With Gartner predicting that 80% of customer service departments will be utilising AI technologies to elevate agent productivity and the customer experience (CX) by 2025, expectations are high about the transformational impact of AI on today’s customer service and support functions.
In addition to boosting CX and customer retention rates, Gartner expects that organisations are also looking to replace 20-30% of their agents with generative AI options.
With AI set to become ever more prevalent in the contact centre, we explore how today’s service leaders can prepare and empower their human agents for operational changes on the horizon and work towards realising their customer service and performance objectives.
Realising the potential
Many contact centre operators are grappling with how to apply AI in the short, medium and long term and optimise how they harness its potential value. With AI poised to take over a wide range of mundane and repetitive tasks, such as handling simple customer queries via self-service channels, agents will be expected to undertake a new role: that of a trusted brand ambassador responsible for resolving complex customer enquiries.
That said, many organisations currently find themselves dedicating significant time and resources to rectifying mistakes made by the current generation of bots. To perform more effectively, future AI implementations will need to be deeply integrated with existing enterprise systems and give agents full visibility of each bot-customer interaction.
To address this challenge, organisations will need to make the whole customer journey, including bot conversations, available to agents so they can evaluate the quality of the conversation and its impact on the customer. Leveraging all these insights, they will be in a better position to help customers achieve their objectives, something that is currently beyond the grasp of many of today’s contact centres. They will also need to deploy conversational analytics software to monitor and enhance the performance of their AI bots. By giving their digital teams these real data insights, organisations will be able to make smarter decisions about conversation performance and bot responsiveness.
Identifying where to leverage AI in the short term
Recent industry research sheds a spotlight on how and why contact centre managers plan to embrace automation and AI to advance their operational performance and activate new ways of working.
For the majority of the 400 respondents surveyed, increasing agent and manager productivity was the top aspiration (25%). This objective was followed closely by using AI tools to optimise forecasting and scheduling (20%), to measure and understand contact centre productivity (20%), to predict customer actions and behaviours (20%) and to deliver AI-driven chatbot services to customers (20%).
With just 49% of managers saying their remote workforce is currently delivering against productivity expectations – down 24% on 2020 figures – optimising productivity and enabling business process efficiencies are all a top focus for upcoming AI implementations.
Indeed, the industry’s shift to remote and hybrid working highlights how changing workforce practices have impacted the ability of contact centre operators to support, monitor and enable employees who are no longer visible in the workplace. As a consequence, the role of AI-powered technology in boosting workforce engagement, improving the employee experience and enabling better management and oversight is clearly set to rise.
Activating the future workforce
With automation becoming the new normal, contact centre managers recognise that human agents will need to be able to apply critical thinking and adapt fast to change. Yet few believe their people currently possess all the skills that will be required to transition successfully into their new roles.
With new AI-enhanced ecosystems on the horizon, leaders will need to focus on initiating comprehensive training programmes to bridge this gap and upskill agents appropriately to perform in the contact centre of the future. These strategies will also need to consider how fast evolving AI-enabled technologies will continue to reshape the workplace environment and agent activities. That includes introducing new roles in which technology acts as a ‘co-pilot’ assistant to agents.
Similarly, in terms of future workforce planning and management, organisations will need to reflect on the work-life balance expectations and generational preferences of Gen-Z and Gen Alpha workers to assure high levels of employee satisfaction can be maintained for the long term.
With contact centre leaders looking to AI to improve process efficiency and overall agent performance, they will first need to grasp what AI means for the workforce in terms of role design and the employee experience. For many that means ensuring agents are given the context around customer interactions and the AI-assisted guidance they need to solve a customer’s issues.
Finally, rather than focusing primarily on replacing human agents, they should instead look to evaluate AI use cases with ROI in mind and redesign roles in the knowledge that ongoing AI and automation investments will result in the obsolescence of many activities that today’s agents routinely undertake.
To ensure a smooth transition to new AI-enabled ways of working, agents will need to be given the opportunity to acquire the skillsets that will empower them to thrive as new technologies are adopted and focus more on customer interactions.
By appropriately integrating AI technologies, correctly preparing the workforce, and implementing AI-powered management frameworks that support their front-line workers, organisations will be able to leverage their live and virtual agents to deliver a truly outstanding CX.
Ed Creasey is Global Head of Pre-Sales at Calabrio
Calabrio is a trusted ally to leading brands. The digital foundation of a customer-centric contact centre, the Calabrio ONE workforce performance suite helps enrich and understand human interactions, empowering your contact centre as a brand guardian. We maximise agent performance, exceed customer expectations, and boost workforce efficiency using connected data, AI-fuelled analytics, automated workforce management, and personalised coaching. Only Calabrio ONE unites workforce optimisation (WFO), agent engagement, and business intelligence solutions into a true-cloud, fully integrated suite that adapts to your business.
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