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The Hybrid Contact Center Workforce of 2030

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It's 2030, and one of your agents is making mistakes. But because it is a robot that’s malfunctioning, you don’t need to give it a warning; you do need to get it fixed rapidly, as it’s hurting your customer service performance. The underlying cause is simple: IT released a new version of your CRM and neglected to make the appropriate changes to the robot’s underlying instruction code. This will be a relatively common issue in 10 years when contact centers and many other functions in organizations are staffed with a combination of humans, intelligent AI-enabled assistants, and robots.

WHAT YOUR WORKFORCE WILL LOOK LIKE

The contact center workforce has already started to change. Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) and attended robot process automation (RPA, also known as robots) are being used to enhance productivity and service quality. IVAs are replacing IVRs and other enterprise self-service solutions and are increasing the volume of fully automated interactions. Attended RPA is reducing the amount of time live agents spend handling interactions while also giving them access to the information and/or guidance they need to increase value to the customer and enterprise (see figure). In 10 years, contact centers will be staffed with IVAs, RPAs, and a smaller number of live agents, the latter of whom will spend their time on high-value interactions.

To support these new “interaction centers,” service departments will employ coders to create the IVAs and attended RPAs, business analysts to keep them optimized, and AI managers to oversee the projects. This represents the first major shift in employment opportunities for the contact center industry. Live agents who are effective at interacting with customers and complex systems will still have a place, and the most talented among them, well trained in department procedures and processes, will have the opportunity to be promoted to the analyst, coder, or manager ranks.

RECRUITING AND MANAGING A HYBRID WORKFORCE

Interaction center managers will need to possess a unique skill set to manage and optimize a workforce of live agents and robots. They’ll need outstanding interpersonal and communications skills to interact effectively with live agents, supervisors, coders, business analysts, AI managers, and peers throughout the organization. They must also be process-improvement specialists, as they’ll need to continue to find automation and interaction-enhancement opportunities. This represents another major shift in interaction center staffing, which will cascade down throughout the department. There will be two categories of supervisors: one dedicated to managing live agents, and the second to overseeing IVAs and robots. (In some organizations supervisors will do both.) The live agents will be highly trained and knowledgeable customer advocates who can work with clients in a variety of digital and voice channels and are comfortable interacting with customers, robots, and automation.

DMG recommends that companies develop training programs to facilitate the transition to a more automated interaction center. The best analysts will be people who are familiar with the business and current policies and procedures and are logical, technically savvy, and open to change. Finding coders to build IVAs and RPAs is proving difficult, which means that companies need to develop talent internally (or use consultants). Companies are encouraged to build an AI and robotics “center of excellence” to develop the required training programs.

IVAs and robots are proliferating, and these automated and AI-enabled solutions are changing the dynamics of contact centers for the better. They are allowing contact centers to broaden their business responsibilities while improving efficiency and quality. They are simultaneously elevating the quality of work and breadth of roles and opportunities for live agents, supervisors, and managers. And these new roles and responsibilities will ultimately alter the perception and pay scale of contact center resources. 

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary author and speaker, Fluss drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the service industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

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