As the world rapidly evolves, the contact center is no exception. In 2023, we find ourselves at the crossroads of two powerful forces: the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the continuation of hybrid and remote work environments. Calabrio’s annual report, State of the Contact Center 2023: Activating the Agent of the Future, delves into this emerging terrain, shedding light on the pivotal role AI plays in shaping the contact center trends of tomorrow.
Intriguingly, the report doesn’t predict a contact center future where AI replaces agents. It predicts a future where AI becomes the trusted sidekick to your brand guardian. Drawing insights from 400 contact center managers across 10 countries, spanning four age groups and six industries, the results are clear: AI is set to transform the contact center experience, but it won’t be pushing agents to the sidelines.
Over two-thirds of contact center managers anticipate an increase in the number of agents over the next decade. Their vision for contact center AI revolves around making agents’ jobs easier and more productive. It’s not about replacing human agents. It’s about augmenting their abilities. However, when technology removes a large portion of mundane tasks, agents will need to adapt to embrace complex customer inquiries and become true brand guardians.
The report showcases various ways AI can optimize business processes and maximize agent performance. According to managers, the most impactful areas include:
• Augmenting agent and manager productivity (25%): AI empowers agents to work smarter, not harder, by automating routine tasks and providing real-time insights.
• Optimizing forecasting and scheduling (20%): AI’s predictive capabilities ensure the right agents are in the right place at the right time, enhancing efficiency.
• Measuring and understanding contact center productivity (20%): AI-driven analytics provide invaluable insights into agent performance, helping organizations refine their strategies.
• AI-driven chatbot services to customers (20%): Chatbots powered by AI can handle routine inquiries, freeing up agents for more complex interactions.
This focus on how AI can improve productivity is critical as customer experience (CX) organizations are looking for ways to boost productivity post-pandemic. Just 49% of managers believe that remote workers are meeting productivity expectations today, which is 24% lower than in 2020.
While AI holds immense potential, contact center managers recognize a crucial need for human-to-human interactions. Critical thinking (23%) and adaptability (22%) are deemed the most valued skills for agents in the future. Strikingly, these are also the skills managers perceive as most lacking among their agents.
In a world where AI handles routine tasks, critical thinking becomes the agent’s superpower, enabling them to navigate intricate customer inquiries with finesse.
The report underscores the importance of training and skills development in attracting and retaining talented agents. Both current (35%) and future (30%) success hinge on nurturing agent skillsets.
While 45% of contact center managers believe their agents currently possess all the required skills, there’s room for improvement. Comprehensive training initiatives are the bridge between today’s agents and the agents of the future.
In this ever-evolving landscape, organizations must prioritize harnessing AI’s potential to activate agents rather than replace them. AI is not a substitute for human interaction; it’s a catalyst for enhancing it.
As the report unveils, the contact center of 2023 is a place where AI and human agents coexist, each bringing their unique strengths to deliver exceptional customer experiences. It’s a world where critical thinking, adaptability, and continuous learning remain the cornerstones of the agent’s success. And it’s a future where contact centers evolve, thrive, and continue to exceed customer expectations.