Super Agents? How About Expert Assistants Instead?

Oct 05, 2015

Super Agents? How About Expert Assistants Instead?

I recently came across a set of customer contact prognostications from NewVoiceMedia that generally followed what my Frost & Sullivan colleagues and I have been saying for quite some time, but with one exception the rise of the expert or “super agents”. 

The “super agents” will have superior problem solving, project management, and in some cases technical skills to thoroughly understand and analyze customer issues, pinpoint root causes, and handle them, NewVoiceMedia’s blog stated. To accomplish these tasks the “super agents” would become experts in using a vast array of applications, including data usage and social networks.

However, the level of knowledge, education, training, expertise and experience to enable “super agents” to resolve issues and conduct sales, above the exponentially growing capabilities of automated and social peer support, is beyond what most companies are willing to pay contact center agents. Their reluctance is justified. There is insufficient added knowledge and skills heft, to the levels where agents would need college degrees, in order to warrant higher compensation. Although the work may be more satisfying, being a “super-agent” will continue to be a semi-skilled and stressful job--no one contacts agents when they are happy--with variable shifts, poor advancement, low social status, and consequently high turnover and HR costs.

Instead, my prediction is that contact center agents will become "expert assistants": with the abilities to not only triage issues, solve  simple “hand-holding” problems and close sales at one level above self-service, but to decide which matter requires the intervention of subject matter experts (SMEs). The expert assistants will use advanced UC&C solutions to check SME availability and contact them to see if they want to handle these issues now or later, and either warm-transfer contacts or set up appointments.  Customers generally don't mind waiting or being contacted by individuals who are empowered to help them the first time, rather than going through annoying, time-consuming, and costly escalations.

In many respects, the “expert assistants” would be the new and sophisticated technology-infused generation of the old-fashioned answering service operators. Answering service operators triage, direct, and transfer problem calls for and to companies, but do not solve the problems themselves. Instead they quickly connect to customers and get to the core of matters with the unstated assurance of live human voices.

Expert assistants, rather than “super agents” will enhance customer service, within the existing contact center staffing and recruiting, operations, and compensation budgets and frameworks. They will require comparatively less training, skillsets, and technologies, with the exception of UC&C applications. Finally agents will be focused to be themselves, providing only what they can deliver…the human touch.

Brendan Read


Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.

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