The Future of Work Is Now: A Post-Pandemic Perspective
Lead Analyst & Founder, Opus Research
Some say it is “too soon” to put the pandemic in the past tense. Like its cousin the common cold, they say, some form of COVID-19 is here to stay. Yet, there is no better testimony to the indomitable nature of the human spirit than the efforts to get back to life as it was. That includes going out for walks, going shopping, eating out at bars and restaurants and, yes, getting back to work.
Getting back to work is already a misnomer. If you are a contact centre agent or office worker, work came to you. Employers, along with their contact centre infrastructure vendors, figured out how to render your workstation in a web browser so that you didn’t miss a beat when a departmental meeting convened, or the next incoming call arrived. The IT department also worked overtime on behalf of the WFH crowd to integrate their choice of cloud-based conferencing into their unified communications or collaboration platforms.
“Hybrid” has become the term-of-art as Zoom, Cisco’s Webex, GotoMeeting, Verizon BlueJean, Vonage VBC and Microsoft Teams vie for dominance in the Unified Communications platform business. All try to set themselves apart by adding apps, features, functions and tools that employ intelligent virtual assistants (aka “bots”) to listen to and understand conversations, and use that understanding to ensure success, accelerate task completion and promote happiness among both customers and employees.
Making the Most of “Digital Employees”
Many companies have come to think of these Conversational AI-infused resources as “digital employees.” They are the virtual assistants that stepped in when the volume of calls and chat sessions spiked during the first few months of the pandemic. They are the automated assistants or coaches who appeared as screen pops for remote agents to suggest the “next, best action” for an agent to take or to prompt them through a mandatory disclosure. Ideally, they could hear everything said on a customer care call, recognise the emotional state of both the caller and the agent, provide a full-transcription, summarise that transcription and then log that summary—complete with action items—to the company’s CRM system.
There are analogous capabilities for participants in virtual meetings. Digital employees playing the role of “meeting bots.” These intelligent assistants start by hearing and transcribing everything that is said by each participant. They can also be invoked to conduct quick searches of a company’s knowledge base and make or confirm appointments in a shared calendar or project management software. As with the contact centre assistant, they can provide meeting summaries and identify commitments made by individual participants, which means they can also issue reminders or “alerts” when the project plan calls for a participant to take action.
Automating Tasks Is Just the Beginning
Most businesses justify their investment in automation based on cost savings. Machines perform tasks that more expensive resources (aka “us humans”) used to do. Ergo cost savings are the result of reduced headcount. This is definitely not the case in the post-pandemic world. Digital employees are not there to replace their human counterparts. They are there to help them be more productive, less weighed down by mundane tasks and, ultimately, more likely to stay with their current employer.
For employers, the introduction of Conversational AI into the equation is especially important as employment statistics show that employees with relatively low-paying, potentially tedious jobs—like a contact centre agent or restaurant employees—took time during lock-down to evaluate their options and many of them did not return to their old jobs. Digital employees have stepped in to make their jobs less tedious while providing assistance that can bring them up to speed with new skills in relatively little time. It is a win/win for the contact centre employee and the customer. Agents are able to fulfil more interesting tasks. For customers, Opus Research found that CSAT scores increased even as automation (capture) levels peaked. Customers were pleased to find that they could avoid long hold times and get more things done if they put their trust in a digital employee.
Accelerating Into the Future of Work
The pandemic accelerated trends toward digital commerce and communications that were already well underway. The forced move to digital platforms by customers and employees, alike, provided the perfect opening for adding Conversational AI and AI-infused analytics to the mix of technologies supporting both employee productivity and improved customer care experience. It’s one of the many new facets to life, like structures that urban restaurants erected on the street in front of their establishments to support dining al fresco. Chatbots, voicebots and other flavours of Intelligent Assistants have become “digital employees.”
Digital employees meet enterprise aspirations to improve both employee and customer experience calls with better tools for capture, curation and consumption of enterprise knowledge. Verint has a technological edge in this respect because of long-standing investment in the technologies that comprise its Da Vinci AI and Analytics. Advanced machine learning models, natural language processing, intent understanding, and analytics engines all are embedded natively throughout the company’s service offerings.
Digital employees have taken a permanent place in the workflows of customers, contact centre agents and general employees alike. Their roles are defined by ever-changing, real-world demands. For customers, they are virtual assistants that they’ve added to their contact list on WhatsApp or other social messaging platforms, or they are the virtual assistants that greet them when they make a call or visit the company website. Contact centre agents encounter “coaches” or “assistants” who suggest their next best actions or point out when they need to use specific terminology in order to comply with regulations or industry structures.
They are not mere “bots.” They are here to support your business, your customers, your employees. They are the future of work, the future of search, the future of banking and shopping. And they are here to stay.
Hear more from Dan Miller and Derek Top from Opus Research in our on-demand three-part webinar series as they discuss with other Verint team experts how organisations can build enduring customer relationships in light of ever-increasing, ever-shifting consumer demands. Be sure to check out the session on “How to Harness Key Future of Work Trends.”
Dan Miller founded Opus Research in 1986 and helped define Conversational Commerce through consulting engagements and by authoring scores of reports and advisories addressing business opportunities that reside where automated speech and natural language processing leverage conversational AI, analytics and contact centres.
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