AI: 4 reasons we shouldn’t write off the human contact centre agent just yet

If you read the more excitable sections of the press, you could be forgiven for thinking the end of the contact centre world is nigh: technology is here to take all of our jobs and then it’s surely just a matter of time before our future looks like that of James Cameron’s Terminator.

Should the Man vs Machine prophecies come true, we’ll be hoisting the Sesui flag on the side of John Connor and his Human Resistance. Why? Because we think the doom-mongers have fundamentally misunderstood the relative value of humans and technology in the contact centre.

Here’s why we’re confident the human contact centre agent is here to stay.

1: The value of contact centre staff is overlooked
Many commentators seem to treat our contact centre staff with disdain, assuming that the apparent lack of skill required to answer a phone means they can be replaced en masse by a computer which has learnt a few phrases. Not only is this presumption patronising, it’s wrong. Companies invest considerable time and resource in training and supporting contact centre teams. This enables them to quickly, creatively and empathetically find solutions to customer problems of any scale or complexity, often quicker and more accurately than a computer.

2: Technology / People is not a binary choice
Technology is often made a scapegoat for all manner of society’s ills. Tech needn’t – and in our eyes shouldn’t – be viewed as a threat. In fact, adopting technology in the right way, can have a positive impact on your staff. Implementing a blend of great technology and great people is often the way to offering the very best service to your customers, enabling them to self-serve where they want, while providing access to the skills and empathy of your human staff when needing to resolve more complex challenges.

3: Technology can actually make your staff’s lives better
This may come as a surprise to some, but many of us in the industry will know that technology in the contact centre space – whether that’s cloud communications, AI, or App based software – is often designed to help Agents do their jobs better, more efficiently, and more enjoyably. In the case of AI, it can help field calls prior to human intervention, ensuring agents handle calls best suited to their skills, and where they can add the most value to the customer. It can be used to predict customer behaviour, helping agents answer customers’ next questions almost before they’ve asked them, and provide guidance on smoothing situations where customers get upset.

4: AI isn’t plug and play
Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, introducing AI is far from a case of plugging it in and letting it go. The quality of its outputs – and therefore its ability to service customers – is very much dependent on the information it’s able to draw on. And just like every other software platform, integrating it into a multitude of Legacy tools is often no mean feat. The consequences of giving your AI the wrong inputs can be catastrophic – as proven very publicly by Microsoft’s Tay, which drew on all the wrong kinds of information on its way to finding fame as an inappropriate, foul mouthed chatbot.
That’s not a reputation many brands will be happy to acquire, and again, this is where humans have the upper hand. Agents are often all too familiar with the shortcomings of their systems and will be adept at navigating around them to find the information they need. Often, they’ll create their own shortcuts to alternative sources and make judgment calls on whether that source can be trusted or not, giving a level of quality assurance and flexibility that Tay would be wise to learn quickly!

What’s this got to do with Sesui?
We work with AI , as we’re firm believers that technology has an increasingly important role in the contact centre. Our technology is built with the aim of enhancing the human connection that businesses, healthcare providers and charities have with their customers and stakeholders. Our aim is to ensure whenever a vital call comes in, it is quickly and efficiently routed to the right agent every time, and that agent has all the information at their disposal to provide the best support possible. We think this is how all technology should be approached because we believe that the future will see man and machine working together, not in conflict.

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