Automation in Moderation: Balancing Call Center Technology and Personalized Customer Service

We’ve all experienced it: endless automated phone menus, confused chat bots, and incompetent voice recognition. Automation can do great things for promoting the efficiency of call centers, but sometimes it just isn’t cut out for the job--at least not if you want happy customers. 

Where Automation Fits In

Many small tasks lend themselves quite well to automation, particularly those which have predictable outcomes or simple resolution. In these situations, automated virtual agents increase the speed of resolution and decrease errors. Robots aren’t good at being creative or thinking critically, but they are great at quick calculations and searching through troves of data in a matter of seconds. Some tasks that are ideal for automating include the payment of bills, changing account information such as addresses or passwords, simple FAQs, or tasks with high data loads such as database searches. 

Where Personalization Wins

The more complex, unpredictable, and sometimes downright emotional tasks are the ones that really require a live human being. After all, the more frustrated or panicked a customer is about their dire situation, the less patience they have for going through the motions of automated menus and lists. Their problem is also more likely to require the creative problem-solving skills at which humans are best. 

Trying to add automation into more complex situations may do more harm than good by further frustrating customers and not providing appropriate solutions. Assigning live agents is going to be ideal for the most uncommon and unique issues, and many customers will already know a live representative is necessary based on the problem they’re having. Thus, the option to contact a representative directly should always be available for those who need it (and for those who want it).

Finding Balance

Automation can still play a role in the above situations; it just shouldn’t be the star. For example, while a virtual agent might not be able to resolve an urgent case, it could still be able to use AI to recognize the urgency in the customer’s tone of voice and word choice, and thus opt to transfer over to a live agent. AI can also help the live agent on the backend during the call by quickly providing useful information relating to the customer and topic. 

Similarly, automation can assist live agents with all tasks that might otherwise be repetitive and frustrating, like data entry or time logs. Robots don’t mind the repetition, but humans can get bored, frustrated, and demoralized. In this way, using automation to take care of the simpler tasks and letting agents focus on the more complex ones is also good for worker health. 

Throwing automation into every single process might sound like a handy way to increase efficiency all around, but the distribution of automated tasks requires more thorough considerations. Balancing automation where it’s most useful with human interaction where it’s most necessary will optimize the overall performance of a call center.