Though AI has a long and fascinating history that stretches back half a century, we have arrived at a watershed moment in its evolution. AI technologies are progressing and evolving at a remarkably rapid rate and are transforming society, commerce and customer service. Those who had doubts about AI’s capacity for change have been proven wrong and it is increasingly clear that AI tools will revolutionise much of our lives. However, there are still important questions and concerns surrounding AI implementation that we need to engage with. Chief amongst those is the relationship between AI technology and human employees. In this article, we explore the ways AI tech can augment human capabilities and discuss the impact AI will have on human agents in the contact centre. It Is Not an Either/Or Choice Much of the media discourse surrounding AI implementation focuses on a ‘replacement’ narrative. It suggests AI will supplant human employees, leaving many without jobs. In large part, this is fear-mongering and overstatement. Many experts believe AI will primarily augment and complement human employees, improving their ability to perform their work and driving efficiencies. This future is one where humans and AI work side by side to deliver superior customer service and reduce costs. Of course, we cannot suggest that AI will not impact employment opportunities at all. AI will subsume some roles. However, implementation will create others. Organisations will need trained prompters and new regulatory roles will emerge. There will be changes for many employees. But in most cases, agents will find themselves working with and alongside AI applications. To better understand what that looks like in practice, let's examine several ways AI can augment human agents and improve performance. \tAutomating Routine Enquiries AI-powered Chatbots can handle routine and repetitive customer inquiries, such as frequently asked questions, product information and order status. They can provide instant responses, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex, nuanced and demanding issues. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Automating-Routine-Enquiries.jpg \tIntelligent Routing AI algorithms can efficiently route customer inquiries to the most suitable human agent based on factors like expertise, workload or language skills. They ensure customers are connected with the right person, resulting in fewer transferred inquiries and improved customer satisfaction. find out about Inform's Intelligent IVR \tAutomated CRM Processes AI can execute many manual, data-input tasks that occur at the end of every enquiry. For instance, following a telephony enquiry, AI technology can submit a transcript, create an enquiry summary, detail key points and input the agreed next steps into an organisation’s CRM. It saves the agent a significant amount of time and enables them to field more calls. \tData Analysis and Predictive Analytics AI can analyse vast amounts of customer data, such as interactions, purchase history, and feedback, to identify patterns, trends, and customer preferences. These insights can help agents tailor their approach, offer personalised recommendations, and improve overall customer experience. By leveraging historical data and AI algorithms, contact centres can also predict customer behaviour, identify potential issues and take proactive measures. For example, AI can identify customers likely to churn, enabling agents to reach out with retention offers or additional support and increasing customer loyalty. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Data-Analysis-and-Predictive-Analytics.jpg \tKnowledge Management and Real-Time Assistance AI can assist human agents by providing relevant information, solutions and recommendations during customer interactions. It can quickly search and retrieve knowledge from databases, FAQs and past interactions, empowering agents with up-to-date and accurate information. As the technology evolves, it can use features like Sentiment Analysis to detect customer emotions, identify satisfaction levels and map customer behaviour, then recommend a course of action (such as particular script prompts or enquiry solutions) to the agent. This will occur as the conversation is taking place and results will be fed back into the AI to further refine the advice provided. The Human Touch Is Essential Though AI can automate a significant amount of the customer service process, it cannot offer customers the “human touch.” While the human touch is somewhat of an abstract concept, it typically centres on ideas of empathy, nuance and emotional intelligence. In all these regards, humans will still play a critical role in customer service delivery. The human touch is both necessary for high-quality customer service and regularly demanded by customers. In certain situations, customers will want to speak to a human representative and will always require that option. This will always be the case for the vulnerable, elderly and those who struggle with automation. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/The-Human-Touch-Is-Essential.jpgRecognising and Preparing for New Human Roles As AI is implemented throughout the customer service sector, we can expect human roles and responsibilities to shift, rather than disappear. Consequently, organisations must consider how they can re-skill and re-train agents to take advantage of these new opportunities. Whether it is ensuring regulatory compliance with AI and data privacy legislation, overseeing AI automation or prompting Large Language Models (LLMs), employees need to adapt to the changes occurring throughout the customer service sector. However, employers also have a responsibility to employees and should help facilitate this transition where possible. They should view the developments as positive upskilling of their skills making them ready for the new ways of working providing improved customer service delivery. Real Value Is in Human-AI InterplayWhile some organisations are still unsure how AI will impact them, most are beginning to implement advanced AI tools and develop long-term strategies for transformation. In these cases, defining and designing the relationship between humans and AI applications will determine the success of the implementation process. To extract maximum value from AI technology, organisations need to understand human agents’ place in any future customer service system. This involves asking the following questions: \tHow can we use AI to improve agent performance? \tWhere is the human touch still essential? \tWhat aspects of customer service delivery can be fully automated? \tWhat new roles will our agents need to adopt? The organisations that make the most of AI technology will not be those that implement AI the fastest or most extensively. They will be the organisations that best exploit human-AI synergies. https://www.inform-comms.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Real-Value-Is-in-Human-AI-Interplay.jpgThe AI Hype Is Real - What Next?While AI can augment human customer service agents, the human touch remains essential. AI systems can enhance efficiency, accuracy, and productivity, but human agents bring empathy, creativity and problem-solving skills that are critical in complex or emotionally charged situations. The ideal approach is to leverage AI as a supportive tool that complements human agents, delivering an enhanced customer experience. At Inform, we have considerable experience developing innovative customer service solutions. That experience has equipped us with an understanding that the how of implementation is just as important as the what. An excellent piece of technology can be rendered next to useless by poor implementation. That’s why our team offers your organisation extensive advice, guidance and expertise when we deliver our industry-leading solutions. We provide more than just technical solutions, we provide the expertise required to maximise their value. Our expert team have been providing AI and Intelligent customer self-service solutions for over 30 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line to find out more.