It sometimes seems that the pace of change and innovation is moving faster by the day. To keep ahead requires that you are tuned in and know what trends are shaping the industry. Particularly in the contact centre industry, there has been a lot of talk about robots replacing advisors. Others say that’s a long way off; however, it’s apparent that advisors will need to be digitally skilled to prepare for the changes digital transformation is set to bring.

Trends shaping the contact centre industry

There is a distinct decline in jobs that involve routine and cognitive tasks. A primary reason for this is that robots are far more efficient at doing repetitive or analytical types of tasks. As a result, technology is likely to replace or automate some of these roles, but trends show that this will probably not involve a role in its entirety, rather only specific tasks within that role.

Co-ordination between man and machine provides advisors with ‘just-in-time’ information through sensors and analytics to provide the next best action or instruction. Jobs on the increase are those that involve more interpersonal interaction, situational awareness, or a flexible and rapid response to changes in the environment. There’s also an increase in jobs in the entrepreneurial field that allow for a greater degree of flexibility in work roles and provide employees with a sense of purpose.

Three critical skills for future contact centre advisors

Based on these trends, there are three skills that will set humans apart from their super-efficient robot colleagues. It’s vitally important that businesses empower their managers and staff in these areas. Machines have yet to achieve the capability of emulating these three skills, so helping develop employees in these areas has the potential to increase both employee and customer engagement.

1 – Conscience:

Conscience refers to giving contact centre advisors a sense of purpose, and a big part of this is freeing them from a process and allowing them to use their own initiative to solve problems. Use guidelines to guide, not rule, because empowering advisors to use their own judgement can enhance the customer experience and deliver a better outcome. It also helps to foster a greater level of employee engagement and gives advisors a sense of ownership where they are supported by coaching rather than being managed. The end goal is to create multi-talented advisors who share their opinion and ideas, innovate, and provide real value to the organisation.

2 – Compassion:

Compassion refers to having real conversations with customers based on common sense and listening to what is being said, as well as reading between the lines for what is not said. Rather than operating on scripts, it allows agents to speak freely in a language that comes across as unforced and more empathetic to customers. Compassion is something that is most effective when demonstrated by strong leadership and backed up by coaching and training so that it becomes part of the culture of the contact centre and the organisation as a whole.

3 – Creativity:

Encouraging creativity in the contact centre is a great way to develop a culture of innovation.  Besides, the best solutions often come from unexpected sources, so don’t be afraid to try new and different things. Involve agents in action-learning sets to solve business problems. A learning hub provides a space for creativity and relaxation. Sharing content that is outside the normal technical sphere of work, but is still useful and inspiring, can encourage staff to think bigger. Think TED talks, inspirational videos or podcasts by motivational speakers, or interesting documentaries on special interests, hobbies, life skills or even places. Physical activity, whether that involves gym memberships or team sports events, can help increase the energy levels in a team and encourage creative thinking.

The coming decades will see an overlap of digital and human skills and the companies that can use the strengths of each to enhance competitiveness and customer engagement are those that will stand out against their competitors. While digital transformation is inevitable and can make contact centres in particular more efficient, there will still be a place for skilled humans who can operate independently and effectively. It shouldn’t be a case of human versus machine, but rather of finding ways to blend the strengths of both.

As robots take over the more mundane and repetitive tasks, it opens up opportunities for advisors to provide a more skilled service that allows for creativity and innovation. It may appear that change is accelerating and that digital transformation is encroaching on the contact centre environment. But businesses should remember that when a problem is complex, emotional or urgent, customers will look for the human voice on the other end of the line, not a bot, to help them solve their problem more efficiently. Humans are still worth investing in as much as digital and finding the balance will be key.