NovelVox

Navigating the Future: How Long Before AI Drives Contact Center Operations?

How Long Before AI Drives Contact Center Operations

Having watched a number of science fiction movies, we were under the impression that AI will kickstart a decade long war between humans and machines. Turns out, Artificial Intelligence is only here to take our jobs from us, or so we have been told. It seems that apparently every industry is facing the looming fear of AI eating away manual labor and, in turn, many of the jobs.

So, we couldn’t hold ourselves back from giving our two cents on the opinion.

Consider this blog an opinion piece on how AI is going to affect jobs at contact centers.

Why should you care about my opinion? I have been a product developer at NovelVox for the past 12 years. And in this extensive tenure, I have worked on a number of projects many of which required AI and Machine Learning to be incorporated as the fundamental constituent. All in all, I have developed many contact center solutions that are designed to minimize human labor and streamline contact center operations.

So, yes, I do know a thing or two about AI, its implementation, and repercussions.

Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the thick of it.

The Current State of AI in Contact Centers

AI has pretty much become a regular term across industries and contact centers are no exception. It won’t be a stretch if I say that we have been an avid consumer of artificial intelligence for decades. It’s only now that AI and the ease that it brings is being represented on a grander scale.

Nowadays, AI (or at least a modified version of it) is widely available to the general public. From ChatGPT to Dall-E, the past few years have brought in what could very much be considered as an AI revolution, at least on a consumer level.

And with the swiftness and effectiveness such implementation has been working out, it’s no wonder that a sense of doubt has seeped into our own collective consciousness. What if AI replaces our job? Afterall, it seems to be churning out decent/satisfactory results out of thin air. And it is doing that within seconds, something that we can never truly accomplish.

AI in Contact Centers

  • AI-powered chatbots for real-time engagement
  • Generative AI tools that streamline customer responses
  • AI-based routing tools
  • AI-based customer service priority tool
  • AI-based reporting

The current state of AI in contact centers is quite similar to that of other industries: AI-based tools and applications are increasingly being deployed to facilitate reduced human effort and streamlined workflows.

Let me give you a few examples of our own products for a better understanding.

So, at NovelVox, we have a product called Infibot, an AI-powered, NLP-based chatbot that adapts its language as per the customer query and delivers human-like interactions across board.

Infibot employs AI to imitate human-like interactions and deliver faster, more efficient resolutions to customer queries. Please note that I mentioned imitating human-like interactions, which is a point I will be elucidating on later in this blog.

Many of such applications and tools are employed across contact centers to help agents with customer queries and other day-to-day operations.

What I am trying to get at here is that most of the AI-based technologies being used in contact centers are for the sake of adding efficiency and prompt results to the contact center’s performance.

This brings me to the next topic of discussion: how people working at contact centers need to adapt and mold themselves around these developments.

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The Evolution of Jobs and Skills

Machines have long been a part of the entire human productivity. Since the dawn of time human beings have developed machines and been dependent on them to alleviate their task. However, no matter how advanced a technology we build and no matter how many jobs it makes obsolete, any sort of development always brings with itself newer and fresher opportunities.

Take the example of automobiles. Earlier, we used to depend on animals and our own engineering skills to travel from one place to another. Then came the cars. While cars took away the jobs of a rickshaw puller or carriage maker, it brought a range of new jobs to the forefront with the need for fresher, more innovative skills.

At the end of the day, all technology helps create new opportunities for humans. So, instead of seeing AI as a threat, we need to upskill and create new opportunities with the assistance of AI.

The only catch is that as artificial intelligence and automation becomes the norm, the need of the hour for us would be to cultivate skills that machines can’t replace.

Of course, there are a few jobs at the contact center that will become obsolete in the near future. Nevertheless, new jobs will spring up in their place and bring more refined opportunities to humans.

It’s no longer about developing technical skills but improving adaptable skills such as communication, agility, and problem solving. As machines become more capable, our job is to guide them and shape them into the most effective solution for our needs.

In the case of contact centers, the agent training policy needs to be modified to cater to the AI-powered revolution.

must-have skills for agents in the age of AI

Creativity:

If there is one thing that robots and machines can never replicate, it is the human ability to imagine, innovate, and create things out of thin air. Creativity is not a trait that should only be in writers, musicians, artists, or designers. It’s an essential trait for contact center agents. In fact, creativity is an essential trait for anyone looking to adapt to changing situations and communicating effectively across board.

