Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

AI Won't Replace Human Contact Center Agents Anytime Soon

June 21, 2017

In the contact center today, workers are increasingly expected to work like machines. They must switch between communications channels (telephone to chat to email) at a moment’s notice, absorb a customers’ information and background before they even pick up a call or message, be experts in multiple products or services, know where to find information to resolve the customer’s issues and deliver it in a way that pleases the customer. Sound like a tall order? It is…which is why many people in the customer support industry believe that it’s a job that will be done with the support of machines in the near future.

Gartner has predicted that, by 2020, 85 percent of all customer interactions will no longer be managed by humans. This isn’t to say that humans won’t be involved. People still like the personal touch and human thinking that only real people can offer. But with contact center solutions supported by artificial intelligence (AI), humans can do what they do best – empathize or salvage bad situations with friendliness and humor – and machines can do what they do best: retrieve information, find resolutions, manage workflows, remind humans of action that needs to be taken and find patterns and correlations in data.

According to IR’s Skip Chilcott in a recent article for Customer Think, AI is already dramatically changing contact centers and the contact center solutions that support them.

“It’s making contact centers more efficient with bots that can quickly answer the questions most commonly asked by customers,” he wrote. “AI is even helping to predict customer behavior, providing advice to customer service reps on how best to solve a particular issue.”

Human agents can easily become overwhelmed by all the moving parts of customer interactions, including scheduling, follow-ups, referrals, collaboration with other knowledge sources, etc. AI can help manage the workflow for humans, helping them become more effective in their jobs by eliminating the need to remember every element required for an excellent customer interaction. Humans will still be required to ensure that customers are receiving an overall excellent experience, however.

“AI promises to alleviate many of the burdens associated with the contact center, but you still need a complete view of the customer experience,” wrote Chilcott. “You still need to avoid issues and delays that frustrate your customers. And, best case, you will need to identify those issues before your customers do.”

A global survey conducted by Xerox last year found that 42 percent of respondents predicted that the contact center as we know it now will cease to exist by 2025. This does not mean, however, that humans won’t be involved in the process. AI can’t recognize frustration, sarcasm or the exasperation that indicates a customer is about to churn. While chatbots will be able to handle basic inquiries, people will still be required to “be human.”

“Those responsible for implementing AI and bots into their contact center would be wise to remember, when there is only one human on the line and that is the customer, there is nobody to hear them scream,” wrote Chilcott. 

Edited by Alicia Young