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Depending on Bots Is Dangerous to the Future of Your Contact Center

A survey of 330 contact center executives, leaders, and industry experts offers an interesting take on the technologies that might have an impact on the future of contact centers. A key takeaway from the research is...

By: Gal Rimon, Founder & CEO, Centrical

A survey of 330 contact center executives, leaders, and industry experts offers an interesting take on the technologies that might have an impact on the future of contact centers. A key takeaway from the research, conducted under the direction of Lori Bocklund, president of contact center consultancy Strategic Contact, is there’s hope certain technologies with positively impact service agents. What’s striking is the manner in which the technology will likely help to improve those frontline employees’ jobs. 

About half of the respondents were from the leaders group, people who actually direct or manage contact center operations. They’re the ones very much aware of what a service agent goes through from shift to shift. The CC Pros.

Let’s dispel the view of what technology, aka automation, will do to contact center headcount. About one-third of the CC Pros don’t see technology having any impact on that. Interestingly, just 10% of industry experts and 20% of executives share that view. 

So if technology isn’t going to turn contact centers into rooms filled with automatrons what will it do — specifically, to enhance the on-the-job experience of service agents? Well, based on the top three technologies felt to have the greatest impact on contact centers of the future, it amplifies all the more the need for technology that delivers highly engaging, highly personalized learning for optimal real-time employee performance management.

Among survey participants, the top three technologies felt to have the greatest impact on contact centers of the future are: 

  1. bots, that include voice, chat or text — by a wide margin; 
  2. Robotic process automation (RPA to provide agent assistance; and, 
  3. Analytics. 

The goal to be achieved by the trio of top tech was seen by 46% of respondents as being “Improve Service.” This was followed by “Reduce Call Volumes,” “Reduce Handle Time “and “Increase Revenue,” at 26%, 22%, and 7%, respectively. 

A quick observation on the less than robust view of tech’s impact on heightening revenue generation. That is a reflection of this group of CC Pros who have, quite literally, heard it all before. More importantly, let’s delve a bit deeper into the top goal to raise service quality levels.

That vision of the contact center of the future is somewhat at odds with what we’re seeing happening today. Contact centers by the dozen are applying technology to automate basic service requests. Banks provide current account balances, retailers offer store hours, directions and the current promotions, and airlines or hotels promote deals via automation. That means when an agent is dealing with a customer, it’s already at a high service level requirement. Consider for a moment the customer who’s called a product help line and has made her way through a gauntlet of automated hurdles. Before ever touching a phone or keyboard, the customer has gone online to solve the problem on her own. She has become well-versed on the matter and, in all likelihood, is a baby step or two away from solving it on her own. Whether the contact center deals with support, sales or collection, the dynamic is, increasingly, the same. Consumers come to contact centers really well-informed.

And that means the service agent must be better informed, more able to grasp issues, concerns, and be more aware of just-breaking promotions as well as have the capacity to empathize with emotions. No matter how many bots are deployed at a contact center of the future they will not be able to help the agent deal more effectively one-on-one with a customer.

To accomplish that now, a contact center needs to make agent learning, more accurately continuous learning, central to their technology plans. Specifically, a learning experience from a platform that consists of real-time employee performance management, personalized microlearning, and advanced gamification.

For the skeptics, Microsoft’s Consumer Support Operations implemented that form of learning — from GamEffective — for its network of contact centers with thousands of agents. In a matter of weeks productivity among agents increased by 10%, absenteeism dropped 12%, and the attach rate rose 2X for non-sales agents. A brilliant reflection of the value of this form of learning was that 89% of surveyed Microsoft agents acknowledged awareness of new information, up from 23% prior to GamEffective, and felt empowered to apply it. 

Oh, by the way, customer satisfaction also rose higher.

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