The delicate dance between AI and human agents

Artificial intelligence will soon be at the heart of your contact center—if it hasn’t already.

The spread of artificial intelligence (AI) has increased dramatically in recent years. A 2022 PwC report found that more than 70% of companies are already using or planning to use AI in some form in their business operations. Executives are using technology to realize a range of benefits, from product innovation to improving data-driven business decisions.[1]

AI helps companies work more efficiently and solve more customer problems with less direct human involvement. This result is crucial for the return on investment of AI. It’s natural, then, that many wonder what role humans should play in the delicate dance of customer service. As they improve quickly, are bots pushing people off the dance floor?

We may not yet know exactly what it will look like, but there is good reason to believe that there is plenty of room for robots and humans to work together in harmony to create quality customer experiences. In fact, their ability to keep up will prove essential. In tomorrow’s CX, bots aren’t pushing humans off the dance floor—but humans need to change their footwork.

The self-service revolution

Customer service used to be essentially a dance between two people: the agent and the customer. First and foremost, delivering a quality experience meant training agents to approach customers with empathy and address their concerns. But that has changed in the age of self-service.

Thanks to AI, many customer problems can now be solved without the involvement of a human agent. From simple banking transactions to checking the status of an order, today’s chatbot and conversational IVR solutions can meet many customer needs while reducing service costs. Unlike human agents, they can provide 24/7 support and handle multiple customer requests at the same time. New projections suggest that AI agents could save the contact center up to $80 billion in labor costs.[2]

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However, these advantages do not only apply to companies. Customers want self-service. According to a report by Aspect Software, 73% of customers want brands to allow them to self-solve problems and answer questions. 65 percent say it makes them “feel good” about a company.[3] In other words, they sound happy to invite AI to the dance.

Where AI still falls short

However, there is a catch. Customers are perfectly happy to play a game or two with AI – as long as it solves their problems. When bots don’t work well or create barriers to customer service, they cause more problems than they solve. In fact, a recent UJET survey found that 80% of customers only interact with bots elevated their frustration with a company.[4]

The reasons for this are partly obvious. We’ve all experienced what happens when AI interactions go awry: the death loop of incomprehensible or just plain wrong answers with a chatbot, or the bot trap that won’t let you escape to the safety of a human agent. These are familiar scenarios in today’s service economy.

These AI limitations are still real, even as technology improves and aims to overcome them. Today, AI’s limitations can be more subtle – and perhaps more dangerous. Consider the recent hype surrounding ChatGPT, the newest and most ambitious chatbot released by OpenAI in late November. This bot takes conversational fluency to a new level with its ability to respond to open-ended questions and even write compelling humane essays in response.

ChatGPT seems so authentic that it could easily fool anyone who doesn’t know.[5] It is clear that despite significant advances, AI still cannot meet the challenges of complex human tasks and interactions in the way real humans can.

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Prepare the stage

Ultimately, these limitations hint at what the new rhythm of customer service can feel like. AI hasn’t supplanted human agents—and probably won’t anytime soon. But it can help human agents create a richer customer experience.

AI can improve customer service, not just replace human-driven interactions with bot-driven ones. AI can augment agents’ skills in a number of ways. AI can easily collect large amounts of customer data and turn it into personalized recommendations that human agents can use to improve CX. It can seamlessly deliver customer information directly to agents so they can resolve customer issues faster. And it can route issues to exactly the right support teams, so the best-equipped agents take the call. This type of give and take represents the future of customer service in contact centers.

In addition, by handling routine and mundane tasks, AI can offload agent interactions and ensure they are available for more complex interactions. Experts have foreseen this for some time. In his 2017 report, The Future Of Jobs, 2027: Working Side By Side With Robots, Forrester predicted that robots would complement humans, allowing them to focus on tasks that require more complex intelligence, aesthetic judgment, and unique skills .[6] This, in turn, helps human agents improve to meet these new challenges – 79% of support agents say that handling more complex issues improves their skills.[7]

However, to truly set the stage for smooth performance, contact centers need to ensure their AI technology is dialed in and ready to go. Of course, it’s important to train agents to do their part. But if your chatbots and conversational IVR systems are unreliable, they will only cause more problems for your human agents, no matter how prepared they are.

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Therefore, in the age of AI, a comprehensive testing solution is more important than ever. Contact centers need to be confident that the chatbots and conversational IVR systems they deploy not only stay up and running, but also avoid causing problems with awkward or incomprehensible customer interactions. Cyara is the only CX Assurance platform that provides end-to-end coverage for your customer support solutions. With Cyara, you can ensure your AI-powered CX is performing at its best—and prepare for the most important event of human-to-human interaction.

The dance may be delicate, but it can be especially beautiful when everything goes smoothly. Check out our Building Smarter Chatbots e-book to learn more about how we can help you ensure this.

[1] PwC. “PwC 2022 AI Business Survey.”

[2] tech monitor. “AI in call centers could save companies $80 billion.”

[3] “Report: Poor customer service drives consumers away.”

[4] forbes “Chatbots and automations increase consumer customer service frustration around the holidays.”

[5] Business Insider. “I asked ChatGPT to do my job and write an insider article for me. It quickly became a shockingly persuasive article full of misinformation.”

[6] JP Gownder, “The Future of Jobs, 2027: Working Side by Side with Robots.” April 3, 2017, Forrester

[7] HelpScout. “Will AI-powered customer service replace your job?”