Johannesburg, 07 Dec 2023
Technology-enabled transformation is a growing trend as operators look to access the latest technologies shaping the contact centre of the future, with artificial intelligence (AI) a key strategic focus.
As AI adoption in the contact centre gathers momentum for its ability to unlock cost and operational efficiencies and improve customer service by pre-empting customer needs, automating customer interactions and streamlining the customer experience (CX), the debate regarding the potential threat posed to contact centre agents is growing more vociferous.
Expectations regarding human displacement by AI are not unfounded, with the World Economic Forum stating in its The Future of Jobs Report 2020 that AI will replace 85 million jobs worldwide by 2025.
While the rapid development of generative AI platforms will certainly eliminate the need for agents to perform numerous customer service tasks, rather than displace them, this advanced technology will emerge as their saviour and benefit operators in the long run.
Shifting the status quo
The contact centre industry grapples with high agent churn rates, a longstanding challenge stemming from the inherent disparity between job demands and the compensation offered. Training new agents has consistently demanded significant time and resources, impacting both operational efficiency and the bottom line.
Innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) presents an unprecedented opportunity to disrupt this prevailing norm. By providing robust support to agents, AI has the potential to streamline job responsibilities, enabling a focus on higher-order tasks that are not only more engaging but also more meaningful and satisfying.
As such, rather than replace contact centre agents, AI is poised to enhance their capabilities and redefine their roles.
Offloading tasks from agents
A primary advantage of integrating AI into the contact centre is the ability to automate repetitive, low-value tasks and mundane activities that traditionally consume a significant portion of an agent's time.
AI-based decisioning can field and prioritise inbound calls. By orchestrating first-line customer engagement with intelligent routing, the solution can allocate basic engagements and repetitive tasks to automated AI solutions like chatbots or conversational virtual agents.
For example, generative AI models can draw from documents to walk customers through various processes or troubleshoot potential issues to transform helpdesk capabilities.
In this way, AI augments the human role to support effortless experiences and handle higher call volumes by serving as an adaptive tool that helps to process calls faster, reducing average handling times (AHT) and improving first call resolution (FCR) rates.
Creating super agents
Furthermore, offloading these basic and repetitive tasks to automated channels reserves agent capacity to handle engagements that add value to the business. This ensures high-value or vulnerable customers receive exceptional, tailored and empathetic service, promoting an effortless experience with a heightened emphasis on customer retention and satisfaction.
With the appropriate training, AI will super-charge live agents as they work alongside the technology in a manner that enhances their skills and empowers them with insights and intelligence to handle higher priority, more complex or sensitive tasks and engagement with customers.
AI-enabled agent assist technology leverages data analytics and big data to feed agents with relevant profile information and historical interaction data in real-time.
AI-powered agent assist technologies can also understand the customer's intent and call context, looking up appropriate responses within its knowledge base and delivering recommendations on the best actions to take next via the agent desktop.
Every customer interaction will contribute to the wealth of customer data held in this knowledge base. Through continuous learning and improvement, automated AI solutions will continually update and refresh the information agents receive to make the contact centre solution smarter, which enlivens future engagements with customers and makes every interaction more efficient.
Better agent experience
By delivering this intelligence and context on one screen, AI feeds agents with the information they need to enhance every engagement, improve outcomes, first contact resolution rates and AHT, and streamline CX, creating super agents of the future.
Moreover, by automating routine tasks, contact centre agents gain opportunities to upskill and expand on the capabilities that AI cannot replicate, such as enhancing their proficiency in problem-solving, communication and relationship-building.
The resultant transformation in the agent role has the potential to elevate the agent experience and boost job satisfaction levels. The rise in job satisfaction rates can help to reduce the churn rates experienced in the traditional contact centre environment.
Lower agent attrition rates reduce training requirements and the costs associated with replacing staff.
Happier, more efficient and engaged agents are also more effective and productive, which materially impacts the bottom line through improved service delivery and better sales or collection outcomes.
By helping to generate more revenue for operators, AI effectively transforms the contact centre from a company cost centre into a revenue centre. In addition, implementing AI solutions within the contact centre can exponentially boost capacity, empowering contact centres to do more without increasing headcount to boost profitability.
In the current economy, where margins are under pressure and competition is more intense than ever, the cost and operational benefits derived from AI ultimately creates more sustainable business models that will support agent jobs, serving as a valuable ally in empowering them to deliver exceptional and meaningful customer interactions.
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