Will AI Replace Call Center Agents?

What do you think of when you hear the words “artificial intelligence” or “AI”? 

While the technology is still evolving, we already experience many applications of AI in out day-to-day lives. Still, many people are wary about the real-life implications of AI and automation. As the impact of artificial intelligence grows, lead generation professionals may wonder: Will AI replace contact center agents?

To get to the bottom of this important issue, we’ve put together this guide on the future of call centers. Inside, we’ll cover:

  • Will artificial intelligence actually replace human call center agents?
  • How is call center AI being used in call centers already?
  • How can intelligent virtual agents (IVA) play an important role in the modern contact center?
  • What’s the place of humans in the future of call centers?

Will AI Replace Call Center Agents?

Let’s cut right to the chase: Is AI replacing call centers and their human agents? The short answer is no, not really. 

Of course, that short answer doesn’t quite tell the whole story. While call center AI technology isn’t taking over the still-vital overall role played by real, live human agents and managers in the call center, it is playing a more prominent part in the operations of so-called next-generation call centers. In the process, it is in fact replacing some agents’ duties.

Let’s clarify that, though: Today’s AI solutions for contact centers may be taking over certain parts of call center operations, including part or even all of a customer call, but they’re not necessarily replacing human agents wholesale. 

That’s because, simply put, there’s still a lot that call center AI can’t do. At the moment, there will always be a need for human action in the call center—lots of it. So, instead of replacing agents, AI is augmenting the work that they do, making agents’ jobs easier, more efficient, and effective.

In fact, the call center is in many ways an ideal place for automation to work in concert with human employees: As anyone in the business can attest, the day-to-day for call center agents can be quite repetitive and even tedious without the right tools and processes. Eliminating many of these sorts of tasks is one of the things that AI does best. So, ultimately, rather than replace agents, AI might be a contact center’s best bet for retaining them. In turn, automation also plays a critical role in scaling call center operations.

 

5 Ways Call Center AI is Augmenting (Not Replacing) Agents

If call center AI isn’t replacing agents, then how is it being used to make their lives on the job easier than ever? Here are five of the most prominent (and powerful) examples of contact center AI.

 

1. Conversational AI and Chatbots

When a whopping 85% of consumers want to message with brands, conversational AI—the tech that’s behind chatbots—offers an effective (and often cost-effective) automation option. Rather than eliminating agents, conversational AI tools can offer customers the best of both worlds: They can get efficient self-service and, if escalation is required, human intervention for more complex issues. 

 

2. AI-Powered Quality Assurance

Call center quality assurance is yet another place where AI is driving efficiency. Thanks to AI’s ability to recognize speech, specialized solutions can listen in on calls to check for quality and compliance. This, instead of needing to have a second employee dedicated to listening in on each conversation.  

According to call center expert Heather Griffin, “It used to take 30 QA people to QA my 1000-seat call center. And now a system is doing it. Within the call center world, AI is fantastic.” Thanks to this revolution in QA, rather than having to monitor and score call quality, employees can instead focus on coaching and improving outcomes for all involved. 

 

3. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

For inbound and blended call centers, IVR systems are yet another AI-driven tool that enables agents to focus more on what they do best. One of the most common contact center AI solutions, IVR systems field inbound customer calls and either route them to the right agent (including via smart skills-based routing) or offer options for self-service.

 

4. Call Center Analytics

It’s one thing to measure call center performance automatically. It’s another thing entirely to be automatically given recommendations for action based on performance. That’s the difference that AI is making when applied to call center reporting and analytics.

 

5. Intelligent Virtual Agents

Another AI solution that might tend to prompt questions about automation replacing agents is the Intelligent Virtual Agent, or IVA. After all, “agent” is even in the name of this AI-powered tool. However, IVAs are a tool that augments the efficiency and productivity of agents, rather than replacing them outright. IVA technology supports call centers with a different form of conversational AI. While traditional chatbots typically respond to inquiries over chat or email, IVA uses sophisticated voice recognition and speech capabilities to screen customers and help solve their issues in voice channels. 

 

 

 

The Importance of Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) for Call Centers

Of these call center AI solutions, IVA technology is particularly well suited to enhancing agent productivity and making modern call center operations more efficient. See the potential benefits of IVA below.

4 Virtual Agent Technology Benefits

  1. Do More With the Same Agents—and Lower Costs.   Significantly more advanced than the chatbots mentioned above, IVAs like Convoso’s can support voice—as well as text-based interactions like outbound SMS. And not just any interactions—the best IVA solutions utilize natural language programming and advanced speech recognition technology to handle even complex conversations and deliver top-notch customer experience. That means an IVA can screen and pre-qualify leads on multiple channels then tee up your top agents to close the sale—without dedicating payroll to tedious (or unprofitable) screening time.
  2. Use Your Agents When They’re Needed Most.   This last point can’t be understated from an efficiency standpoint. Your agents get to spend more time doing what they want to do—having conversations and closing deals. They’ll enjoy their time on the job more, and crucially for the sake of the business, they’ll stay in rhythm and build sales momentum.
  3.  Double Up on Your Existing Automation.   In tandem with workflow automation capabilities, an IVA solution can be incorporated into your existing, automated outreach cadences and strategies.
  4. Boost Contact Rates with an Omnichannel Approach.   Moreover, with an IVA solution that can work across voice and text channels, you can support an approach that’s not just automated but omnichannel. By lowering your call volume, you can avoid call blocking and flagging and make even more contacts with leads. And with AI and your agents efficiently driving more contacts and more conversions together, the only way your operation will go is up.

 

Humans and the Future of Call Centers

When new technology comes to the fore, it’s often the fear of change that gets the focus, rather than any potential benefits. While people are right to question whether AI might risk job loss, the reality in call centers couldn’t be clearer: the place for people in the future of call centers remains secure. 

Whether a call center is providing customer service or trying to close a sale, creativity (something that remains outside of AI’s abilities) will always play an essential role. In fact, according to a Treasure Data survey, just 1 in 5 consumers prefer electronic systems to human interaction.

 

AI and the Path to Call Center Efficiency

Hopefully, having reached the end of this guide, you have a clearer picture of AI’s proper place in the modern call center. Instead of standing in for agents, contact center AI solutions have the ability to make the work of agents stand out. And together, human creativity and the latest technologies can combine to deliver unparalleled efficiency and ROI.

 

Learn more about the many ways that AI powers Convoso’s cloud-based contact center software—and see for yourself what happens when your best agents get to work alongside the best technology when you schedule a demo today.

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