Contact Centers Obsolete in 3 Years: Artificial Intelligence Wipes Out Industry

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I met with Justin Robbins at the Contact Center Expo and we shared some observations with each other on what is going on in the industry. Of course, we were unable to avoid discussing what’s going on with Artificial Intelligence in Contact Centers and what affect it is having – and may have on our industry.

We started talking about all of the hype, hysteria and clickbait titles that we’ve seen and how outlandish some of them can be. And so, I decided to roll the camera and give some fake news and create a clickbait tile of our own. We we’re unable to sustain the comedy for too long because we both have contact center operations experience and have too little patience for the drama.

I always appreciate the opportunity to meet up with Justin because we fuel each other’s passion for the customer, this industry and the people in it.

Here is an edited transcript of our interview:

Jim Rembach: This is Jim with Fast Leader Show and Call Center Coach and I’m with Justin Robbins at ICMI’s Expo.

Now Justin, I think there was a recent announcement that they were going to make to the entire conference that said in three years, none of these people are going to be here because Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to wipe them out and take over. All of their jobs are going to be gone.

Justin Robbins: Yeah, that’s what I understand our industry is going to become obsolete.

We might as well just pack it up and give up while we can is probably what we want to…I, I, I, I’m not buying it.

Jim Rembach: I think we all need to learn how to code maybe.

Justin Robbins: No, I don’t.

Jim, you know to be serious about the topic for a minute. AI still continues to be – I think of a I now as omni-channel was ten years ago. We were all talking about AI is coming and then it’s omni-channel is coming, it’s coming, it’s coming, now it’s here.

And what we talk about than what it looks like now is very different. And so to me I’m thinking AI in some ways it’s kind of here but it is coming.

So, me as I think through the conference this week and I hear some of the keynotes, I do think we should be asking the question of – what will AI and just business intelligence in general look like for our centers. And it’s not going to be making everybody redundant, that that much I know.

Jim Rembach: Yeah and I think you know several people have said – talking about keynotes. And these are people who are actually living the experience are saying how it’s really the important skills that are going to be of high need that we’ll develop. Because when we start looking at the workforce and the way that the workforce is lacking some of those skills it’s really around empathy and Emotional Intelligence that we need to focus.

Justin Robbins: It is and I get really excited for the future this paints for contact centers for two reasons. One, the hope and if we get AI write and we build in the way that I personally feel that it should be built, is we are going to free our agents up to use those skills when it comes to empathy. When it comes to navigating the gray of the customer experience. We’re going to be able to have our agents use those skills and not be caught in a cycle of redundancy of always doing the monotonous mundane tasks.

Second reason why I’m excited though is because for us to get there – to get that place or use AI well it means our knowledge bases, our Business Intelligence, our systems, our processes right now – the work we should be doing is clearly defining them. Outlining them. Having documentation, strong understandings, because great AI is only filled by having a solid foundation of what all that looks like.

So, to me I think it’s an exciting time but there’s a daunting task ahead. No matter what we do with AI right now I think, we do need to be locking in the systems and processes so that we can have that better future.

Jim Rembach: Well there is one other thing that I heard somebody talking about. It’s that a lot of the leaders in our industry are kind of walking on eggshells, in fear of their jobs because of all this AI. I would dare to say that they need to think differently. What do you think?

Justin Robbins: Yeah so, I’m going to back this up with some research that I did probably about a year and a half ago. We looked at what do leaders at the most senior levels in organizations want from the from Artificial Intelligence. It’s not to eliminate agent jobs. It’s not to eliminate the contact center.

It really is to do probably two fundamental things. One is better address some of the problems we’re having with the customer experience where customers are going trying to self-serve and the systems, the programs we put into place just aren’t effective at meeting their needs.

The honest kind of truth to it is that most senior executives, even coming down to contact our leadership, want to know that if they’re investing in human resource to handle their contacts that they’re using their skills to the best of their ability. That they’re not just droning or becoming robots.

Jim we’ve come a long way from scripted service and just this mechanical approach to meeting our customers’ needs. I’m excited executives are saying the customer experiences where they’re going to differentiate and they recognize now that a I can be the enabler. It can augment the experience. But the executives I talk to – they’re not planning to get rid the contact center anytime soon.

Jim Rembach: I would dare to say that now is really time for these leaders in these contact centers to take more of a proactive and even assertive role in actually driving this experience to where it needs to go where I can go.

Justin Robbins: Yeah, CX initiatives in the organization – contact center and leaders in the contact center have to have a voice there. It can’t be driven by marketing. It can’t just be driven by maybe people who have just brick and motor involved or business intelligence. You need to have a well-represented table of voices. The contact center needs to be a role in that.

I think being here at events like this gives those leaders some of the strategic insight to start getting a voice at the table if they don’t have one right now.

Jim Rembach: I’m going to put you on the spot. If you had one recommendation to everybody who’s actually going to be watching this, what would it be?

Justin Robbins: With their contact centers and one recommendation for approaching the future?

Jim Rembach: Absolutely.

Justin Robbins: Jim, you’re making me think here.

This is great. So, I would say that right now to me the biggest thing that I’m going to be thinking about is how I need to be evolving and adapting the role of the frontline and gaining intelligence to the entire customer experience.

I’m I would say that if you’re in a contact center right now and you don’t have a great relationship with marketing, you don’t have a great relationship with your product team, I would focus on building the inroads and creating a relationship. Because if you want to have a seat at the table, if you want to be the voice that’s driving the organization forward, if you want to accomplish your strategic initiatives, it comes down to relationships.

So, the one piece of advice that I have right now is if your contact center has been in a silo, if you feel segmented from the organization you need to be building those in roads. You need to be focusing on those relationships.

So, whether it’s lunch with your marketing leaders or whether it’s just sending some updates to some of your executives about what the contact center is doing, how you’re using customer intelligence, how you’re really trying to understand who they are and what they need and how you’re working to meet those needs.

To me, I know that it sounds like a lot. But to me, my number one thing is I’d focus right now is building relationships with my peers in the organization.

Jim Rembach: Justin Robbins as always, thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom we wish you the very best.

Justin Robbins: Jim, thanks.

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