What contact centres look like in the age of AI – part 2, people
In Part 2 of daisee’s look at the future of contact centres, we look at the impact AI will have on the workplace and workforce. In an industry experiencing high staff churn, intensive training needs, increasing compliance and regulatory requirements and customer service being recognised as a key competitive differentiator, AI software that provides insights and analysis will drastically change the landscape.
AI will be a value add to human endeavour
If contact centres are going to capitalise on increasingly savvy and demanding customers, they need to adapt their structures and training pathways to help staff gain the necessary skills and navigate this new landscape.
Dimension Data found 75% of companies recognise customer service as a competitive differentiator. More than half relate improved customer experience to revenue growth. Three quarters view their contact centre as a key differentiator. For the future of contact centres, well-trained and engaged staff will be more important than ever.
AI has the potential to complete routine, mundane and predictable tasks, freeing up contact centre staff for the kind of meaningful, satisfying and valuable work to which humans are suited and aspire. Being an AI pioneer will allow contact centres to showcase AI’s capacity as a job disrupter not destroyer.
Jobs that traditionally rely on rules, repetition or data are more efficiently handled by AI algorithms. That is what AI products and machines do best – perform repetitive tasks, analyse huge data sets and handle routine cases. They will add enormous value by uncovering and acting on patterns which make customer and business predictions far more frequent and accurate.
In turn, this frees up time for humans to do what they do best – resolve ambiguous people issues, exercise judgment and instinct, and deal with dissatisfied customers.
The shift from cheapest to smartest and most efficient
This emerging symbiosis between humans and machines is unlocking the next wave of business transformation. Contact centres require both capabilities and provide a perfect case study for how an industry can reinvent itself using AI. If the benefits are to be realised, now is the time to reimagine processes to be more flexible, faster and adaptable to the behaviours, preferences and needs of customers and its workforce at any given time.
For contact centres the mindset is shifting from who is the cheapest to the smartest and most efficient. With only 9% of Australian businesses pioneering AI technology, this sector is in the enviable position of showcasing how an industry can embrace new technology and transform itself into a customer service centre.
As the use of digital channels increases along with customer expectations of an omnichannel experience, contact centres need to employ and retain motivated, engaged and skilled people.
Customer support roles will be reimagined as AI capabilities take over the transactional, repetitive and unfulfilling components of contact centre work. Instead, contact centre staff will become resolution experts and relationship builders.
The capacity of AI to draw extensive and comprehensive insights into customers will be matched by its scope to offer staff ongoing professional development, performance review and recognition.
Contact centres will be well equipped to address and upgrade performance in the areas of training, best practice, sales and service performance. The data enables every conversation to be heard, every day so agent training and performance issues can be spotted and solved in real time.
Expect change across the whole business
The impact of insights unlocked by AI will be immense. Contact centre workforce management (WFM) systems will integrate with others across the organisation to ensure customers’ needs are met.
Dimension Data says 75% of companies recognise service as a competitive differentiator and 57% relate improving customer experience levels to revenue growth. Three quarters of organisations view their contact centre as a key differentiator, meaning insights uncovered by AI will be invaluable to a company’s success.
Combined WFM systems and a centralised function to track and analyse the impact of different departments and processes could see a transactional contact centre reimagined as a customer experience centre that drives brand advocacy.
Contact centres, particularly those in regulated industries, are facing increasing regulatory complexity as well as enormous pressure to abide by industry standards and regulatory requirements.
From a compliance perspective, AI software will enable the contact centre to monitor and assess call guide adherence and compliance for every call.
For conduct risk, various measures will be built through phrase features, statistical measures and higher order calculations to identify potential issues. For example, it will be possible to identify an agent that is angry or offensive to customers from phrases they have used, or agents that are putting conversations on extended hold.
These observational insights will be extended into predictive solutions to address conduct risk issues. AI will act as an early warning system, allowing quicker intervention before an issue becomes systemic.
The “uberisation” of contact centres
The uptake of cloud and hybrid IT solutions will continue to increase as contact centres refine how they operate to meet changing customer needs.
Stemming from the move to cloud, there will be an increase in remote or offsite work solutions. It will be more common for people to log in from home than to work from a physical call centre.
This will see the “uberisation” of the workforce – a large pool of people available to work and a variable pricing structure. From there, if a contact centre has a dramatic increase in traffic, additional staff, working remotely, can be mobilised in a matter of minutes. The scope is there to increase charges to the customer or the salary for remote home-based call centre workers. It will mean the erlang model of call centre demand will be capable of being controlled in ways it never has before.
The road ahead
There is no denying that contact centres are moving from contact to resolution. Utilising AI will allow contact centres to focus less on mundane, transactional activities and more on its interactions with its customers. The staff can focus on meaningful, more complex and intuitive scenarios with customers as AI performs transactional and predictable tasks. The elevation of work in a contact centre has the potential to create a more stable workforce with improved corporate culture. This will see far more opportunity for meaningful human interaction beneficial to customer and company. Because ultimately, people still want to speak with people.
 2017 Study into Artificial Intelligence by Australian Business, Daisee, 2018
 An erlang is a unit of telecommunications traffic measurement. It is used to describe the total traffic volume of one hour.