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AI & remote work transform contact centre industry
Thu, 4th Jan 2024

The contact centre industry, a vital component of service-oriented economies such as that of Australia and New Zealand, has been seeing significant changes due to two major forces – the growth of remote working arrangements and the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, more than 90% of contact centres have successfully adopted remote operations, and a majority of them utilise advanced technologies, including AI, to optimise their functions, according to a survey by the Australian Customer Service Association.

Calabrio, a prominent player in the realm of contact centre management, has recently released its State of the Contact Centre 2023 Report which sheds light on the ways in which these transformations can be leveraged to benefit the contact centre agents as well as the overall state of the industry.

In Australia and New Zealand, contact centres face common challenges such as attracting and retaining talented employees and equipping their workforce with flexible, AI-powered tools for them to excel. The report suggests that contact centres in these regions are steadily growing their presence by 14% with a majority of them acknowledging the positive impact remote work has on customer experiences. The integration of AI, contrary to popular belief, is forecasted to increase the demand for human agents, with 25% of contact centres predicting a rise over the next 1-5 years and 34% over the next 5-10 years.

To navigate this dynamic shift, contact centre leaders must prepare their frontline teams for successful outcomes. Firstly, deploying technology judiciously and harnessing data effectively is essential. Critical thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, and dedication to continuous learning are considered the most crucial skills to train agents in, for them to be ready for the future. In addition, regular monitoring of key performance metrics is important to stimulate data-driven decisions that drive success.

AI, far from replacing human workers, is expected to increase the contact centre workforce, with 70% of managers expecting a rise in agent numbers over the next decade. AI has the capacity to bolster agent skills and managerial efficiency. The confluence of AI and human agency forms the backbone of a future-ready contact centre.

The employee wellbeing is crucial for contact centres to thrive. An open communication culture, employee recognition, and opportunities for growth are pivotal. Disengagement can lead to productivity reduction and high attrition. During stressful periods, capacities for critical thinking and adaptability were found to be the most affected: tools that help manage stress and instil a sense of control in agents are therefore essential. AI has a major role in mitigating this strain by automating tasks and offering real-time support, ultimately enhancing agent satisfaction and wellbeing.

Continuous training and development of employees remains a key strategy, as per the report. Only 17% of managers believe all their agents possess the necessary skills. Therefore, a persistent focus on technical proficiency, empathy, and adaptability is necessary. Taken together with a culture of active learning, this equips the workforce to stay current with industry trends and evolving customer needs.

Calabrio's report urges contact centre leaders to understand the evolving landscape and equip their agents with the necessary skills and tools, which essentially includes embracing AI, focusing on continuous training, and prioritising agent engagement.