In The Age Of AI, An Agent’s Soft Skills Still Matter

an agent’s soft skills still matter

Background on agent’s soft skills

In the recent past, the commitment to enduring work from home setups appeared as an unstoppable trend, something that would last forever.

Today we see a mirroring of the widespread belief that artificial intelligence (AI) will imminently make numerous contact center job roles redundant. 

However, there is a noticeable parallel emerging in the initial enthusiasm surrounding AI concerns, and of the not-so-distant past promise of permanence in working from home. 

Let me explain.

Powered by AI takeover

It wasn’t more than 12 months ago that “AI powered” or “Powered by AI” was the exception, not the norm.

Today, it seems like if any company is not using “AI” to power their products they are behind the curve. Yes we know that our company, Abstrakt, isn’t using those words but we’ll get to that later.

Companies that have been historically slow to adopt technology (laggards) are carving out new roles within their org chart for “AI Adoption Specialist” and “AI Transformation Director”

The persistent challenge lies in the parallel between the wholehearted embrace of transitioning entire companies to remote work (an initiative we wholeheartedly support) and the unavoidable impact of external influences and macroeconomic trends. 

As companies recognized the seemingly sunk costs of commercial real estate leases, the surge in collaboration software expenditure, and subjective concerns among executives about perceived productivity dips (despite ample research indicating increased productivity among remote workers) underscore the nuanced considerations in navigating this transformative shift.

Trends in the call center world

The same trends are already starting to emerge today as it relates to AI in the call center world, specifically as it relates to AI agent assist or replacement of call center agents around the world. 

The headwinds being faced are different, but the pattern is already proving to repeat itself. 

Hallucinations, legislation, end consumer demographic preferences… these are all things challenging to upend the enthusiasm being carried by technology companies looking to replace or augment call center agents with some form of agent assist software. 

We should know, Abstrakt is one of them. 

Multiple sources highlight the pivotal role of call centers in industries such as Healthcare, Automotive, Telecommunications, Financial Services (encompassing banking and debt collections), and Transportation.

Consider the demographics of the customers within these sectors. This is where an agent’s soft skills come in handy.

While those immersed in technology may perceive the world as revolving around digital solutions, a stark reality persists – within these crucial industries, a significant segment of the global population strongly prefers engagement through voice, seeking the assistance of a call center agent. 

This underscores the enduring importance of human connection in customer interactions, even in an era dominated by technology.

Amid the prevalent discourse on harnessing AI in call centers to enhance agent performance, a notable oversight looms large – the undervaluation of an agent’s soft skills is pivotal to fostering positive outcomes. 

Whether it’s the hushed legislative discussions in states like California mandating disclaimers before engaging with AI or the sweeping bans in Europe against companies with a .ai domain, a clear message emerges: the trajectory favors the enduring role of human beings in call centers.

Agent Assist Software

The trajectory is unmistakable – Agent Assist Software, fueled by AI, will persist as an assistant, not a replacement. The call center landscape underscores the irreplaceable essence of human touch and nuanced communication in delivering exceptional customer experiences.

Talk speed, word pronunciation, patience level, active listening, how often someone is interrupted when speaking with the demographic of consumers that is currently (and will continue to be) being serviced by industries relying on call centers, these soft skills matter. 

An agent’s soft skills build customer loyalty.

These are the skills that don’t cause someone like my dad to get off the phone and yell “That person didn’t answer a single question I had, they kept interrupting me.” I can only imagine his reaction should he need to speak to a computer that kept giving him the wrong answers or “asking him to repeat the question.” 

Take a minute to let that sink in.

Now it’s time to evaluate how you can help your agents perform even better, and start focusing on their soft skills.