· Features

New year, new job: How tech could revolutionise contact centres

Cloud-powered AI technologies are changing the nature of contact centre work and paving the way to more fulfilling and challenging roles for employees

For many people a new year traditionally signals that it’s time to think about what changes to make in the months ahead.

That’s especially the case for disgruntled employees who (dissatisfied with their current workplace) will start looking for a new job. It’s a seasonal workforce trend that’s especially worrying for the one industry outdoing all others when it comes to employee churn: contact centres. Here the average annual turnover rate ranges between 30% and 45%.

Recent research revealed that more than 4% of the UK’s working population is employed in contact centres. Ensuring those employees feel satisfied and valued in their role should be a top priority – both as a responsible and caring employer, and for the business benefits.

Alongside contributing to higher recruitment and training costs, quick staff turnover in contact centres also represents a significant hit to a business in lost productivity and lower morale.

In an era when customer experience has become the key brand differentiator, turning the contact centre into a hub that demonstrably adds value to the customer experience has fast become a strategic imperative.

With agents citing excessive workloads and dealing with mundane tasks as their top reasons for leaving their job in the contact centre, tackling these is a pressing priority for organisations.

AI and machine-assisted customer engagement tools not only eliminate the repetitive tasks that contribute to high employee turnover in contact centres, they also enable organisations to boost their customer satisfaction scores.

By using technologies like intelligent chatbots organisations can automate day-to-day issue resolution for customers, liberating their contact centre agents to handle more complex queries.

With chat now the contact channel of choice for under-35s around the globe, a growing number of consumers prefer interacting with chatbots to get their questions answered fast.

Plenty of scaremongering stories claim robots will replace us, but these are wide of the mark and fail to take into account the opportunity AI presents to enhance the business and its team.

The key here is seeing AI and other tools as ways of empowering and enabling employees to be present in the interaction with the customer; thinking about resolving customer enquiries with friendliness, professionalism and efficiency and not half listening or half trying to locate details.

The most effective contact centre AI implementations utilise an intelligent automation approach that augments people rather than replacing them.

For example, AI can be used to present information to an agent during customer interactions or automatically complete forms during conversations. Both of which reduce the 15% to 20% of time agents spend looking up information while making it easier for them to resolve customer queries quickly and accurately.

This extends to getting customers to the right agent the first time, not being bounced around between departments having to repeat their enquiry every time they are forwarded.

Today’s intelligent automation solutions are able to streamline agent routing processes and match the right caller with the right agent. They can also enable enhanced contact centre forecasting and scheduling, utilising self-learning algorithms to ensure workloads are more appropriately balanced for the employees.

Many companies operating in B2C sectors, such as retail and utilities, are already spearheading the revolution to omnichannel machine-assisted customer engagement.

For these employers using AI to enhance the roles of contact centre personnel opens the door to giving their people a more fulfilling job that makes them feel more productive and valuable.

However, for this investment to pay off companies will need to ensure their contact centre workforce is given the necessary skills to work effectively with AI.

They’ll also need to skilfully introduce their virtual agents as valuable collaboration assistants that are there to make the working lives of human agents better. For AI to succeed in the workplace the message should be augmentation rather than substitution of jobs.

With customer expectations rising at breakneck speed, organisations would be wise to deploy an omnichannel contact centre where AI works hand in hand with human agents to ensure they don’t appear in the bottom quartile for customer engagement.

Research confirms that those companies in the top quartile for customer satisfaction also experience 87% less employee churn and are 44% more profitable. Proof indeed that there’s never been a better time to use AI to turn the contact centre into a value centre and change an employee’s disengagement into job satisfaction.

With the latest technology empowering tomorrow’s contact centre employees, less and less will be seeking a new job in the new year.

Andi Janes is chief people officer at Content Guru