You might have noticed how easily Watson, a supercomputer made by IBM, went straight to the final of UK Double Jeopardy TV show, where he crushed his human opponents.
That was 4 years back, in 2011. Isn’t that scary? The ability of the machine to understand spoken questions, find the answers and synthesize it to fluent English? I believe that many contact center professional must have started thinking about how the technology would eventually transform the whole industry. Will people actually be necessary any more?
And things are getting even worse for contact center agents’ future. In a study conducted and published by the Oxford University in 2013, telemarketers are selected as the most endangered group of employees soon to be replaced by a machine. With 99% probability, in upcoming years, people will no longer execute this job.
Abstract for download:
This study only mentions telemarketers, in the meaning of outbound sales. When I am so lucky to be contacted by a sales agent I understand why – scripted, almost inhuman dialogues keep striking my ears again and again. If there is someone to sell me their service or goods it will definitely be a person that doesn’t act like a machine (without actually to be a machine, yet).
Without any doubt, the problem is not in the evolving technology but rather in how contact center agents, at least those in outbound, are motivated. On one hand it only makes sense to reward agents for a completed business care. On the other hand, if the agent would be able to motivate the potential customer to visit the web site where he could (at the time convenient for him) complete the order wouldn’t that make more sense?
It probably would because expecting any customer to complete the order over the phone is simply an obsolete scenario. Unfortunately, there are no technologies that would help pairing customers motivated by a sales call with the real order other than filling in some kind of a promotion code.
With all these “multi-channel”, even “omni-channel” approaches, we should maybe go back to the roots of making business. And that is one-on-one interaction between a seller that is able to understand the needs of the customer, and the customer, who at that time must be in a purchasing mood.
As long as contact center agents act human, I see no chance of replacing them with a bunch of cables. But those who only lend their voice in order to read the script should really start thinking about shifting their career somewhere else.
– Václav Martin, CEO AgentBalance