Automation is at the heart of contact centers, and it is the enabler that allows for efficient and effective customer...
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New technology may also impact contact center agents from both a positive and negative perspective. Organizations must ensure that they are aware of, and address, the potential negative aspects of specific contact center automation technology from the agent perspective.
Initially, the concern was that automation would eliminate the need for contact center agents. This concern has not become a reality, as there is still tremendous demand for contact center agents.
What has happened is that new technology has changed some of the rules of the game. These changes provide better tools, but have also changed how agents perform their daily functions, as well as how they are managed. These are the types of changes that may be challenging to agents, and that need to be addressed by organizations.
Let's take a look at some of the key contact center automation tools and see how they balance the scale of efficiency and effectiveness, along with their impact on contact center agents:
1. Skill-based routing
Skill-based routing (SBR) directs customer calls to the next available agent who has the appropriate skill set to handle the customer inquiry.
It is both more efficient and more effective to send billing inquiry calls to agents who have the best skills and training to provide accurate answers related to billing. This also has a positive impact on the agents themselves by driving a high success rate for handled inquiries.
However, SBR may have a negative impact on contact center agents if routing rules are not properly set up. There is the risk that some agents may be much busier than other agents. If calls are routed to agents who have the highest customer satisfaction results, those agents will get a larger number of calls than agents who have lower customer satisfaction results.
2. Workforce management software
Workforce management (WFM) software assures that agents are scheduled and available when needed by customers.
WFM software looks at historical trends and projects future demand. Once the demand is established, the software will develop schedules that optimize the use of resources utilizing predefined parameters, such as service-level goals.
WFM software has a positive impact for contact center agents because, when it develops schedules, all the agents should have a similar level of utilization and, therefore, should not get burned out during busy times or end up twiddling their thumbs during quieter times.
WFM software could have a negative impact on contact center agents because agents may have to work shifts that are not preferable. Shifts may begin/end during any hour of the day, and there may be requirements to work weekends/holidays.
Self-service technologies, such as voice response, allow customers to receive answers to their inquiries without interacting with a contact center agent.
Self-service allows organizations to reduce costs by requiring fewer agents and improves the customer experience by allowing customers to interact with the organization through their choice of channel.
Self-service as a contact center automation tool has a positive impact on contact center agents because it reduces the number of repetitive inquiries that need to be resolved. A typical interaction that is now handled by self-service is a balance inquiry question for a bank account.
Self-service may have a negative impact on contact center agents because they will have to resolve a higher percentage of challenging and complex inquiries, without being able to take a breather on simpler transactions.
4. Quality recording software
Quality recording software allows organizations to listen to select calls and provide feedback to agents regarding their performance.
This feedback is important for the continuous improvement of contact center agents because it helps improve an agent's ability to provide accurate answers and communicate more effectively with customers. The resulting improvement in performance has a positive impact on the agents, as well.
Quality recording software may have a negative impact on contact center agents because they may feel like they are being watched by Big Brother, and if the feedback is not presented in an effective manner, it may be perceived as a gotcha technology.
5. Knowledge management software
Knowledge management software provides a repository of information that a contact center agent can access to assist in resolving an inquiry.
As a result of constant change in the contact center, it is very challenging for agents to remember all the policies and procedures. A knowledge management system contains all the policies and procedures, along with other critical information in a single version of the truth.
Knowledge management software has a positive impact on contact center agents because it allows agents to easily access information in a fast-changing environment.
It may also have a negative impact on contact center agents when search technology is not easy to use, or if the system does not have accurate and up-to-date information.
Automation is a very valuable tool in the contact center to drive down expenses and to improve the customer experience.
It is also critical for organizations to understand how contact center automation affects the role of a contact center agent, from both a positive and negative perspective.
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