The Evolution of Contact Center Agents
- AI in customer service impact. AI transforms global business and contact center operations.
- Human value. Despite AI, 83% prefer some human touch in customer service.
- AI limitation. AI handles routine tasks, humans address complex issues.
- Training needs. Agents require continuous training to adapt to new tech roles.
As artificial intelligence (AI) and omnichannel customer touchpoints continue to make their mark on the global business landscape, the role of the contact center agent is evolving. It must.
This change also prompts the need for many CX professionals and customer service managers to adapt and innovate.
Agents Are Here to Stay, but Their Roles Are Changing
Contrary to popular belief, the rise of AI isn’t rendering contact center agents obsolete. In fact, a study by Entrepreneur revealed that human agents are still very much in demand, with 83% of customers still preferring some degree of human involvement. While AI chatbots and virtual assistants help manage simpler inquiries, complex issues and nuanced customer questions still demand the expertise and empathy of human agents.
As technology evolves, agents will naturally move beyond merely answering phones and replying to emails. They will engage in high-level problem-solving and collaboration to provide more efficient and personalized customer experiences. According to McKinsey, AI is already handling approximately 95% of customer inquiries in a few highly advanced organizations — the remaining 5% of inquiries are the most complex, and therefore require all the attention of their human agents.
Related Article: What You Should Know About AI Customer Service Tools
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Customer Support
AI is proving to be invaluable in streamlining routine tasks and providing instant solutions to simple customer queries. Contact centers using AI achieve faster response times, which in turn is improving overall customer satisfaction. AI can also proactively engage with customers through automated texts or emails, ensuring they have more of their questions answered before even having to ask.
Interestingly, a study by Statista recently discovered that around 60% of customers are satisfied with their experience interacting with AI-driven customer service bots. This finding demonstrates the potential AI has for enhancing customer experience and, by leveraging large amounts of data, the ability to provide personalized solutions.
However, despite the increasing role of AI in customer service, human agents retain a distinct advantage over AI systems. They possess emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills, which enable them to address complex problems with empathy and cultural sensitivity.
Related Article: How to Leverage Your AI-Powered Customer Support Strategy
Ongoing Training and Skill Development for Agents
As the role of the contact center agent shapeshifts, customer service leaders must prioritize ongoing training and development.
In order to keep pace with all the rapid technological advancements, agents need to acquire new skills and stay informed about the latest trends.
Some trainings that will be essential in the new role of the contact center agent include:
Call Center Etiquette Training: This includes the usual — teaching agents how to communicate wait times, let customers know that calls may be recorded for training purposes, etc.
Soft Skills Training: Now more than ever, it’s crucial for call center agents to develop social skills, people skills and emotional intelligence. These are the attributes that make them uniquely human.
Professional Development Training: Agents everywhere are hungry for more career advancement opportunities. The added responsibilities of their new role lend themselves well to this, but regular formal training is vital.
Product Knowledge Training: Agents should always be well versed in the products or services they are supporting.
Training on New Technologies: This is the big one. As technology evolves, agents need to be trained on new tools and software they will be required to use in their job.
Creating a regular, ongoing training schedule that includes all of the above topics will ensure that agents are given the space to continuously improve their skills and are able to offer an impeccable customer experience at all times.
Moreover, with AI handling mundane tasks, agents can dedicate more time to learning, upskilling and training.
Example of a Future Job Description for Contact Center Agents:
Job Title: Contact Center Agent – AI and Digital Customer Touchpoints Specialist
Company: The Future Contact Center Inc.
We are seeking a Contact Center Agent who can skillfully manage our AI and digital customer touchpoints. This role will require a blend of technology proficiency, customer service expertise and a forward-thinking mindset to adapt to the evolving landscape of customer interaction.
AI Operations Management: Oversee automated operations, including chatbot dialogue flows and virtual agent interactions. Ensure these systems provide rich, engaging content that responds effectively to customer inquiries.
Digital Customer Engagement: Leverage a variety of digital touchpoints, including social media, text messaging and voice calls, to provide excellent customer service. Maximize every interaction to deepen customer relationships and build loyalty.
Data Analysis: Analyze customer data from our cloud-based contact center to improve service delivery. Use feedback from various channels to inform decisions and drive greater value over the customer’s journey.
Omnichannel Support: Deliver exceptional customer experiences across multiple touchpoints. Understand the complexities of each channel to ensure seamless, consistent service.
Innovation and Continuous Improvement: Stay informed about the latest trends in contact center operations, AI and digital transformation. Implement new strategies and technologies to enhance the customer experience and improve efficiency.
Proven experience in a contact center or customer service role.
Familiarity with AI technologies, including chatbots and intelligent virtual agents.
Proficiency in digital communication channels, including social media and mobile platforms.
Strong data analysis skills, with the ability to translate insights into action.
Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
Ability to adapt to new technologies and trends.
Commitment to providing outstanding customer service.
Conclusion: The Synergy of AI and Human Touch: Shaping the Future of Customer Service
The integration of artificial intelligence within customer service realms is not merely a stride towards operational efficiency, but a leap towards unprecedented customer satisfaction. As AI takes over the reins of routine queries, it liberates human agents to delve into complex customer issues with a more personalized, empathic approach. The paradigm shift underscores not the replacement of human touch, but its indispensable value especially in a landscape where 83% of customers yearn for that human interaction.
The metamorphosis of contact centers into AI-driven hubs exemplifies a symbiotic relationship where mundane tasks are relegated to AI, paving the way for agents to transcend traditional roles. They now engage in profound problem-solving, embracing a collaborative spirit to enhance customer experiences. This shift has necessitated a robust framework of continuous training, enabling agents to stay abreast with evolving technologies, and hone skills that are quintessentially human such as emotional intelligence and critical thinking.