Making the Human-AI Connection in the Contact Center

We see it every day in contact centers: Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are beginning to change the nature of work as more agents move from simple, repeatable tasks to escalations only. Forbes Insights research shows that 44% of companies are already taking steps to empower knowledge workers by replacing repetitive tasks with AI.

Moving easy and tedious work to bots highlights a deeper shift that’s occurring for the jobs that still require agents. And that includes the shift to certain high-value skills.

Emotional Intelligence Never Gets Old

There’s a misconception that having a standalone chatbot is enough to provide superior customer service. Frustrated customers sometimes want technology to get out of the way so they can hear a human voice. This will be less of an issue as bots develop greater conversational skills. But it will take time before bots can detect subtle emotional cues, such as a pause in mid-sentence. That customer pause could mean “I’m thinking” or “I’m furious,” and it takes a human agent to detect this deeper level of intent and then engage appropriately.

Where contact center agents were once considered interchangeable, they are now recognized as brand ambassadors. Every agent plays critical roles in facilitating the customer journey. Not only are they in touch with customer needs, but their one-on-one interactions also create valuable data that can help craft strategies to improve all customer experiences. Building this type of opportunity requires tools and training.

Expectations of the Millennial Workforce

As contact centers modernize, businesses seek to hire agents with an aptitude for using advanced technology. Competing for qualified agents and “super agents,” those who understand modern ecosystems, will be a major business challenge. Part of that challenge is knowing who these potential employees are and what matters to them.

By 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce, according to the Deloitte Millennial Study. Millennials have high expectations for easy-to-use technologies that enable them to be more productive and keep them focused on work that matters. They also value time and experiences more than a long tenure. And they’ve come of age in a world where they’re always learning and adapting to new technologies.

Retaining your employees will save on expensive training. But poor training programs lead to turnover.  And poor training fails in other ways. Millennial trainees and other agents might not feel confident about their jobs or have the skills to do their jobs well.

Increasing their speed to competency through AI-powered automation reduces costs associated with manual operations and skill changes. Employees receive a variety of work as well as the right interactions and tasks at the right time. When they’re trained to say and do the right things, they increase customer satisfaction. Most importantly, they’re more likely to stay and have a very positive impact on your business.

We’re Only Human After All

Once customers become frustrated with self-service, your human-to-human interactions with them are more difficult. The customer might be tired of holding or waiting for a resolution to a problem, or frustrated that they can’t find the right product. But these are also opportunities to rebuild and nurture customer relationships. And their emotional connection with your business has the biggest influence on overall customer experience.

Invest in tools and training for your agents because when you make them feel valued, they’ll pass that right on to your customers.

For more details, watch the on-demand webinar with me and Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, Kate Leggett, as we discuss The Three Customer Service Megatrends In 2019.  After the webinar, all attendees will receive a link to the full Forrester report.