The merit of new technologies is not that it replaces employees but empowers them with tools to make them more productive, more creative, more comfortable – and, paradoxically, more empathetic. In other words, technology can make us more “human”. The necessary acceleration of contact centers’ digitalization will bring to the fore the crucial value of the human touch.
Digitalization is quickly sweeping through contact centers. The benefits, for both agents and customers, are numerous and include, notably, a 24/7 support, an omnichannel relationship, a more intuitive experience, enhancing both customer loyalty and agent satisfaction, a reduced time for resolutions and high positive contact rate, and, of course, reduced costs. However, this does not mean that agents will totally disappear from contact centers. On the contrary, the importance of the human touch will become more prominent going forward because an over-reliance on technology can negatively impact the customer experience. We are social creatures and the value interacting with another human being over a machine when dealing with a complex and emotional problem cannot be underestimated: humans offer a level of empathy that no chatbot or automated agent can currently provide. According to the 2020 CallMiner Churn Index, emotion is key to retention: after price, key drivers of termination include emotional factors like loyalty and fair treatment.
On the other hand, technology does more than answering the basic needs of customers. In a study by Harvard, 72% of respondents said frontline customer service teams experienced a higher productivity when directly empowered with data-driven analysis and decision-making. And 69% experienced a higher level of satisfaction and commitment when they could benefit from these capacities in their work. Going forward, the use of big data and analysis powered conversational assistants, chatbots and self-service, will automate the handling of simple enquiries, will allow customers to quickly and easily fix their issues themselves, 24/7. This means agents will deal with the most complex questions that automation or AI cannot solve, requiring expert or extensive knowledge. “With the plethora of available channels of interactions – particularly digital – by the time a customer places a call to a company they have likely already tried to solve their problem elsewhere – and failed –, making it all the more crucial that the agent is equipped to answer their question quickly, accurately and in context,” noted Mary Wardley, Programme Vice President, Loyalty and Customer Care, at IDC. Agents will therefore need to develop new and more sophisticated skillsets and the profession will evolve to include resources with education and skills. Equipped with the right technology, the agent will be able to get access to the insights required to offer a personalized experience and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. “The rise of self-service has made human support even more critical. Now more than ever, when customers call a provider, we can expect two scenarios: they are already frustrated due to a lack of information and online support, or they have a complex and sensitive issue. Both cases require emotionally intelligent ‘super-agents’ who can make the right contact, solve problems and deliver exceptional service,” said Adam Walton, COO at CallMiner.
The ‘always-on’ enterprise of tomorrow will increasingly resort to virtual agents and bots to supplement smaller but more skilled contact centers teams. Often these teams will not be on site as the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the transition to a work from home model. The next generation of tech-savvy agents, the ‘Zs’, will likely reject long, dull shifts in centralized contact centers. They will seek to work differently and add more value. The ‘Super-agent’ of tomorrow will need to be equipped with the best and most suitable digital tools – from intuitive work platforms to news technologies like AI. They will have to answer the more complex enquiries from emotionally charged customers in times of crisis such as during the coronavirus pandemic, when they became the main, and only, contact point between consumers and brands. A recent study by Kantar showed that 70% of consumers expected brands to adopt a reassuring tone during these difficult times. It is therefore essential for customer service teams to show empathy towards customers. ‘Super-agents’ will have the power to shape their customer emotions: nearly half of customers had their emotional state change from negative to positive following their last interaction with a brand. This is a double-edged sword: at the same time, nearly one in five report having their emotional state shift because of poor agent behavior, the CallMiner survey revealed.
Want to know more about the evolution of contact centers?
Download our white paper Contact Centers of the Future: Creating the experience of tomorrow
Interested in our solutions?