Botman vs Superagent: Dawn of a new future contact centre?by
The cinema omniplexes have been packed to the rafters with angst-ridden superhero movies lately. Rather than battling the big bad, Captain America has been having a spat with Ironman and Batman has been duelling Superman. Can the same be said for the contact centre industry as well? Are we about to witness a similar clash of the Titans between Botman (automation, self service and chatbots) and Superagents (our front line employees)?
Chatbots are hogging the limelight at the moment. However, the average chatbots’ superpowers are still well below their future potential – especially where scintillating banter is concerned. The underlying technology will undoubtedly improve in 2-3 years but right now, chatbots are only really at the level of a slightly turbopowered interactive voice response (and we all know how much customers like IVR!)
The bigger superpower currently lies in the hands of customers. We have smartphones, apps and self-service that supercharge us to do a lot more ourselves. Does that stop us contacting organisations? Yes, in part – but, as superheroes, customers can be lazy. We only like using our powers if it doesn’t drain us of energy (i.e. it’s easy) and we feel like we are in control. If it isn’t, that’s when we decide to put the bat signal out and get some help.
Evidence shows that we are doing this less frequently – there is less demand coming into the contact centre. However, when it does come, we tend to need someone who can take on the complex and emotive stuff that we can’t do ourselves. We’ve called these people “agents” – I prefer “networked experts”, but “superagents” will also do.
Do these superagents need to have their underpants on over their trousers, leap across tall buildings and have X-ray vision? Probably not – but they do have something that “Botman” doesn’t; a human brain.
Don't forget the supermanager
We have many superpowers that can trump automation – we can be empathetic, creative, caring, innovative, intuitive and we can negotiate with customers to get a win:win situation. All those will be the kind of superskills that we need in our contact centres.
Agents need to be exceptional communicators across every channel they deal with. In one conversation, they may need to seamlessly switch between phone, email, video, screen sharing, social media or chat. They also need to have more knowledge about products and services than Botman. Finally they need to wield a trident of power to stick into the spaghetti of back end process on behalf of the customer.
When superagents need to jump in and save the day, you don’t just want them to respond fast and then decide that they can’t do anything – they need to be able to take things on and they may also need the tools to collaborate with other superagents to save the day (what are the Avengers without the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or Batman without Robin?)
This epic battle between Botman and Superagent in the contact centre will probably result in an alliance, not a war.
Do we need to gather all of these superpowers in one place? Probably not, because many of the tools that can help a superagent can be acquired from the cloud (which sounds like a place a superhero might like to live). Simply having a browser and an internet connection means that a greater number of superagents with the right super powers can join the squad – they don’t have to be constrained to a centre anymore but can swoop in whenever and wherever their superpowers are needed.
Much of this applies to the supermanager as well. Contact centre managers are evolving into the guardians of the customer experience. It is undeniable that, if you want to understand what is going on in your organisation, the contact centre is a good place to start. Rather than just counting calls, supermanagers need to have that all-seeing eye (e.g. analytics tools) to spot patterns in contacts and leap into action to alert the rest of the organisation if things are going wrong. Is a new product launch a disaster? Are customer bills confusing? Is there a massive service outage in this area? All of these are questions that the supermanager could answer if they are given the tools and imbued with the required powers from the supreme beings (a.k.a. your board).
So this epic battle between Botman and Superagent in the contact centre will probably result in an alliance, not a war. Smart people plus smart technologies are better together than as adversaries. Smart technologies can take away the mundane stuff, “speed date” (or precision route) complex issues with the right superagents, allow agents to switch channels seamlessly and make things easier for customers to get to their goal.
Is it time for the dawn of a new model for contact centres?