Creativity is inherently important in a contact center scenario in order to fight back the monotonous day-to-day and bring a sense of fresh approach to customer experience. In this regard, contact center managers must encourage the agents to think outside of the box and find ways to make the most out of the technology at hand.

Analytical Thinking:

This goes without saying that contact center agents need to have sharp analytical skills. In the context of AI, such a skill helps bring out more concrete and effective results out of automation and machine-backed operations.

Analytical skills help us understand our surroundings and make changes to our mindset or habit accordingly. In the changing nature of contact center jobs, one must be able to understand upcoming trends and take cues from earlier tendencies to churn out a cohesive and comprehensive growth roadmap both for themselves and for the organization.

Interpersonal Communication:

According to McKinsey, many of the larger organizations have 95% of customer queries resolved with the help of AI. Only the remaining 5% is handled by humans because of the complexity of those queries.

In a world where most of the queries are being resolved by machines, the need of the hour is to improve interpersonal communication skills so agents can not only guide AI but can also communicate effectively internally and external on all levels.

Adaptability:

Change is the only constant and AI revolution should be considered as another essential change that has long been coming. And as for any change that comes our way, the best response is to adapt.

We need to stop seeing AI in the negative light and have a positive approach towards its implementation and application.

The Adversity Quotient, which measures our ability to manage difficulties and transform obstacles into opportunities is going to play a vital role in how we fare against the machines.

The change that AI will bring will be holistic and with no coming back. From how our day to day looks to how and what we communicate and how we interact with each other, all of this will undergo a massive transformation.

Adaptability requires resilience and a continuous yearning for learning and evolving. This is something that can not be taught and can only be generated within oneself by themselves.

One way contact center managers can facilitate such changes is by encouraging agents to cultivate a growth mindset and stay up-to-date with the latest technological developments. Not to mention, a sense of diverse perspective is also essential to adapt to such drastic changes.

The Need for the Human Touch

Besides prompt service and quick resolutions, customers also require one thing that no AI or machine could provide, at least in the coming 50 years. That thing is an emotional connection and it can only be availed by connecting with fellow humans. In such cases human touch becomes the key factor to drive customer loyalty and retain value for the brand in the customer’s eyes.

Let me give you an example to elucidate this point.

I had agreed with a newspaper hawker to have newspapers delivered to my doorstep daily. Now, I am not the one to read newspapers daily and therefore this entire agreement was dicey. I only agreed because of the way the hawker convinced me. He was a sweet guy with a very approachable and comfortable demeanor. When he asked me to rent newspapers from him, he also said that he will give me a summary of major headlines himself as soon as he delivers the newspaper.

And truly so, every day he used to knock on my door, announce the major news and leave the newspaper at the doorstep. Weeks passed and I got into the habit of enjoying this morning ritual everyday.

One day, the newspaper hawker had to leave. He told me that he won’t be coming anymore and I should look for some other vendor. At this point, I had picked up the habit of reading news on a daily basis so I had to look for another vendor. I found another. Nevertheless, I canceled on him within a week.

Why? Because this particular hawker was too efficient. He just put the newspaper by my doorstep daily and didn’t bother me with any other thing. No summarizing the major headlines. No knocks on the door. Just pure and simple newspaper delivery.

It was as if the entire process was automated now. And by attempting to automate the process of newspaper delivery, the hawker had taken away the value that the previous hawker was providing.

This is the human connection I am talking about. No matter how many automation and streamlined operations, at the end of the day humans crave human interactions and the lack of it can make a service worthless.

Conclusion

The debate for artificial intelligence and its impact on contact center operations has been long on-going. We have been both skeptical and embracive about the wave of AI and Machine Learning. And with this blog, my idea is to alleviate the matter a little.

AI is here to stay. Nevertheless, not at the expense of human efforts and creativity. As has been the norm, newer technologies are only going to make way for better, more refined job roles. And that’s true for Artificial Intelligence as well.

So, if you are still wondering how long it will take for AI to replace you at your job, the answer is not long if you don’t adapt and upskill and never if you can find opportunities to improve yourself.

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