Humans vs. Robots: Are the Droids Taking Our Call Center Jobs?

Spoken | August 9, 2016

Humans vs droids in the call center

It’s no secret that customer service expectations are high and growing higher as new technologies help streamline communications between brands and consumers. But when it comes to the contact center space, business leaders must consider how far to take new technologies. That is, should modern technology tools, such as robots, be optimized to replace humans in the workplace?

A recent TED Radio Hour talk addressed this topic when it asked, “What do robots do better than humans, and how can we improve our lives by building better robots?” The conversation included clips from Andrew McAfee’s TED talk called “Are Droids Taking Our Jobs?” and Cynthia Breazeal’s “The Rise of Personal Robots.” Both speakers discussed the potential for robots to revitalize our society and the way that we, as humans, work and live.

Should we let robots take over the contact center?

What about robots and automation in the contact center? When we relate this back to the call center, the question for business leaders is whether or not to encourage automation to reduce, change or even eliminate the jobs of customer service agents. Given that robots and automation are most often implemented not specifically to eliminate jobs but to either save costs or to improve the customer experience, organizations have to balance customer needs with agent happiness as well as the bottom line.

In fact, McAfee’s TED talk focused on the positive impact of technology relieving humans of certain workloads. He said, “So, yeah, the droids are taking our jobs, but focusing on that fact misses the point entirely. The point is that when we are freed up to do other things … I am very confident what we’re going to do is reduce poverty and drudgery and misery around the word.” In essence, McAfee is saying that if humans can identify which tasks are better-suited for robots, we can save time and money that can be better spent on developing more impactful strategies built for success.

Which jobs are robots taking?

Building on McAfee’s idea, let’s explore the types of technologies that contact center leaders ought to consider implementing—whether or not they replace humans—to improve and streamline their day-to-day business practices to yield a better customer experience.

  • Intelligent routing: Manually routing calls and identifying which agents are best-suited to handle particular inquiries can be a rather tedious task for contact center employees. And when faced with tedious responsibilities, employees are likely to make mistakes—after all, they’re only human. As such, introducing an intelligent routing mechanism as part of your company’s IVR system can greatly reduce error and enable agents to focus on more pertinent tasks. Intelligent routing has produced quantifiable results for many companies. In fact, one organization saw a 30 percent decrease in misrouted calls by automating this contact center function.
  • Smart IVR: A truly comprehensive and intuitive IVR system can automate tasks that would normally bore contact center agents to tears. For instance, with Smart IVR, an automated system can handle mundane customer service inquires such as when products shipped, when packages are due to arrive and if a flight is on schedule. Answering these preliminary questions on the “robot” level and, subsequently, delivering this information to an agent makes for a shorter, sweeter interaction. In fact, one business increased its self-service automation rates by 73 percent after implementing the Spoken Smart IVR. That is, more preliminary customer inquiries were solved by an automated agent rather than a live agent, saving time for both employees and customers.
  • Advanced security: Security is a major concern for customers who share their personal information—from home address to credit card numbers—over the phone. As such, contact centers might want to consider implementing a robot in the form of an automated Secure IVR that can take the caller’s credit card information in a PCI-compliant manner–without the agent ever seeing or hearing it and even masking the information on the secure call recording.

Do we want the jobs the robots are doing?

When it comes to the call center, robots aren’t exactly driving humans to extinction. Agents still exist, and they still are the harbingers of excellent customer service. We like to think that this automation is allowing agents to thrive in the increasingly competitive customer service landscape. After all, isn’t there a job you do that you would prefer to give to a droid?

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