Will AI Make Customer Service Agents Obsolete?

Lisa Boles May 22, 2023

The news of the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and emerging programs such as ChatGPT is everywhere, and AI is playing an increasingly important role in customer service. Does that mean it’s time to just pack it in and submit to our cyborg overlords? Maybe not so fast!

Here are some of the ways AI is being used:

  • Chatbots: AI-powered chatbots are being used by businesses to provide instant support to customers 24/7. Chatbots can answer frequently asked questions, provide product recommendations, and even resolve simple issues.
  • Personalization: AI algorithms can analyze customer data and provide personalized recommendations and experiences based on their preferences and behavior.
  • Predictive analytics: AI algorithms can analyze customer data and predict their needs and behavior. This can help businesses anticipate issues before they arise and provide proactive support.
  • Sentiment analysis: AI algorithms can analyze customer feedback and sentiment to understand how customers feel about a product or service. This can help businesses improve their offerings and address customer concerns.
  • Voice recognition: AI-powered voice recognition can be used to understand customer queries and provide personalized support. This can be especially useful in call centers.

A recently released study by the National Bureau of Economic Research has some very interesting findings. The study examined data from more than 5,000 customer service agents who are using a generative AI-based conversational assistant that provides “conversational” guidance to the agents during their customer interactions.

One key finding was that the availability of AI assistance increased productivity by an average of 14%. For the purposes of this study, productivity was measured by the number of issues resolved per hour. Interestingly—but perhaps not surprisingly—the greatest improvement in productivity was seen among newer/less-skilled workers versus more seasoned agents.

The study’s authors suggest this is because machine learning is capturing knowledge that the more experienced agents already possess and sharing it with those who are newer/less experienced.

What Could This Mean for the Contact Center and Customer Experience?

In addition to overall agent productivity gains, AI can help new agents get up to speed more quickly by providing real-time access to information they need to effectively serve customers. Verint Real-Time Agent Assist and Real-Time Coaching are solutions that guide interactions toward better outcomes for both your customers and your organization.

As many organizations find themselves facing budget cuts and reduced hiring, the need to maximize every agent’s performance is more important than ever. Having each agent at the top of their game can go a long way toward making it easier to do more with less in these challenging and uncertain times.

In addition, an agent who can get in-the-moment assistance, either from being able to access information as needed or getting real-time coaching to improve an interaction when it’s happening, can result in increased first-call resolution and fewer escalations. This creates a win-win for both agents and customers.

Confident agents who know they have the resources they need to do their job successfully tend to report increased job satisfaction—and happy agents tend to make happy (and loyal) customers. More win-win. Having that access to information and coaching in-the-moment is also a particular plus in these days where we continue to see many workers working remotely—without the ability to just peek over the cubicle wall to flag down someone for help.

The integration of humans and bots can also automate some of the more mundane tasks, such as entering a change of address, leaving more complex (and interesting) interactions for humans. Again, another plus for contact center and back-office agents.

However, you want to make sure that you can provide customers with a seamless experience as they transfer between your humans and bots. Few things can turn off a customer more than a disconnected experience—having to repeat information multiple times—when transitioning from self-serve to a live agent.

Using a platform approach purpose-built to connect all of your data in one place is the way to make this possible.

We Humans Aren’t Quite Obsolete Yet!

Despite all of the potential efficiencies to be gained, interactions where emotions may be running high or a particularly thorny issue needs to be addressed will still benefit from the “human touch.” But, even in those instances, real-time guidance can help steer the interaction, improve empathy and, perhaps, even drive up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

So, is this a blessing or a curse? Are you convinced that AI can (at least in part) help your agents and customers? See for yourself! Somewhere in this blog is a section written entirely by ChatGPT. Can you find it? Email me @ lisa.boles@verint.com with your guess.

Interested in learning more about the future of AI in customer engagement? Register now and join us for Engage 2023, live at the Bellagio in Las Vegas—June 12–15.

Hope to see you there!