AI can improve customer service, but agents remain essential

Dive Brief:

  • An overwhelming 95% of contact center supervisors believe their agents will have to handle complex or unique customer inquiries in the future, according to a survey of 366 contact center leaders by Customer Contact Week released last week.
  • AI will be key to meeting this need, according to the survey. More than 4 in 5 leaders feel agents spend too much time on simple interactions. But nearly 9 in 10 expect AI to power more self-service options, which could free up agents to handle more complex inquiries with a personal touch.
  • Taking full advantage of these opportunities will require skilled and empathetic workers. “If contact centers want to deliver more personalized, human-centric experiences, they will require agents who can appeal to customers with different sensibilities,” Brian Cantor, principal analyst and director of CCW Digital, said in the report.

Dive Insight:

The role AI plays in enabling self-service and helping agents dig up relevant information are well documented, but companies are investing in other AI use cases as well, the CCW survey found. 

One potentially valuable use for AI is customer sentiment analysis — an area 82% of brands are exploring, according to the survey. 

In this role, AI acts as a filter to quickly identify the purpose of a customer’s inquiry and their emotional state, according to Kelly Pedersen, U.S. retail leader at PwC. This helps the agent prepare for a particular call before they even pick up.

“This allows the agent to have a more personalized interaction with the customer, as they already have some context about the customer’s needs,” Pederson said in an email to CX Dive. “Additionally, this filtering process helps streamline the customer service workflow, making it more efficient from the perspective of both the customer and the agent.”

Companies also need to remember that AI is often just an assistant — and not a replacement for staff, Cantor said. Rather, companies should be providing agents with the right training to fully take advantage of the opportunities the technology presents.