Time and time again, call centres have been voted one of the most frustrating things to use. I think some are getting worse with the use of technology not better.

There has been talk for years about call centre staff being particularly at risk from the Artificial Intelligence (AI). Gartner are suggesting that things are now starting to happen. At the end of 2017 about 70% of all use cases in AI were related to customer service and call centres.


The Robots are Coming.

With all the talk of “the robots are coming” and “adapt or die” headlines. I cannot put into words how frustrated I get when I call a bank, a telco or a utilities supplier. I’m obviously being handled by an automated handler that does not understand my northern accent, or what I am trying to achieve.

We go round and round in circles over the same questions where the robot checks my response by repeating it back to me incorrectly. Then says “is that correct” and I shout “NO” to be faced with “OK, let’s try again….”.

With the Bank of England’s chief economist warning that the UK requires a skills revolution to avoid AI leaving vast swathes of people “technologically unemployed”. I cannot be the only person with these frustrations and at some stage the “customer satisfaction surveys” have to be taken into account. It’s one of my questions now when I am looking at switching suppliers, are your call centres manned or automated.

Regarding Bots and AI, I get it software is cheap and humans are expensive. The wider roll out is sort of inevitable, I just hope the technology improves!

On a more positive note I was really pleased to read a recent article about a contact centre where the people handling the calls are human. However there is also a robot listening into the call, helping the contact centre agent to deal with the customer. The robot augments the human to make them more efficient, not replace them.


Reduces Call Duration.

Allstate Insurance use the robot technology to provide the information staff need to answer phone-based customer queries. This reduces call duration from 4.6 to 4.2 minutes on average. That might not sound much, but those saved seconds add up across millions of calls in an industry where time is money.

The example is the bot listens in a customer call, interprets the words and emotional content – is the customer irate about something going wrong?  The bot then automatically brings up appropriate response information on the call centre worker’s computer screen.

As soon as the customer says they want to cancel a credit card, the technology understands that, goes ahead and gets the instructions for the agent on how to cancel the card.

To conclude, more work with tech is needed to make the customer experience a more pleasant journey rather than having a negative effect on my blood pressure. This needs to be the focus rather than a race to replace humans with software.

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