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Dawn of the bionic contact centre agent

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Karin Kruger, operations director at Innovation Group South Africa, discusses why the evolving contact centre agent role will be vital in reshaping the industry, along with customer perception of businesses and brands, and millennial career options.
“Good day and welcome to our convenient automated self-service customer care line. Please listen to the available options and make a selection. Press 1 for billing. Press 2 for administration. Press 3 for …”
Five minutes later and you realise you got side-tracked and stopped listening.
“You have not made a selection, please make a selection so we can better assist you. Press 1 for …”
You growl in frustration. Here we go again! This time, you pay close attention, finally making a selection … only to be redirected to another series of prompts. And, all the while, you’re just waiting to hear the only thing that can save you from that frustratingly robotic automated voice: “… or press 9 to speak to an agent.”
Finally!
This is the contact centre of today, or at least, this is how most people think of it. In their minds, the contact centre agent is a dying breed, rendered almost entirely redundant by new technologies.
But surprisingly, the opposite is true.
Millennials are so in tune with their tech that they’re practically bionic, and most of us baby boomers wouldn’t know how to use 90% of the apps on our phones without them. The same can be said for the technology which the contact centre of tomorrow will operate on — we’ll need savvy digital natives who we can rely on to run it. That’s why the introduction of new technology into the industry is actually gradually increasing the need for agents, and reinventing them at the same time.
Gone are the days of the contact centre agent as a disembodied voice on the other side of the phone — an easy target for angry callers to vent their frustration on. Instead, the customer experience orientated contact centres of tomorrow will require agents to fulfil a more exciting multi-facetted role.
They will be well-versed communication specialists on all platforms, whether it be over the phone, email, WhatsApp, Facetime, or social media. They will work with data provided by personal user preference profiles, speech analytics and biometric identifiers to deliver the best possible, personalised experience to callers, while ensuring the security of their confidential information. And finally, they will be master communicators and networkers.
Clearly, digital transformation in the contact centre industry is being built around agents, not over them. So, like the motor in any machine, they will be at the heart of the contact centres of tomorrow, driving memorable customer experiences.
Since their attitude toward their job will be a great determining force in garnering brand loyalty and stimulating growth for businesses and brands in the long run, their value as staff in the modern working world is about to skyrocket.
Yes, the contact centre of tomorrow is primed to become one of the most exciting career tracks for the multi-talented and ultra-connected millennial generation in the years to come. And it’s the companies that are ahead of the game, investing in new business processes to take the industry further that will attract the best candidates. This should be every organisations aim if they hope to disrupt and succeed in this digital era.
So, ask yourself, are you ready for the contact centre of tomorrow?