Why contact centre agents shouldn’t have a fear of AI
Given how fast the technology is developing, there is a growing fear of AI among contact centre agents. They worry that they will be one of the 300 million full-time jobs eliminated by AI according to Goldman Sachs. However, while AI will impact their roles, it is more likely to augment, rather than replace them. Essentially, it will enable them to focus on essential human skills, such as empathy, with AI supporting them to deliver a better experience.
AI helps agents in four main ways
1. Empowering them with real-time information
One of the biggest issues agents currently face is having access to the right information. Often, that means having to put customers on hold while they check particular details. This can annoy customers and add significant stress levels for agents. Using AI overcomes this. It automatically transcribes and analyses a call in real-time, and then presents agents with relevant information. Agents can focus on having a natural call with the customer, delivering reassurance and a solution to their problem.
2. Letting them focus on being human
When customers call the contact centre it is normally because they have a complex issue or complaint. Digital channels such as self-service cannot solve these interactions. Customers want to speak to a human who can help them. AI gives agents the time and space to do this, by handling routine queries, such as via chatbots. Agents can then focus on using human skills such as empathy and relationship-building to solve the customer’s issue.
3. Removing time-consuming admin
Agents spend a large percentage of their time on administration. For example, they have to create call-wrap-up reports or update systems once a conversation concludes. AI automates this process, providing a summary of the call as soon as it finishes. The agent can sum up the call with the customer to clarify any next steps and then add it to contact centre systems. There’s no need for agents to fill out forms or apply wrap-up codes to categorise the call. AI can also automate any follow-up processes, such as contacting accounting systems to raise a refund or logistics to dispatch a replacement product. All of this means that agents spend more time actually serving customers, increasing productivity and efficiency.
4. Helping them develop
One of the biggest drivers of job satisfaction is having opportunities to learn. However, as agents handle potentially hundreds of calls every week, it is difficult for supervisors to spot coachable moments for training. By using AI-based analysis of every interaction, supervisors can pinpoint areas for development for individual agents. That means agents receive relevant, ongoing training to help them improve their performance and learn new skills. This increases morale and confidence and ultimately job satisfaction. This also positively impacts customer experience – research shows that happy agents give better service.
These four examples demonstrate the positive impact of AI on agents and their roles. Nevertheless, it is understandable that agents worry about AI and what it might mean for them, particularly at a time when many contact centre budgets are under pressure.
This means that companies need to take action to reassure agents. They need to stress that while AI may change their role, it will bring benefits and not threaten their jobs. Companies should treat the advent of AI as a change management project, and focus on five areas:
- Be clear on what the AI strategy is for the contact centre, where it will be used and give a clear timescale for its introduction
- Explain what it means for different roles, how it will change operations and importantly, what opportunities it brings
- Outline the individual benefits, educating agents on AI use cases
- Train staff on the new skills they might need
- Put in place an ongoing communication plan to update everyone on AI rollouts, and celebrate key milestones
Essentially companies have a duty of care to be transparent with their agents. They should be clear about the changes that AI will bring. By stressing the benefits and the importance of humans to customer service, this will deliver reassurance. It will ensure that new AI tools and processes become part of how agents work, benefiting themselves, customers, and the wider business.