As AI and automation infuse the contact center, the role of the agent is changing. Contact centers are already seeing:

  • Agents losing their jobs. Modern self-service technologies are giving customers the ability to find answers to frequently asked questions and to resolve simple issues. This takes away the routine work of generalists and tier 1 agents, who are starting to see their ranks shrink.
  • Agents morphing to direct automated operations. Modern self-service technologies demand rich content and chatbot dialogue flows. Contact center leaders are repositioning generalists and tier 1 agents as authors of chatbot dialogues or as supervisors of chatbots who also address failures in self-service operations.
  • New “superagents” emerging to become product or relationship experts. Contact centers are becoming high-touch centers that handle critical customer interactions and require deep subject matter expertise. Superagents who have specialized skills or deep interest in a brand’s products or services are emerging.

What does this mean? Contact center leaders now seek a much broader range of skills and types of agents. New labor pools that brands might tap include:

  • Digital natives who can handle many digital touchpoints. Brands are quickly adopting digital channels like SMS and messaging. They find that agents who use these communication modes in their everyday lives are more comfortable supporting customers over these channels — often handling many interactions simultaneously.
  • Lifestyle workers who greatly value flexible working conditions. Educated professionals, military wives, and mothers are just a handful of personas who want rewarding work on their own terms. Work-at-home models resonate with these personas, and brands are finding that agents who work at home stay longer.
  • Brand advocates who exude legitimacy. Pier 1 Imports used to provide customer support from a traditional contact center using agents it hired for the good “customer service skills.” Today, however, the company looks to hire home decorating enthusiasts. It found that it can teach brand advocates basic customer service skills but not the enthusiasm for home decorating.
  • High-EQ agents who provide empathy and great conversations. Customers are using agent-assisted channels as escalation points for issues that they can’t resolve via self-service. Many times, customers are frustrated by the time they reach an agent, and some are even angry or anxious. Agents must now quickly solve these harder questions and manage conversations in a tone that resonates emotionally with the customer. This takes empathy skills and relationship-building skills that not all agents have.

Contact centers are seeing success with these new agent personas. More will emerge as AI and automation continues its forward march into customer service operations.