To many modern customer service employees, AI is a problematic idea. In most cases, this is because AI agents have long been thought of as operating in opposition to human agents. It’s one or the other. A battle for survival. The stereotypical concern is that AI is here to take over jobs.

However, in a healthy, high-performance contact centre, AI will be used to augment and enhance human agents’ abilities. The two are not mutually exclusive; rather complementary and can work together.

  1. Let the computers handle the tedious stuff
  2. There’s no denying it – some customer service work can be tedious and frustrating for human agents. A large portion of the work agents perform is routine enquiry handling that requires little engagement or brain power and doesn’t challenge the individual. This kind of work can negatively impact employee morale, be a key contributor to job dissatisfaction and, in extreme cases, lead to employee burnout. It is also not a good use of skilled advisors and efficient deployment and usage.

    AI technologies can assume responsibility for much of this workload, leaving human agents to tackle jobs that stimulate and test the mental faculties. While AI technologies like chatbots are currently tasked with delivering relatively simple information, their capacity to handle increasingly complex tasks is improving constantly. This could mean that, in the near future, the vast majority of tedious customer service tasks will be delegated to AI technologies, allowing human agents to focus on the more complex, rewarding tasks.

  3. Improve data collection and customer transfer
  4. Chatbots are one type of AI technology that’s already widely employed by customer service departments. Though it’s a useful technology in many ways, one of the key benefits has been the chatbots’ ability to provide a full account of the customer journey when they handoff to a human agent. This ensures that the customer does not have to restart their enquiry and submit all of their information again, making the human agent’s job far more simple, too.

    AI technologies aren’t able to handle all customer enquiries on their own and nor do we want them to, although the scope and capability is continuing to increase. Currently, a human’s ability to interpret emotion and approach a nuanced situation with an understanding of the complexities involved is an essential element in good customer service. However, we do want AI technology to provide the human agent with all the information and data they’ve acquired so far. When AI can’t solve a problem, it must provide the agent with context, as this ensures they’re able to provide a more satisfactory service.

  5. Align customers with the right agent
  6. AI is also becoming increasingly capable of determining human intent and purpose. This will have a big impact on how customer service departments route customers through their system and ensure they reach the right team and the right agent. If a customer contacts a call centre with a relatively niche or complex problem, they could find themselves passed around the department as the team attempt to find an agent with the required expertise. Alternatively, they may end up talking to an agent that doesn’t fully understand the issue or isn’t able to provide a succinct, simple, and easy to follow solution.

    However, chatbots that are powered by complex AI systems will be able to understand the problem and match the customer to the ideal human agent. As long as a business identifies each of its employee’s strengths and areas of expertise and gives the AI system access to this information, the chatbot will be capable of routing customer traffic far more efficiently than any human agent. This is particularly true of large contact centres, where there’s no way that a single human agent could ever keep track of all of their colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses.

  7. Satisfied customers equal a satisfied agent
  8. When you’re having a bad day, there’s nothing worse than having to deal with a furious customer who is impossible to placate. As a human agent, you’re the one at whom the customer’s wrath is aimed, even though you may have had absolutely nothing to do with the cause of the problem. This can be extremely morale sapping.

    As part of a customer service team, it’s important to recognise that the vast majority of angry and dissatisfied customers feel this way because they believe that they’ve received poor customer service. If the department can improve customer service provision, fewer customers are likely to complain and agents will spend more of their time interacting with satisfied customers. One of the key ways we can drive improvements in customer service is through the widespread adoption of AI technologies, bringing efficiency, simplicity and expediency into the customer contact process.

  9. Boost agents’ diagnostic abilities
  10. AI technologies are not integrated into customer service departments in solely customer-facing roles. They are also used to help improve human agents’ diagnostic and problem-solving abilities. An intelligent customer service platform will be able to make suggestions to the human agent as they process an enquiry. It might suggest relevant content or identify a step-by-step process that could be used to remedy the situation. AI isn’t beneficial for just customers, it is for agents, too.

  11. Identify urgent customer service queries that require human intervention
  12. Human agents still perform many tasks better than AI. In particular, they are able to empathise with others’ misfortune. However, agents aren’t always able to identify or prioritise those calls that require their capacity for empathy and understanding.

    That’s where AI comes in. Intelligent technologies will be able to analyse the data at their disposal to identify those calls that require human action, as well as prioritising them, allowing human agents to intervene and provide better customer service.

  13. Early identification of problem areas in the customer service chain
  14. Finally, AI technology is far superior when it comes to data analysis and isolating problematic links in the customer service chain. It is able to calculate at far greater speeds and with much-improved accuracy, alerting human agents to issues before they would have ever realised themselves. Whether it’s an increasing call response time or a higher abandonment rate, AI can be your first line of service delivery and defence when it comes to slipping standards.

    The fear some customer service employees have of AI is understandable. For a long time, the relationship between AI and agents has been defined by a “rise of the machines” narrative. The truth is that AI will need to be implemented in ways that maximise both the technology and agent’s potential. The two resources are able to approach problems from vastly different perspectives and this should not be considered a weakness but an important strength.

Have a question or want further information on AI and agents? Our expert team have been providing customer contact solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line.