Calabrio, the workforce performance company, released its State of the Contact Centre 2023: Activating the Agent of the Future report, which highlights the essential role AI (artificial intelligence) is set to play in improving the mental health and wellbeing of contact centre agents —and how these benefits will lead to increased productivity for contact centres globally. 

The AI Revolution: A Larger, Happier Contact Centre Workforce 

In Calabrio’s annual analysis of the contact centre market, the company surveyed 400 contact centre managers across 10 countries, four age groups and six industries. While there is much debate in the market about the impact AI will have on the call centre industry, this report’s findings are clear: instead of reducing the overall agent pool, as some agents fear, 70% of managers believe AI will increase the number of agents over the coming decade. 

The research indicates that wide-scale implementation of AI technology in contact centres stands to make this expanded pool of agents more engaged, less stressed and significantly more productive.  

“When agents are stressed—and lack the tools to do their jobs properly—engagement and productivity — understandably—suffers, as well,” said Joel Martins, Interim CEO and CTO of Calabrio. “Properly deployed, AI stands to reduce those stress levels significantly, by providing agents with advantages such as flexibility and autonomy over their schedules, the result is a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.” 

Optimising Agent Performance With AI 

The report also provides an interesting update on the state of remote work. Where 73% of managers were happy with remote productivity levels in 2020, that number has dropped to 49% today. According to the report, the answer isn’t to eliminate remote work but to provide employees with the tools they need to feel engaged with that work. The respondents ranked AI features that will help accomplish this goal, including: 

  • Augmenting agent and manager productivity (25%) 
  • Optimising forecasting and scheduling (20%) 
  • Measuring and understanding contact centre productivity (20%) 
  • AI-driven chatbot services to customers (20%) 

Each of these features, in distinct but interlocking ways, stands to positively impact the overall mental health of call centre agents. 

In an AI-Powered World, Critical Thinking and Adaptability Are the New Must-Have Skills 

Because AI can easily handle simpler customer inquiries, human agents will soon spend most of their time on the complex issues that AI cannot handle. Not surprisingly, 60% of respondents highlighted critical thinking and adaptability as the top skills agents will need going forward as they will increasingly need to think on their own feet.  

Far from compounding the stress of the job, these developments—per the report—are likely to make agents more engaged, especially as AI-facilitated training tools become more widespread. With the increased scheduling flexibility enabled by AI, agents can more efficiently juggle life and work, and managers can expect a larger, happier, and more engaged, and productive agent workforce in the months and years to come.