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The Future of the Contact Centre Agent: Could Automation Replace Your Workforce?

1st October, 2015

Deloitte have recently released brand new research that predicts one-third of jobs in the UK are at risk from automation. It reports that technology, automation and robotics will cause a significant shift in the UK labour market in the next twenty years, with one-third (35%) of existing jobs at risk of being replaced.

Certain aspects of a job are simpler to automate than others, therefore social workers, nurses, therapists and psychologists are among the least likely occupations to be taken over as assisting and caring for others, which involves empathy, is a crucial part of the job. In contrast, while certain sales jobs like telemarketers and bank clerks may involve interactive tasks they do not necessarily need a high degree of social intelligence, leaving them exposed to automation. This of course includes call centre workers who are considered to be in a position of high risk of being replaced by automation.

When using the BBC’s “Will a robot take your job?” tool it shows that those in call and contact centre occupations will be “fairly likely” (75%) to be automated in the next decade. In fact, Gartner predict that by 2018 2/3 of customer service interactions will be self-service, a massive shift from today where the majority of requests involve human interaction. However, whilst automation will take a large chunk of a call centres workload, it does not mean that all agents will become redundant. Instead there will be a change in the role of the traditional call centre agent.

Instead of managing the majority of customer requests across multiple channels, agents will become more specialised in dealing with complex customer enquiries. Nicola Millard, Head of Customer Insight and Futures at BT, explains “In 2020 the primary function of telephone based customer service will be for complex problem solving. She explains that agents will focus more on complex enquiries and spending time resolving issues, whilst the simpler, high volume repetitive type requests such as store opening times, stock availability, balance enquiries, password reset requests and meter readings will become automated.”

Therefore contact centres need to not only think about putting the right technology in place to facilitate the move towards automation, but how this will fit in with their current Omni-channel customer service approach. Self-service should be introduced as another channel that is seamlessly integrated alongside existing technology. The contact centre needs to ensure that their solution can not only identify and automate simply customer requests but also be able to seamlessly identify and route more complex requests to live agents for human assistance. This seamless approach will ensure that customers are receiving a seamless customer experience whilst the contact centre is intelligently managing their channels in the most productive way.

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