Hilee Avrahami at KMS Lighthouse shares insights on how the customer service agent role is changed by AI.
Most of the talk about AI-powered customer service focuses on how it improves the customer experience. It also allows organizations to understand their customers’ needs better and measure the success of their customer support strategies.
What doesn’t get discussed as much is how significant an impact AI customer support is having on customer service agents.
Artificial intelligence is now considered the gold standard in advanced technology for call centres. Its benefits include better service, stronger brand loyalty, and greater revenue. It’s also changing the way customer service agents perform their jobs.
Will AI Customer Service Replace Call Centre Agents?
No one has a customer service crystal ball, but it seems safe to say the growth of AI-automated customer service does not mean an end to live customer service agents. AI is human-like, not human, and so far lacks critical skills needed for human interaction.
- AI may be intelligent, but it hasn’t mastered the art of empathy. This inability to commiserate with unhappy customers could quickly become counter-productive and make a customer feel even less satisfied than when they first called.
- While a third of consumers say they interact with a chatbot or virtual assistant at least once a week, most say they still prefer to talk to a human agent. While AI solutions are improving, it still hasn’t evolved enough to where it fully understands a caller’s needs.
- Many a tense interaction has been defused with a bit of humor, not one of AI’s strong points—yet.
Most of all, at this point, AI just isn’t advanced enough to work without human assistance. Setting up AI-powered systems and implementing them is still a human skill. Instead of threatening to replace customer service agents’ lives, AI actually boosts agent efficiency and makes their lives better.
How Customer Service Agents Benefit From AI Customer Support
AI is indispensable to call centre agents for many reasons:
- Much of the time agents used to spend accessing and analysing data, calls, and queries is now improved by AI’s real-time data access and analysis features.
- AI allows callers to access and share information across multiple platforms like mobile apps, phone calls, social media, and text messaging. It can then pass on all that collected information to a live agent, and the caller doesn’t have to repeat it.
- Routine, repetitive tasks that once took up an inordinate amount of an agent’s time can now be done with AI-assisted systems. And when a customer needs to talk to a human, AI call routing handles it.
AI Knowledge Management
On any given day, a customer service agent might handle hundreds of customer requests. Many of them are about the same topics, such as return policies, shipping costs, and delivery timelines. Others are more complex and require more in-depth knowledge.
Before AI, different agents might give different answers to the same questions. Knowledge-based AI provides agents with a single point of truth that enables them to speed up calls and avoid sharing outdated information.
Annette Franz, founder and CEO of CX Journey, believes a complete reliance on customer support agents without any alternatives can “make way for a negative experience when things go wrong.”
A knowledge base, she says, helps people get instant, accurate solutions that leave them feeling understood and cared for.
Over time, AI-based knowledge systems learn which answers have proven most helpful and suggest those responses to agents.
Newer AI technologies are also learning to interpret human emotions and behaviours. For instance, AI might sense when an interaction is escalating and suggest an agent stop talking as much or change their approach.