Becoming Digital: Rise of the Augmented Agent

   

Chatbots are invading customer care, but don’t be too quick to say ‘hasta la vista, baby’ to human agents just yet.

 

Chatbots and AI tools are invading the customer care space. Much like those scary Skynet Cyborgs, they seem to have appeared suddenly from the future in the form of artificially intelligent (AI) computer programs that plan to take over our lives through task automation. Their weapon? Efficiency.

 

Need to order your mother a birthday gift but swamped at work? There’s a chatbot to help you shop. How about give her a visit? Use a chatbot to move some meetings around, transfer some money, and book your flight, hotel, and ground transportation. Before you know it, you’re in South Florida eating ma’s famous meatloaf all with the help of chatty robots.

 

Today, 42% of consumers already use intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) and by 2020, virtual assistant tools are projected to play a role in a majority of commercial interactions between people and businesses. At the same time, consumers are also becoming more self-reliant, informed, and connected. They are utilizing self-help tools such as FAQs, knowledge-bases, and customer communities more than ever.

The growing acceleration of digital, automation and analytics services is rapidly changing the fabric of business process services and outsourcing. – Gartner

For organizations there are also perks. Chatbots help save time and money. No need to sit down, type out an email, or answer a call when Mr. Chatbot can reset a password in a flash.

 

By all accounts, chatbots seem to be ushering in a new era of customer service with automation and efficiency at the forefront of the movement. This leaves companies to address the robot in the room: is it time we say ‘hasta la vista, baby’ to our human agents?

 

Not quite. Organizations will need to invest in evolving their own technology-enhanced, knowledge-empowered army of customer support teams in order to keep up with the changing needs of customers brought on by chatbots and other virtual assistants. Their involvement on the back end will be equally important to effectively fine-tune automated, self-serve tools to ensure they deliver an effective customer experience on the front end.

 

Augmented Agents: The Next Generation

The rise in AI virtual assistants, user-friendly self-service apps, and easy-to-access knowledge forums is creating a new generation of tech-savvy, independent customers. But what happens when Alexa can’t answer, Siri is stumped, and the Forums fail? Consumers will need to interact with a human – a highly trained, emotionally intelligent agent—through their communication channel of choice, be it chat, call, email, or text.

 

This means that the next evolution of customer care agents will need to go beyond providing scripted solutions to categorized problems. To be trusted by customers, agents must be augmented by knowledge. These Augmented Agents must have access to an entire ecosystem of products, services, and software, and understand how all these parts interact. The next generation of agents will need to be tech-focused, inquisitive, and have a knack for all things social and tech.

 

Agents will not only need to handle more complex issues, but must do so with compassion and empathy. If a consumer has to interact with a human agent, it’s likely because all other methods failed. Expect these interactions with consumers to be longer and filled with anxiety and frustration.

 

Luckily, these factors combined will help agents evolve into critical brand ambassadors, providing a make or break experience with long-lasting impact on brand loyalty. In a world of ecommerce, an agent becomes a natural extension, and possibly the only human interaction with the brand. Companies need to make it count.

 

New Realities for a New World

The new world has chatbots and IVA’s handling low hanging fruit queries and requests. Brands must recognize the new a level of preparedness that an agent will need in order to handle the complexity of interactions coming their way. Here’s what we suggest.

 

Keep Humans in the Loop

Successful technology generally needs ongoing human involvement, care, and fine-tuning to accurately understand the context of customers’ comments. Whether they are on the frontlines answering customers or on the backend maintaining the self-service technology, humans need to remain a critical part of your digital transformation strategy.

 

Longer and Continuous Training

The days of ‘churn and burn’ are over. Expect longer and continuous training in order for the agent to fully understand the ecosystem of your services. Consumers will expect agents to be experts not just in your product but the network, apps, operating systems, and devices connected to it.

 

Revisit Key Metrics

New customer needs and standards are driving changes in how businesses support them. Typical key metrics must also evolve to account for the increase of complex issues, longer call times, and multiple channels of support as the new norms.

 

Integrate Data and Knowledge for Cross-Channel Delivery

Using knowledge management tools help keep a customer’s inquiry data intact as they move from one channel to the next. These tools are key to equipping agents with interaction history, accurate data, and allow agents to store and retrieve information faster and more effectively for better collaboration.

 

Final Thoughts

The rise of chatbots and the digital ecosystems they operate in creates a new world for customer care. Though it’s less of man vs. machine, and more of man works with machine, like we’ve done for all of time. As iQor helps our clients roadmap customer-centric digital transformations, we urge them to take into account that augmented agents, armed with AI-powered knowledge management and analytics tools, will be a core component of their service strategy. Intertwine these two worlds correctly, and you’ll have your customers saying, “I’ll be back.”

 

Need help navigating the new world of human and robot customer care? Contact us to set up a chat.