Will AI Put Agents’ Jobs At Risk?

john.forster January 26, 2024

The big question that often comes up when we talk about automation and AI in the contact centre is of course “will it take jobs from agents?” – and it’s a fair question. After all, no one wants to live in a dystopian movie where the robots have taken over.

Steve Bell, speaking on the Verint CX Sofa Series podcast, takes a pragmatic and positive view of the future of AI in contact centres – namely, that automation will alleviate the pressures (and boredom) of repetitive tasks agents undertake several times a day, every working day.

Automating The Boring Bits

A lot of an agent’s time is taken up with emails, chats, calls and messages asking the same questions – in fact, it’s estimated that 75% of an agent’s time is spent on these tasks.

From a human point of view, this is going to become pretty tedious pretty fast – the human mind loves being challenged and engaged, and in a contact centre context this means it’s far more interesting to engage with customers in a meaningful and rewarding way than simply repeating the same information over and over again. Automating these interactions which only require the repeating of information will in fact enrich the agent’s role, reducing the potential boredom and ensuring that customer interactions are with customers whose query needs the human touch.

Customer Choice Is Key

So, how do we decide what to automate? It comes down to what the customer wants.
Some customers will prefer the impersonality and convenience of an automated interaction, rather than having to speak to a fellow human – and some interactions are much better suited to automation than others.

On the other hand, some customers will always prefer to speak to an agent – and that’s completely understandable. There are also some interactions that can’t be automated, especially if they involve complex or emotionally charged queries that need human judgement, empathy, and decision-making. There will always need to be human agents available to handle these types of interaction – and they’ll be able to respond quicker if their queue isn’t full of the same question needing to be answered in exactly the same way!

AI involvement in the contact centre has wider reaching applications than just automating repetitive tasks, however.
A blended workforce means that sometimes a customer will need to be transferred, whether from self-service to agent, or from one agent to another – and this usually means repeating all the information they’ve just given, in order to get the new agent up to speed. With AI, however, this pain point can be eliminated: generative AI provides a quick and concise summary of the conversation so far, designed to be easily digestible to the agent and enabling them to seamlessly pic up where the last agent (or bot) left off – and potentially smoothing some ruffled customer feathers along the way.

And speaking of ruffled feathers – if a conversation isn’t going well, and the customer is becoming irritated, AI can listen in real time and deliver coaching to the agent on how best to handle the interaction. This works with voice or digital conversations, so whichever channel the agent is working on, they receive the same support and guidance exactly when they need it. The AI can also suggest knowledge articles which are relevant to the question the customer needs answering, or the issue they’ve called to solve.

In both of these scenarios, the AI delivers support and solutions that a human agent or manager wouldn’t be able to offer, without any loss of existing agent roles or responsibilities.

In short, this approach shows that rather than replacing agents, AI has the power to make those roles more engaging, interesting, and rewarding, as well as deliver tools to boost efficiency and empower the agents to make more confident decisions. Interested in the rest of Steve’s thoughts on AI automation in the contact centre? Check out the full podcast today.

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