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Contact Center Agents

Contact Center Agents – They’re a Dying Breed. No, They’re Not!

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Executive Vice President

When I began my career, call centers started mushrooming in India, and it was a craze. The industry was abuzz with people getting recruited faster than ever, getting trained on various accents. They had some assumed names and were put on call to handle customer support, service, and lead generation.

Most call centers were doing the graveyard shift, and slowly, the sheen started coming off. People started looking at it as a dead-end job.

Over the years, call centers eventually became contact centers, and the role of the agents slowly started changing.

The contact center agents transformed themselves into . They became the face of the industry, and they were the first point of contact for most customers.

Besides, they were helping the product and services teams with the knowledge of what the customer wants on the ground. Many of them scaled into product managers.

Great transition, right?

Wait, there is a twist in the story.

With the advent of AI, there was fear among the agents in the industry. The common belief is that AI would replace human beings, and agents don’t have a role to play. They would be put out of their jobs.

Is AI Taking Away the Role of Agents?

The first vertical to adopt AI applications is contact centers. The contact centers began with chatbots to streamline customer interactions and provide customers with self-service options.

Let us flip this statement and ask this question:

How often have customers used your self-service channels like chatbots and wanted to talk to an agent to resolve their queries?

This leads to customer dissatisfaction as customers feel their time was wasted on the self-serve platform and could take it out on the agent. Besides, you have duplicated costs associated with self-service and assisted service.

The focus of the contact centers in their haste to adopt AI has been more tactical than strategic.

So, wouldn’t you find benefits from AI in a contact center environment?

AI can be pretty effective in contact centers. It can be used for routing, sentiment analysis, and agent guidance. Besides these, it can answer transactional queries and handle all repetitive and mundane tasks, freeing the agents to address complex questions requiring empathy. 

AI can be used to process complex information. It can make sense of a humongous amount of data and create insights that the agents can use in their customer conversations.

AI doesn’t have to be 100% correct when it tries to assist agents – it can lead agents in the right direction or provide the right options. Agents would be able to provide the most appropriate resolution to customers based on the insights provided by AI.

It would be best to look at AI as an assistant to agents and self-service platforms, not as a replacement for agents. 

AI-assisted customer experience will be efficient with chatbots, virtual assistants, intelligent call routing, voice analytics, self-service portals, and workforce management.

With AI, the role of an agent has become more varied, challenging, and engaging in the context of providing excellent customer experiences.

AI + human agents would replace human agents – AI (or human agents without AI).

Agents are at the exact place where the customers and businesses meet to do business. They are the face of your industry, and they push your brand narrative forward.

The different roles played by agents include:

The Unsung Brand Ambassadors of Your Business

The contact center agents are the human faces and voices representing the brand to consumers. Organizations today have started looking at every customer interaction as an opportunity to embody and communicate the brand’s essence.

Whether addressing inquiries, resolving issues, or simply offering a warm greeting, contact center agents have the power to make customers feel heard, valued, and connected to the brand.

They help build trust and loyalty by providing knowledgeable and empathetic support.

Customers are more likely to stay loyal to a business that consistently delivers exceptional service and makes them feel appreciated.

Masters of Omnichannel Engagement

Most contact centers have multiple channels through which customers can interact with them. Irrespective of the channel the customers use to communicate, agents get to have a single view of the customers.

Agents skillfully transition between complex omnichannel journeys and seamlessly transition between automated self-service options and multiple human-assisted channels.

Customer Advocates

Contact center agents take ownership of a customer problem and take them through the resolutions effectively. They reduce customer efforts consistently by providing personalized service tailored to the customers’ specific needs.

They represent the customers within the organization, and the emphasis is on resolving customer issues effectively rather than dealing with them in separate siloes.

Bridge Between Customers and the Organization

Contact center agents today are a source of intelligence for the organization. They are the ones who hear from the customers on the ground as to what challenges they face and what features they need.

While AI-assisted BOTs and flexible BI tools help in understanding insights, the context is provided by the agents.

They also function as sales enablers, ensuring upselling and cross-selling of your offerings to existing customers.

Agents play a variety of roles in every organization. Organizations need to empower agents to excel at their positions and positively contribute to the organization’s growth.

Contact center agents definitely are not a dying breed. With more than 80% of enterprises prioritizing customer experience, the role of the agents assumes a lot of importance.

Let me give you an example.

I want to know the last five transactions in my account, the account balance, and the status of a cheque I sent for clearing. All these are transactional queries, which a self-service bot can handle. When I want to reverse a wrongfully done transaction, I am left with minimal choice but to speak to an agent.

The bank where I am a privileged customer routes all my calls to an agent in the first instance and not to their IVR, as they prioritize customer experience.

This is the way to go forward for every enterprise, as customer experience is the new product that will influence businesses’ success or failure.

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