Don’t worry about which jobs will be replaced by AI systems. Instead, try to understand aspects that will be replaced and hone those skills in your call center. Automation and human agents can beneficially work two aspects of the same job.
Knowledge and Skills That Won’t Be Automated
Your agents possess a wide range of skills. Some of them are indeed easily automated. But, the interpersonal skills required to connect with your customers on a human level are inimitable. They require intimate knowledge of the way context and emotion give meaning to conversations.
Soft skills are an interpersonal skill that enables agents to relate to your customers and garner trust. They give life to the conversations and build relationships.
Empathy is a skill that lets you see a problem or situation from another person’s perspective. One part of your brain perceives emotions while the cognitive part of your brain tries to understand why.
Empathy in the contact center helps your agents act compassionately toward your customers. This translates to an experience in which your customers feel respected and heard.
Teach your agents empathy by providing specific training in which they role-play as customers. This gives them a chance to experience what it’s like to be on the other end of the conversation. Ask them to talk through these experiences and label their feelings. Agents that can accurately label a customer’s experience are more empathetic.
The reality of the call center is that sometimes your customers just aren’t happy. But, this doesn’t mean they should be walking away with a bad customer experience. Agents are responsible for making the customer journey smooth, no matter the bumps in the road.
It takes creativity to turn negatives into positives.
Creativity is also required to solve those problems that don’t quite fit a mold. To encourage creative problem solving you can:
- Make sure agents have a solid knowledge base of products and service
- Encourage growth by praising efforts
- Empower agents
Active listening is more than just hearing what your customers are saying. It shows engagement and is an important part of the customer experience. Active listening encourages trust and shows that agents place value on the conversation.
Your agents show they are actively listening by providing feedback throughout the conversation. They can ask clarifying questions, paraphrase once the customer is speaking, and use phatic expressions.
Practicing this communication skill is the only way to acquire it. Sentiment analysis uses AI to gauge the emotional tone of a conversation and can give agents the practice they need. It can listen along in real-time and provide prompts and suggestions to help your agents practice active listening.
Using machine learning, automated systems can convincingly imitate human conversations. But, one skill they have not yet been able to master is recognizing conversational context.
Human language is often ambiguous. Contextual recognition lets us make sense of the vagaries and nuances of speech. It requires a deep knowledge of language and doesn’t always fit into a predictable pattern. Effective communication depends on the correct assessment of each conversation.
Encourage agents to develop this interpersonal skill by:
- Modeling contextual reading
- Role playing
- Reinforcement learning
Soft Skills are Automation-Proof
The future contact center workforce looks like a combination of automated processes and human agents. While the use of AI systems to accomplish routine tasks increases the efficiency of the call center, automated systems can not be programmed for emotional intelligence (EQ).
To make sure your agents are developing skills that won’t be automated, training should center around honing strong interpersonal skills.
Successful customer interactions depend on at least one party excelling in conversation. Make that person your agent.