Professor James Woudhuysen
3 minute read
By Professor James Woudhuysen
Posted in Customer Engagement
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to improve the way contact centre employees relate to their work
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ALWAYS HAS A HUMAN DIMENSION. Right now, biometrics and wearable technology are on the rise in the workplace. But another side to the human story of technology is too often neglected. A 2018 worldwide survey by Opinium LLP and Verint reveals that fully 62 percent of employees agree that technology is already making it easier for them to work flexibly--from home, for example, or in terms of hours. Indeed, an even higher proportion, 67 percent, expect workplaces to be still more flexible as technology improves.
Importantly, too, algorithms are spreading in Human Resources departments--especially around staff recruitment. Indeed, "My boss is an algorithm" is already a popular meme. How, though, can AI be deployed so that the "algorithmic management" of tomorrow marks a genuine advance on the early 20th century's "scientific management" developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915)?
Artificial Intelligence will help contact centre workers with the knottier kinds of customer issues
The measurement of today's contact centres is so extensive, it would bring a smile to the stern New England engineer's face. Yet that may not be the whole way forward. After all, customer service in contact centres doesn't in any way compare with the working of a pig iron in Fred Taylor's day, or the assembling of a car in Henry Ford's. In the contact centre, agents deal with customers, and average call handling times, for instance, represent only a very rough tool with which to track efficiency, let alone effectiveness.
Technology will certainly go on measuring contact centres. But AI will also help manage them much more. In particular, it will help ensure that contact centres, at least, aren't drawn into what Gallup, in 2016, identified as "The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis." Gallup says that employee engagement at work hasn't budged in years--and that measuring engagement isn't enough to achieve it.
From Desktop & Process Analytics and Speech Analytics through to Performance Management, contact centres will certainly continue to generate a lot of data. But by 2030 organisations can and should hope that AI will make them still more responsive to and engaged with customers than they are today. For example, tools such as Knowledge Management and chat bots are already helping customers self-serve when they have simple, straightforward enquiries.
Result: aided by AI, contact centre managers and workers will spend more time on tricky but involving issues of judgement than they will worrying about yet another quantitative Key Performance Indicator.
In 2018, Opinium LLP and Verint find about 40 percent of customers worldwide agree that they are less trusting of brands and organisations than they were in 2017--and only 18 percent actively dissent from that view. Moreover, while two thirds of respondents say they're more likely to switch to providers giving better service, an unmistakable 49 percent say they're more likely to switch to organisations for ethical reasons.
Trust, ethics: these are qualitative, human questions, around which customers want human judgements. Of course, efficiency and measurement will have their place. By 2030, though, contact centres won't all be about handling calls in finite amounts of time--and they won't all be about measuring every minute of an agent's time, either.
Artificial Intelligence will supply contact centre workers with vital insights--but those workers will still have the last word
Thankfully, technology already helps give staff the kinds of information that can motivate them to engage with their work and the human customers that are central to it. Workforce Management tools forecast daily and long-term workload schedules so as to help employees improve work-life balance, plan their holidays, and--given each employee's personal skills--make the best use of those.
Robotic Process Automation automates and reduces errors around tedious and repetitive tasks, so staff can turn to other, more rewarding tasks. Knowledge Management tools help agents resolve the customer's issue on his or her first contact--giving the satisfaction of a job well done. Last, Case and Quality Management tools guide employees through service processes, and evaluate customer interactions over all channels on a single screen.
It's when humans and AI work together that they'll unearth insights which can valuably be acted upon. In this sense, Artificial Intelligence at tomorrow's contact centre will aid automation, but will be far from autonomous.
Human operators will call the shots more than ever--acting upon the very best intelligence that technology can generate. And as a result, levels of staff engagement are likely to rise.
A very interesting read.
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