Can AI Replace Call Center Human Agents ?

Can AI Replace Call Center Human Agents ?

Why you may want to adopt a best-of-both-worlds approach.

While androids are both an operating system and a sci-fi concept that’s becoming more realistic with each passing day, the artificial intelligence that powers androids has started to ease its way into the call center industry.

Even though it might seem as though androids and artificial intelligence (AI) might soon replace humans in certain jobs and industries altogether, the truth of the matter is that there are some tasks that automated processes will never be able to accomplish with the same results or general efficiency as a human being. Let’s look at why your best bet for your call center and your representatives is to blend AI and the traditional human touch, as well as some reasons why AI can never replace humans in call centers.

Why You Need the Best of Both Worlds

No matter how well-trained or experienced your call center agents are, they don’t possess the same processing power and speed as AI. But instead of letting the AI handle the zippier aspects of running a call center, you’ll want to ensure that your representatives are using the AI’s speed and convenience to be more proficient at their jobs. The AI engine can be used to identify training gaps based on examples from real customers, and can provide more relevant information to the training department to enhance current and future training classes.

One way you can implement this is to let callers and site visitors work through a system of menus when they first reach out to you. With the way technology has changed, a majority of your customers are likely used to figuring out issues and getting answers to questions without interacting with a fleshand- blood human, so don’t feel that this approach is impersonal. On the contrary, some people actually prefer to interact with technology, and there are some situations in which they don’t really need to speak or chat with someone. Something else to think about is the fact that including such menus shows that your company stays up-to-date on current industry trends and customer expectations.

All that being said, there are some instances in which your agents need to be close at hand for complex situations and questions. The right balance of hands-on/ hands-off is beneficial to both customer and call center agent.

But remember, the use of the AI engine will also ensure that the processes you put in place are working. For example, if a customer tries to self-serve and then calls because the self-service did not work, it allows the company to fix the process and avoid channel switching.

From the AI Root to the Fruit

Now that you know it’s possible to make sweet and well-balanced harmony with AI and human representatives, it’s time to learn how to do it right. The first thing you want to do is put the power of analytics to good use.

Doing so gives you a solid idea of problem areas that can be helped with AI and where you can start implementing AI. You can also use AI to gather customer information on how your agents are interacting with your customers, what pain points are customers talking about and how to use this data to identify actionable opportunities.

As you start to figure out areas in which AI could help, know that you’ll likely experience some growing pains for your customers as well as your employees while you adjust to this new way of doing things. This is all part of the process, so don’t be afraid to make changes as you get used to using AI in this manner. Remember using AI is not “set it and forget it”—you must constantly review and adjust. So, do you feel AI will eventually replace the need for humans in call centers? We think not.

AI Needs to Learn How to Feel

For all its ingenuity, AI still can’t always accurately replicate human emotion or do it quickly enough so that a caller doesn’t realize she or he is interacting with a computer program. However, AI can learn how to display a proper emotional response by studying your call center representatives’ interactions with customers. This will go a long way toward avoiding awkward interactions, ones that might cost you customers or your professional reputation.

Before you grow concerned with the idea that this might mean you don’t need live agents anymore, it’s better to look at the opportunities it provides. Instead of answering frequently asked questions day in and day out, your agents will have more time for other pursuits, which is great for challenging their minds and preventing them from feeling stagnant, bored and unmotivated at work. Now you can do more crosstraining, tackle projects that have been left undone and find more ways to bring out the absolute best in your agents and your call center.

Some People Prefer Human Interaction

A person doesn’t have to be part of the older generation to prefer communicating with a human being when reaching out to a call center. Some individuals are simply more comfortable talking with another person. While AI voices have most certainly come a long way in terms of authenticity, some people can easily tell when they’re hearing a human voice and when they’re interacting with a voice programmed to sound like a human. There are nuances, cadences and flows to the way we talk, and AI generally isn’t programmed with tones as intricate as those in a human voice.

There is also the fact that some AI isn’t programmed to understand the most current human jargon. Your call center representatives, on the other hand, are usually up-todate on the latest lingo and will know exactly what the caller is talking about. Language is constantly evolving, and while the same is true of technology, there’s no telling what’s useful and what’s unnecessary when it comes to deciding which jargon to include in AI call center programming.

You Need to Keep Customers Happy

While some might be perfectly fine with the idea of completely replacing humans with AI in call centers all over the world, their customers might have issues with the notion. And because customers play an integral part in the overall success of a business, companies have to make sure that they’re doing all that they can to keep customers happy and retain them. Ignoring customers and their desires is a prime way to send a business down the drain as quickly as possible.

Customers Like to Be Entertained

For all its technological advances, AI isn’t well-known for its humor. Sometimes all that’s needed to make a customer’s day or to diffuse a tense interaction is to inject a bit of humor into the situation. Your human representatives are able to do this on the fly, usually in a way that’s neither too much for the situation nor too little to elicit a genuine laugh (or at least a smile). This use of humor paints your company as well as your call center in a positive light, one that’s sure to delight your audience and keep them on as loyal customers. While delivering impeccable service is certainly one of your top priorities as a call center leader, part of that quality service is putting your customers and callers at ease, and what better way to relax than with a good laugh?

A Powerful Tool

As you can see, there’s really no need for you or your call center agents to be worried about AI taking over. Instead, focus on seeing AI as a powerful tool for realizing your full potential. Rather than humans or AI overtaking the other, the more likely scenario is both going hand-in-hand to deliver exemplary service to your audience and making your representatives more capable at their jobs.

We believe that you can use AI to convert all of the conversations that take place in your contact center into actionable and measurable insights to improve customer experience, replicate agent success behaviors, optimize operating costs, reduce customer effort, reduce channel switching and increase conversation rates.

Stop guessing and start acting by utilizing a machine learning AI tool.

This article was first published in Contact Center Pipeline magazine.

Jim Iyoob

Jim Iyoob

Jim Iyoob is the Chief Customer Officer for Etech Global Services. He has responsibility for Etech’s strategy, marketing, business development, IT, program implementation, operational excellence, and product development across all Etech’s existing lines of business – Etech, Etech Insights, ETS & Etech Social Media Solutions. He is passionate, driven, and an energetic business leader with a strong desire to remain ahead of the curve in outsourcing solutions and service delivery.

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