by Phil Kitchen, Director, Contact Centre Panel
In June 2018, we wrote ‘Rise of the Robots’, a short article which struck a chord with many people. Over a year later, we think it’s time to see whether the future we worried about is happening… yet, or at all.
Our initial opinion piece questioned the fears raised in an article published by The Guardian on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation on UK call-centre workforce. In May 2019 we revisited the subject, publishing an in-depth article which canvassed the opinions of leading minds on the subject of AI and Digital Disruption.
What were the predictions?
According to the Guardian’s sources, 45,700 jobs will disappear from the Contact Centre sector by 2021. This is a huge number of course, but needs to be put in context. 1.3 million people in the UK are currently employed by around 6,200 Contact Centres – meaning that the predicted shrinkage in jobs is around 3.5%.
What does this mean for customer service and outsourcing?
There’s definitely an unstoppable momentum towards consumers shopping and seeking customer service via the internet. We’ve seen the effect this is already having on our high streets with the failure of some major retail names. However, people are not stopping shopping, they’re simply choosing the best way to shop for themselves.
Unfortunately, big decisions by some major users of outsourced Contact Centres will affect jobs as alternative providers are selected. However, this is usually the result of roles moving, not disappearing… and in most cases this movement is driven by brands seeking better performance, not by lower consumer demand for great customer experiences.
Continuing developments in AI and automation will deliver more effective ways to complete repeatable tasks, potentially reducing the number of agents required to perform the more mundane aspects of serving consumers. However, AI is a long way from delivering complete customer service solutions – even the experts we’ve spoken to agree that the major opportunities for AI and automation lie in speeding up the correct routing of enquiries, or solving the simplest and most frequent of problems.
Are there any opportunities from these shifts in technology?
Improvements in AI and internet-based customer transactions will reduce the volume of calls which human beings need to handle, we can’t argue against that. We can safely assume therefore, that in the future Contact Centres will need fewer agents overall.
However, good automation and AI implementations will leave more time for agents to deliver a better service to consumers with more complex needs. This can only be good for consumers and agents alike.
At CCP we still can’t imagine a future where the human element of customer service and outbound contact doesn’t play a critical part. Contact centres will continue to provide a vital human interaction for those in-depth enquiries that robotic systems simply can’t deal with. As a result, agents will need to be trained to deal with more complex situations and empowered to deliver genuinely human judgement calls, which should increase their value as individuals and improve the loyalty of consumers to the brands that get it right.
For brands, building the right customer service experience often means choosing the right outsourced Contact Centre, which ultimately has huge potential to enable excellent customer service to be delivered using a combination of well-implemented automation and well trained, properly recognised human agents. In turn, happy customers of course become more loyal and this results in continued and increased spending.
Finding the right Contact Centre with the right skills and trained agents is critical, if you’re to provide an excellent customer experience and improve loyalty from customers to your brand.
At Contact Centre Panel, we have built our business on helping brands to choose their perfect outsourcing match. Our scientific approach and industry expertise results in long-lasting, rewarding business relationships – watch our short video to see how this works.
If you’d like a free no-nonsense, no-obligation evaluation of your current Contact Centre solution, or just a quick chat about how you could improve things, contact us today:
Phone 0114 209 6120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today.