to that reality. Contact centre agents actively want technology because it means their jobs will be less repetitive, and more engaging, less mundane and more dynamic.   

Paving the way for seamless omnichannel setups  

 As we continue to navigate the pandemic, contact centres are seeking new technology to support their agents in handling huge increases in customer enquiries. Remote working arrangements overwhelmed customer agents at the start of the pandemic and many contact centres adopted AI as an effective way to handle customer contact, effectively and at scale.   

 The potential for AI in contact centres is vast and has benefits for both customers and agents. It seamlessly gives customers the right information they need at the right time with self-service options, eliminating the need for a call to customer service. It offers agents more information to handle complex issues that self-service isn’t able to resolve.   

 AI software has been developed so that it can analyse calls and decipher their impact on the customer, such as how the issue was resolved, whether the customer’s loyalty will increase in the future as a result of the call and what could have been done to help smooth the situation if the customer gets angry or upset. It is also being used to help predict customer behaviour on the phone and to provide recommendations to agents on how best to deal with the issue.  

 Where its implementation has seen real value is handling the huge amounts of data contact centres deal with every day. We are creating more data now than ever before and businesses receive, process, and store an enormous amount of data daily – even smaller companies. AI is able to handle this big data faster and more accurately than humans and through machine learning, data can be organised and categorised like the human brain.   

 In our survey of contact centre agents, the majority of respondents (57%) said they believe AI helps them solve customer queries faster and more than half said it provides them with more information on the customer to handle queries quicker, enabling them to focus on more challenging tasks.  

How is AI shaping the future for contact centres?  

 AI is not the enemy. When deployed correctly, it can thrust contact centres towards a streamlined and efficient future. This advancing technology is tasked with unburdening contact agents – and it’s thriving. It tackles the basic questions and queries that don’t require agent interaction, allowing teams to reallocate agent resources to the more complex, high value or emotive queries.   

 There is one thing that technologies will never be able to replicate – human instinct. We can train a computer to perform highly complex tasks, and respond to customer queries with a selection of pre-automated options – but they will never be able to ‘think’ like a human. A huge part of the contact agent job is to read the situation, understand the customer’s genuine feelings and respond accordingly. It’s that creative and emotive thinking that underpins the contact centre’s entire purpose.    

 In our survey, 65% of agents said they can provide a more personalised service over automation. Additionally, 63% believe they can handle more complex queries and 58% can show more empathy.  

 Contact centres will always be founded on human agents and the unique, irreplaceable value they bring to the service. Technology is only strong as the human input it receives. And whilst AI is evolving rapidly, with spending on AI systems predicted to reach $97.7 billion by 2023, it is all with the intention of championing the workers who are already driving the industry forwards.

About the Author

Jason Roos, CEO and Founder of Cirrus Response. Cirrus’ CCaaS Solution makes managing contact effortless. When you face a daily challenge to manage different teams of agents on different systems; trying to balance your resources, and fighting to provide your agents with a single view of the customer that empowers them to deliver your brand promise, then perhaps it`s time to talk to Cirrus. We take the technology headache out of day-to-day operations, helping you take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the latest omni-channel features, and manage your GDPR responsibilities.