How agents can stay relevant during digitalisation

21st Nov 2019

Like most industries, contact centres and the agents they employ are having to adapt to the rise of digital.

More and more customers today are choosing to interact with contact centres through digital channels – such as social media, chatbots and messaging – and businesses have responded to this trend. More than two-thirds (67%) now offer online chat with a live representative and 59% offer communication through social media, both of which have increased in prominence over the last 12 months.

This also illustrates the importance of agent-assisted digital channels that offer a human touch. Businesses estimate that 62% of customer service experiences are agent-assisted, with just 38% being self-service, and businesses perceive agent-assisted methods as outperforming self-service methods on multiple characteristics.

With technology playing a greater role on both sides of the contact centre, what does the ongoing move towards digital customer interactions mean for agents?

The human touch

Facing an ever-increasing number of incoming digital interactions, contact centres face challenges in how to handle these growing volumes while maintaining and continuously improving their customer experience.

Implementing a wider range of technological solutions is a key element of this, with the knock-on effect being that agents will need to adapt to the prominent role digital platforms are now playing. With AI becoming more pervasive, agents and contact centres have to focus on humanising AI and providing a personal touch in customer communications. For example, 79% of consumers believe chatbots and virtual assistants need to get smarter before they are willing to use them regularly, presenting an opportunity for humans to bridge this gap and add value to digital interactions.

Technologies such as AI and chatbots can now handle most simple customer inquiries and even assist in handling some of the more intricate customer interactions. However, human agents are still essential when it comes to resolving complex issues that require empathy and human judgement. Understanding the wider context of an interaction and recognising how the customer feels is something that can’t yet be matched with technology, presenting an opportunity for human agents to elevate the customer experience.

Achieving this will require businesses to re-skill their customer service agents and invest more into their continuous development and training. Agents will have to be adept at handling today’s omnichannel environment and use new technologies to keep up with the customer demand of channels.

More focus will need to be spent on educating employees around how they can complement digital solutions, establish human connections with customers, and ensuring human agents have the skills to add value to digital interactions.

Staying relevant in a digital future

What has quickly become clear is that contact centre agents can’t afford to stand still if they want to maintain their place in a technology-driven environment.

The onus should be on developing their skillsets and learning how to leverage traits such as empathy and emotional intelligence in order to provide customers with more personalised interactions – which will increase their engagement and improve the customer experience.

As AI research and technical capabilities continue to develop over the coming years, agents will increasingly be challenged to prove their value to contact centres – which will primarily come through their ability to add value to digital interactions and focus on more strategic responsibilities.

This will require them to expand their skillsets and acquire new skills that enable them to complement modern technologies, thereby equipping them with the tools to maintain their relevance in the digital age.

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