Artificial Intelligence in the Contact Center: Working with, Not Replacing, Human Agents

Written by KOVA Corp

As effective as AI and automation can be for your contact center, in terms of managing simpler customer issues, speeding up wait times, and facilitating quick solutions, the idea of automating more of your customer service is bound to make at least some of your employees nervous.

After all, they’ve no doubt heard the talk about about how automation is replacing workers in the auto industry, or how as technology evolves, it can be used to make human staffers obsolete in all manner of industries.

In fact, we recently talked about a new development in the city of Dubai, where the first-ever all-automated police station has just opened. With so many roles being filled by machines, the idea of bringing more comprehensive technology into a contact center can be nerve-racking for your employees.

And the fact is that yes - you might eventually eliminate some positions because of automation. But in truth, AI and automation are better when they complement your human workers, rather than replace them.

Let’s look at an airport as an example of how technology can be useful, but not necessarily helpful. Any bot or computer would be able to tell someone that their flight has been cancelled, but the customer’s reaction to this is an unpredictable factor that’s going to need on-the-spot reaction, and sympathy, from a human being.

This is a high-stress situation that a calm, robotic voice is probably not right for. So while the technology can provide the bare facts, the human employee provides the empathy, the listening skills, and most importantly, the ability to adapt and find a solution based on the person standing in front of them.

Now transfer that scenario to a contact center customer service perspective. Even if an automated line with pre-prepared questions, or a chatbot working with a customer on PC, has been able to isolate the smaller issues and solve them, there will still inevitably be situations that have to be escalated, and those situations with almost always require a skilled, well-trained employee to resolve the situation to the customer’s satisfaction.

The task here for a good contact center supervisor and management team is to figure out how to implement the technological element and the human factor together, so that the customer has a seamless experience.

That decision relies on several different factors, but the basic idea is that the AI function should be used in yes/no question situations that come down to a simple algorithm within the technology.

But for a high-stress event that involves unique problem solving, there is simply no substitute for direct human-to-human conversation.

To use the airport example again, let’s consider a passenger who has lost her luggage. Given the choice between a kiosk and an employee, the passenger will likely choose the employee - especially if the luggage contained anything valuable. And though that employee will almost certainly use some form of technology to help the customer find their luggage, they will be the ones dealing with the changing situation and coming up with solutions.

In short, AI is for quick, easy-to-answer situations that can be solved quickly, thus freeing up your employees to work on the more complex problems your customers might reach out to call center to find solutions for. The ideal situation is for technology to work hand-in-hand with your center employees, not to replace them. That’s the important thing to remember, and the best message you can relay to those who work for you.

For more on contact center technology, read our post “What is Voice Biometrics and How Can It Help Your Business?

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