We’ve seen many attention-grabbing headlines about how AI is going to steal our jobs.
It hasn’t happened yet though, has it?
It’s important to remember they’re just stories. They feed into the common fear that AI will have a negative impact on humanity, which is useful for science fiction directors when they have a new film to promote but not very useful for the rest of us.
AI will likely affect our lives in countless ways, so there must be other stories we could tell?
Antonio Gonzalez, Talkdesk’s Senior Manager, Industries Research & Insights, has presented a vision for the future which is a much more attractive tale.
We’re maturing with AI
Organisations have already adopted AI and learned from successes and failures. That’s given many a mature understanding of machine learning – one that’s rooted in reality. Whereas people may have thought that AI could replace everyone, now we can see that it excels in some areas and is fairly terrible in others.
Here’s why; AI is just a prediction machine. It learns what worked in the past and attempts to apply it to the present. So, if you train AI to do a task that is worth repeating then AI will keep doing that task forever, and it will probably do it faster than humans, and it will never demand a single coffee-break.
However, if you give AI a task that requires lateral thinking then it can’t match humans. AI is not creative in the way humans are, it can’t read between the lines like us, and most importantly, humans have empathetic superpowers. We adapt to situations with sensitivity towards the people we’re communicating with. While there have been attempts to train AI to be empathetic, it’s still rudimentary compared to what people do every day, in every conversation.
What can you take from this? Humans and AI have different skills, but more importantly, those skills are complementary. They can help each other towards a better outcome than they could achieve alone.
A new tale for the campfire
So, here’s a vision of the future you should believe – humans will be augmented with AI. The two will work together as a team, but each will work to their individual strengths.
And why should you believe in that future? Because it’s already here.
It’s already happening in contact centres! That’s right – live agents are already augmented by AI.
Forget what you used to think about live agents. Not long ago, live agents were seen as expendable and unskilled, doing entry-level jobs with a salary to match. This could all change very soon, and for a few reasons.
Firstly, their jobs can be partly automated. As Antonio says, “that is the first ripe area for transformation. There’s a lot of commonalities – a contact centre agent is often solving for, you know, less than five types of needs, on average.”
Secondly, contact centres needed to automate those jobs because they saw an exodus of live agents during the pandemic. They literally didn’t have enough people to take the calls.
You may think this would lead towards the imminent automation of every conversation a contact centre receives, but that’s not the case.
The third reason is most interesting of all – rather than AI replacing live agents, it’s the live agents themselves who are best placed to automate contact centres!
You see, there’s currently a huge shortage of AI experts. So, when there’s nobody on the payroll with training in machine learning, who’s the next best option? Live agents.
They know the business and its products. They know the internal systems and software. Most vitally of all – live agents know all about the customers. They know what customers need, how they talk and what their frustrations are.
Live agents have become highly skilled, and you could say they’re now indispensable. A great live agent will use lateral thinking while solving a customer need, while using all their software and tools, and while engaging the customer in an empathetic and warm conversation.
Everything happens in real-time. Every new call starts fresh, and they must rapidly find a solution. They have to direct every conversation towards a positive outcome for the customer.
Think about it – that’s incredible. They’re super-skilled.
When you combine their knowledge and skills with AI-designing software from Talkdesk and conversation design training, live agents become your AI experts.
According to Antonio, Talkdesk’s software “not only helps companies get around that bottleneck of hiring for expensive talent, but also can enable them to move more quickly and have AI that actually more accurately reflects the needs of the customer in the moment.”
What an incredible change in fortune for live agents!
A perfect circle
When asked to describe the best application of AI in a contact centre, Antonio described a loop.
First, live agents prepare the AI system to cope with automatable customer queries. That allows AI to take the easier customer calls, while the agents continue taking every call AI can’t handle.
When customers start asking for something new, the live agents work out if it can be automated. If it can, the system gets updates to cope with that new demand, and the live agents keep taking the more challenging calls.
This loop spins with the smart use of data – both agent and bot know about the customers, the business and the products.
“With their real-world experience [live agents] can quickly and easily get set up and working. And then be able to return and tweak and adjust as things evolve, because, as we know, the types of things people are calling into contact centres for are always changing”
The not-so-secret agents
Did you see that scenario coming? Perhaps not.
Is that a positive vision for the future? Absolutely.
You see, live agents are due a rebrand. Their skills are absolutely vital for a modern business, and when coupled with conversation design training and AI-designing software they can become truly formidable.
It’s no surprise that Brad Cleveland said every employee might eventually become a bit more like a live agent in his VUX World interview.
So hang onto your live agents – they might just be the model employees for the future. When they’re augmented with AI and have access to the best data they can do incredible things. As Antonio says, all organisations will soon focus on “making every frontline associate the best frontline associate.”
Thanks to Antonio Gonzalez for sharing his insights, and Talkdesk for sponsoring this content.