Fabrice Martin of Clarabridge discusses how improving technologies will change the role of the contact centre advisor.
It was interesting to read the comments made by Mike Corbat, Chief Executive at Citigroup last week in the Financial Times.
In the article, Corbat said: “When you think of data, AI [Artificial Intelligence], raw digitization of changing processes, we still have tens of thousands of people in call centers, and we know when we can digitize those processes we not only radically change or improve the customer experience, it costs less to provide.”
Much of what Corbat says about the impact of technology on call centres is true. Automation is allowing banks to provide a more efficient service to customers and is helping them to lower the cost to serve. The article suggests, however, that thousands of people working in the bank’s call centres could be replaced by machines. This paints a very dire and headline-grabbing “robots are here to replace us” picture, but the reality will probably be more nuanced.
AI is undoubtedly a transformational technology, but I believe it will play a complementary role – as opposed to a substitutional one – to human subject-matter expertise.
For example, in the context of the hundreds of millions of transactions that occur in a bank and throughout its contact centres, AI can play an incredible role by sifting through all those records and customer interactions at lightning speeds, understanding patterns that would be too complex or impossible to discern for a human being and thus empowering human analysts with superhuman insights.
But where AI will struggle and ultimately require human expertise is when it comes to applying judgement to all of those insights in order to make decisions, fill potential contextual gaps and effectively engage and build trusting relationships with customers.
As Mike Corbat said in the article, many customer journeys are easy to deal with, and for these, automation may be appropriate. But, as Clarabridge found out from research that was carried out recently amongst UK banking customers, over 60% wanted to interact with a human being if they had a complex issue such as enquiries about a loan, a mortgage or financial planning.
This is where AI can help turn advisors from human answering machines into super-empowered ‘knowledge workers’ with intelligence at the tips of their fingers, able to engage customers with informed, accurate responses that ensure banks meet customer expectations and get things right the first time for every single interaction.
No doubt we will see a change in bank call centres, but we – at Clarabridge – foresee not just a shift in how technology is used to deal with simple queries, but importantly, how it is used by advisors to provide the best possible customer experience.