Human and AI in Perfect Harmony: Contact Centre for the New Decade
73% of organisations are seeing talk time in phone calls increasing
When a customer makes contact with a brand, they have high expectations these days. They want their routine enquiries and purchases rapidly dealt with and out of the way, whether by self-service or an automatic integration, the details don’t matter so long as it’s frictionless and on their terms. And if they’ve got a problem the stakes are higher still, so they really need to feel that they matter.
Omni-channel is increasingly becoming a reality, and it’s critical that brands are open to as many different routes of approach as possible, to provide a unified experience for all enquirers. Persistent context, seamless integration of the conversation across all channels, this is the expectation — particularly for high-end and high-touch purchases where the customer is heavily invested. Even though the customer understands that automation is involved, they do not want to repeat themselves or pass identifiers like ticket numbers, and the welcome evolution from the phone-tree hell of a decade ago where you stabbed numbers randomly and screamed into the abyss, begging to speak to a human, any human…
But it’s when they have a complaint or a fault, that’s when customers feel at their most individualised and singled-out: why is this product/service not working for me? As such they’re at their least receptive to any kind of generic response, and respond most effectively to a human voice, showing caring and understanding and a solution, as the face/voice of the brand. This trend reflects in Frost and Sullivan research from 2018 indicating that 73% of organisations are seeing talk time in phone calls increasing — meaning longer conversations and deeper interactions, dealing directly with things that truly matter to the customer.
So this is changing the role of contact centre personnel, who need to be ready with a blend of product expertise, communication skills and empathy to do their job well. AI-based technologies can provide the right just-in-time information to augment their own insight and human experience, while also relieving them of the drudgery of routine calls which are increasingly automated away, but employers too need to recognise and value the worth of these people — who are the public face and voice of their brand for customers in their moment of their greatest dissatisfaction and risk of abandonment.
Providing them flexible and home-based working is no longer difficult with contact centre solutions on offer such as those from Poly, and these scalable solutions also enable flexibility in shift management to respond to peaks and troughs in demand.
However, don’t neglect the impact of quality tech as well, hardware and software. For an agent who may be spending many hours literally “plugged in” to their work, their headset becomes an extension of their senses — just as the AI enhances their cognitive abilities to give the customer the information they need in the moment, the tools through which they listen and speak augment their communication skills and senses, removing friction from the interaction in ways which are subtle and powerful. They deserve a headset which is lightweight and comfortable to wear, and also highly functional in terms of audio performance — eliminating interference, filtering noise, and optimised for perfect human speech rendering, like the Poly EncorePro series.
By considering these factors in good time, partners will be positioned to recruit and retain excellent teams for these critical customer-facing roles, as their work becomes both more rewarding and exacting, while also more interesting and satisfying. The combination of human specialist expertise, with the right AI augmentation, delivered via the best interfaces and technology, will make for a triple-win in the contact centre of the future.