Agent Hiring in the Age of AI

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In the contact center, “butts in seats” is vernacular for the omnipresent challenge of contact center staffing. Since its inception, the industry has been plagued by continuous agent churn, particularly in areas prone to tedious or time-consuming customer interactions, such as in debt collection centers or in sectors that field high levels of customer complaints. While much as been done to address agent engagement, there’s been less focus on a key point driving churn: hiring the right agents in the first place. In the age of artificial intelligence (AI), why are we not harnessing AI technologies to address the issue before it starts?

In some respects, we are, with applications such as AI-powered forecasting and scheduling and agent self-scheduling, but more targeted solutions are taking hold. In 2022, Frost & Sullivan noted two award-worthy innovations that tackle the issues of hiring, onboarding, and training of agents using AI.

Self-Service for Customers and Agents Alike

Verint Intelligent Interviewing takes on the intricacies of successfully hiring candidates that are the best fit for the position in the first place, a sort of preventative churn management. It automates the process of winnowing down candidate pools based on dozens of factors that are easily customizable by business. The solution applies AI and predictive analytics to automate elements of the interviewing process, which can reduce hiring time and new-hire training costs, increase quality and consistency, and ultimately match the best candidates for specific positions. This also reduces the likelihood of hiring the wrong person who then leaves, starting the costly hiring cycle all over again.

Intelligent Interviewing combines virtual interviewing, predictive analytics, candidate assessments, and stakeholder feedback to pinpoint the best candidates. It does so by assessing myriad factors, including a candidate’s communication style and skills, knowledge, and engagement during the interview. Verint offers a library of assessments, including a candidate’s language proficiency, technical knowledge, spatial awareness, and cognitive abilities, or even if the candidate has a proper internet connection for working at home.

The solution also enriches contact center key performance indicators in other areas, such as performance management, by supplying data on quality of hire and retention. The use of advanced analytics allows for continuous improvement, with ongoing feedback that identifies areas for improvement.

Hiring, Onboarding, and Training

Using AI and machine learning (ML), the Zenarate AI Coach puts new agents on their path to success by offering a learning management system (LMS) that provides videos, presentations, and tests and quizzes. But then it goes far beyond traditional LMS with an agent-facing AI coach that uses natural language processing and natural language understanding to provide conversational simulations of customer interactions that test and train agents and let them role-play before they engage their first live customer. It is not just the agents that benefit; AI Coach lifts much of the burden off of human resources for candidate screening and greatly assists trainers with the onboarding process.

The Zenarate AI Coach comprises an agent story library that encompasses all the key scenarios agents might encounter or tasks they might be required to perform. For example, it can walk them through various call components, such as authenticating the customer and establishing rapport, delving into product and service benefits, closing a sale, upselling, and recapping what just happened before ending a chat or call.

For new-hire training, AI Coach assesses agent readiness using a simulation scorecard and immersive call listening, then trains and tests by walking the agent through a simulated interaction geared to the story topic chosen. If the agent falls short on criteria related to the story type, AI Coach offers best practice suggestions and additional attempts until the agent gets it, which solidifies training and reduces poor habits. In addition, it coaches on less finite interaction components beyond agents’ product and service knowledge, including their soft skills, such as showing empathy or speaking more slowly and clearly.

Additional benefits come from how the system was designed to engage agents. As the coaching sessions are simulated, new hires feel less pressure or judgment; coaching gives direct real-time feedback, reinforcing the best way to handle a subject or scenario, thereby boosting employees’ confidence. The platform also supports tenured agent upskilling, impacting employee satisfaction and decreasing churn.

Benefits Abound

These targeted AI solutions address key challenges before they arise, with powerful downstream effects. By hiring the right candidates and improving onboarding and training, agents are more engaged and efficient, and businesses benefit from lower attrition rates and operating costs, as well as increased agent and customer satisfaction. x

Nancy Jamison is a senior industry director in information and communications technologies at Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at Nancy.Jamison@frost.com, or follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.

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