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Agents vs Robots – Should It Really Be a Fight?

10101The notion of robots taking over our jobs is as old as the notion of AI itself. However, even though successful businesses have proven time and again that human workers are still crucial and will not be replaced by artificial copies in the near future, whenever a new piece of technology hits the market, the same question pops into everyone’s blog feeds again.

Here we will be looking at the ongoing debate on human vs robot and explore the advantages every side brings to the contact center industry.

How Does AI Change the Landscape?

Let’s start with a recent study conducted by ManpowerGroup. The authors surveyed over 19,000 employers in more than 44 countries on the impact of automation in job growth. To put it simply: they asked a bunch of businesses if they’re planning to replace humans with robots in the near future. The overwhelming majority of respondents said no.

Artificial Intelligence has been wrongly depicted by the media for far too long. It’s not as easy as writing code on a computer and voila, you have a self-sufficient bot that can perform a myriad of tasks without food or rest. It takes years of feeding it information for it to learn from different scenarios and create a vast database of examples that could help it crudely replicate human instinct.

Now moving to the more specific niche of contact centers, in a perfect scenario AI would be able to solve simple to moderate client queries by accessing the customer’s history with the company, pre-existing scenarios where the same problems were fixed, and company policies.

In reality, all that a state-of-the-art AI can do in a contact center comes in the form of IVR – Interactive Voice Solutions. And what it does is make the life of agents easier by triaging customers and sending them to the right agent according to their needs. Now there are different types of IVR - from the simple “for department x press 2” to the more sophisticated speech recognition patterns where you state your name and trouble and get directed to a specialized agent. Both do the same thing.

We at NobelBiz went one step further from IVR and integrated it in a dynamic business router, or DBR, that can detect incoming channels through voice, email, WhatssApp, Facebook, Twitter and all other supported channels.

Are Humans Easily Replaceable?

Coming back to the study I cited earlier, a staggering 87% of respondents declared that they want to keep or increase headcount for the next two years as a result of automating their processes.

That’s because AI and humans can do different things. While AI may streamline the process for a contact center agent, and can maybe even solve the most common problems a customer might have, they still lack human intuition and resourcefulness. For now, if a problem hasn’t happened in an exact same way and there are no exact solutions and scenarios to learn from, an AI can only do so much.

The human factor is represented by intuition, complex problem-solving abilities and quick thinking. You don’t have that from a robot, not yet, and not in the near future. Human agents are, at the moment, far more valuable than a robot. In fact, another survey discovered that almost 90% of users prefer talking to a live agent.

Adjusting Our Perspective

The best possible way to benefit from the efficiency of a robot and the ingenuity of humans is to cleverly combine the two into one well-oiled, efficient company that provides the best and the fastest customer service. For example, our DBR technology is based on a smart AI, but it works best when supervisors decide the order of omnichannel interactions because they know what the customer wants better than an algorithm. While DBR does an excellent job making sure all queues and routing are in check, humans are finally the ones who finish the job and complete the customer interaction.

I argue that we should let robots deal with the first simple steps, and humans resolve the more complicated issues. Better yet, we should equip agents with the best tools to allow them to offer a better customer experience. You can’t teach a robot to interact with customers on multiple channels yet, but you can adopt a solution that makes your humans as efficient as the AI everybody’s praising.