As innovation in CX technology continues to reshape how brands interact with customers, the tech leaders behind this growth are also envisioning and creating the workplaces of the future.
At Genesys, global leaders in omnichannel CX and call centre tech such as Genesys Cloud, that drive for constant improvement in the brand and customer relationships is matched by their commitment to ensuring your employees remain engaged and that call centres operate as efficiently as possible for those on either end of the telephone line.
That passion for employee experience at Genesys is embodied by the firm’s Vice President of Product Management responsible for Workforce Engagement Management, Cameron Smith (pictured).
His love for AI advancement is all about efficiency and simplifying the working environment, to the benefit of employee, employer, and customer.
Cameron’s remit is all of Genesys’ workforce engagement products, including its Workforce Management package and Agent Assist, and if any person alive knows about where technology can take employees in the coming years, it’s Cameron.
Speaking with Customer Experience Magazine, the US-based tech guru discussed how employee experience systems are on their way to catching up with CX software advancements, and what it will mean for how we work in the coming years.
Cameron: “I look after all of our workforce engagement products. So, basically nearly everything that is touched upon or acted by employees falls into my domain,” Cameron said.
C: “Just as the technology has been trying to improve the consumer side, that tech is a few years ahead of the employee side. It’s about efficiency – how can we simplify the work environment?”
Cameron explains that an increase in self-service and automation can often mean an increase in complexity.
C: “Contact centres are seeing more things like blow-outs in handle time, and labour costs increasing, because of this complexity, so the focus for us on the AI side is – how do we help the employee with that experience that’s now prevalent in interactions they take every single day?”
C: “A couple of different use cases – one of our virtual assistants is about helping the agent and guiding and coaching them through interactions – even doing basic things like understanding the transcription of the call in real-time, or doing things like knowledge-search or searching for documents.”
C: “Or, you may have an insurance company that has lots of different policies and procedures around particular products – having the ability to actually search for that saves the employee a couple of minutes, but more importantly the employee may not even know what they’re trying to search for, so we can apply that tech here.
“Another use case would be the employee’s performance and management, and getting coached and trained.”
Before the rise of AI, Cameron outlines, most organisations utilised a “one-size-fits-all” system for training – an approach that simply won’t cut it in today’s world of personalisation.
C: “Now we realise how important that personalisation is – not everyone’s the same, and there are multiple profiles inside your contact centres that need to be trained, coached and educated in a different way,” he continues.
C: “So, understanding who that employee is, understanding how they feel and applying that recommendation back to either the trainer or the coach, we then ask – how do we make Rachel a better performer? Or help Michael, who is struggling with x, y or z?
C: “Of course, this makes the lives of the team leaders a little easier too, and that contributes greatly to the overall operational efficiency.”
Meanwhile, one bugbear that Genesys workforce tech aims to eradicate is high churn rates of staff.
C: “It’s very region-specific, country-specific, and even organisation-specific in terms of what brands really want,” Cameron continues.
C: “For us it’s about making sure we’re covering all our bases, pushing the envelope in pushing ever-more capabilities to employees – as much as we can!
C: “For years, contact centre agents have been tightly controlled and managed, and with that comes inflexibility. As a result, contact centres traditionally have high attrition rates. A multitude of studies have shown that if you give more flexibility to employees, the more enablement they have to self-control, then high attrition rates will fall.
“However, not every organisation is ready for that level of self-management – each has their own process of change to go through. In terms of end-goal, we want to create an environment that’s really flexible and that works with the employee and helps balance their life.
“Contact centre work can be very hard after all, and providing tools to help and coach employees to be high performers, potentially without human assistance – that’s where we want to get to.
“Early adopters of our Agent Assist AI system – those agents have told us that not having to remember every single thing, due to the help from the tech, makes their lives easier, and for new-starts it prevents beginning call centre work from being overwhelming, and makes the environment a little less daunting.”
From his vantage point, Cameron sees a future workforce that puts the hours in remotely, and an employment model resembling something closer to Uber than traditional shift-work.
C: “We’re on the cusp of seeing some of our high-tech clients reaching a ‘gig economy’ relationship with their team. This gives their employees the ability, like an Uber driver, to say ‘I’m available between 4 and 10 – give me work for those hours’.
C: “That’s a change in the dynamic of how contact centres will run. It’s not huge yet, but it’s starting to grow. That will be the next big thing, but it will very likely mean some interesting changes in government policy and legislation, as well as in HR departments.
C: “This could mean the end of wasted labour in contact centres. There’s an opportunity to tune requirements. Employers can think about how they pay – should they pay per minute, or per outcome? As a company, you might put out a higher rate on a better outcome at a better peak period. Employees could bid, and go for that work.
C: “So as a contact centre worker, you may end up in a scenario where you don’t have to do 40 hours to get the same money – you just have to pick the right 16 hours.
C: “All these changes are definitely coming. Our high-tech newer customers – companies that have only been around a few years – are thinking along these lines. However, it will be a challenge for those firms that have been around for decades to make that change, as many are very much still stuck in the ’40 hours a week’ mindset.”
Overseeing workforce engagement advances means Cameron faces the same challenge as his colleagues revolutionising CX – where does the “human touch” fit into the plan?
Brands fear customers will miss an element of human interaction as they engage with chatbots and virtual assistants, and the same can be said for the employee/employer relationship.
Cameron explains that a full-blown AI HR experience is not on the horizon, with brands likely to take a “light-touch” attitude.
“As it stands today, you’re not going to have a full performance management conversation, for example with an AI. But over time we can build a system that delivers, for instance, selected training that’s been highlighted for you because of things about your performance the AI noticed. We could augment a lot of that.
“However, I think the human touch will always be there, especially from a HR standpoint.”
A vital component of human HR is of course empathy – which some will tell you is beyond the capabilities of today’s AI tech. Yet Cameron suggests that holy grail may not be as mythological as it currently appears.
“I think we are probably closer to AI empathy than many think,” he adds.
“If an organisation applied the software in an empathetic way, we could probably get there today. It comes down to design and process in how we do that. Look at the likes of Amazon Alexa, and how it appears empathetic by randomly telling us to have a good day after we ask it to tell the time.
“That’s pre-programmed empathy, rather than selective empathy, but we will get there one day, for sure.”
So what’s next for employee engagement advances according to Cameron? Where can AI take us and our call centres in the years to come?
“Not here yet but certainly on people’s minds is ‘contact centre operational automation’,” he adds.
“It’s the ability to automate components of the operation. An example is a workforce planner today would stare at a screen at 11am, after everyone has called in sick and think, ‘ok, now what?’.
“In the future, the AI will be able to say, ‘ok, based on everything that’s happening, we should do…’
“You’re going to see those ‘next best action’ type processes go into a whole range of different call centre operations. Depending on how that’s adopted, you could see that automated end-to-end, and in some organisations, that’s what they really want to see.
“So operational resources will see the biggest change automatically, and that’s going to translate into more employee flexibility and a richer environment to operate in.”