Artificial Intelligence—The Post-Pandemic Contact Center Superhero


I have to admit, I’ve never gotten the whole superhero thing. I know that superhero movies consistently do really well at the box office, so I suppose that’s enough of a reason to keep making them. But as far as being entertained by them, I’m not.

Superhero movies have been a staple in movie theaters for the past 20 years, and they continue to perform at the box office as well. Six of the 12 highest opening weekend box-office revenue grosses ever are held by superhero movies. And the appeal of these types of movies seems to be universal.

My guitar teacher is about the same age as me, with adult children. Whenever a new superhero movie has been released over the past seven years, which is how long I’ve known him, he and his kids are the first in line for the first showing on the first weekend. His daughter is working on her MBA and his son is an attorney. These are all really smart people, so I guess the appeal of superhero movies has nothing to do with intellect. Or maybe only really smart people like superhero movies. That could explain a lot.

Experts believe people gravitate to superheroes and superhero movies for a number of reasons. One explanation is that people turn to superheroes during difficult economic times. Consider the fact that Superman made his first appearance in 1938, as America was just beginning to recover from the Great Depression.

Others believe people turn to superheroes because they are beacons of virtue that conquer not only the bad guys, but their own weaknesses. They provide us with a glimmer of hope in a frequently dark world, and let’s face it—this past year has been pretty dark.

Still others see the popularity of superhero movies as pure escapism. Superhero movies typically have lots of action and stunts, giving the audience an escape from the stressful or difficult aspects of everyday life, and it’s the classic fight between good and evil. When viewed in this light, I submit that it’s time for our own superhero in the contact center industry.

I nominate inefficiency as the villain in this superhero story and contact center automation as the superhero. The first epic battle between good and evil would be the fight over the inefficiencies we’re all currently witnessing in the quest to get COVID vaccinations to the public.

If you’ve been following the saga of vaccination distribution in the U.S., you know what a confusing and frustrating experience arranging a COVID vaccination has become. Without a doubt, the time has come for artificial intelligence (AI)-driven intelligent bots to arrive on the scene and save the day!

Chris Crosby, CEO, Xaqt

“Intelligent Virtual Agents can play a critical role in the vaccination process because they eliminate the bottleneck in scheduling. By automating interactions that would normally require a person, the government agency becomes more responsive,” said Chris Crosby, CEO of Xaqt in Chicago. “We also believe that equitable access to the vaccine begins with equitable access to appointment setting. For many local agencies, creating a COVID-19 Scheduling Hotline is their first foray into contact centers, so many either aren’t doing it all or don’t know where to start. This is why you see websites crashing and a lack of ways for lower-income citizens to schedule their vaccination. AI-enabled communications through SMS, chat and voice provide a quick and easy way to triage the deluge of inbound requests.”

Automation has become one of the most democratized solutions in the industry. Delivered as a managed cloud service, it is within reach of contact centers of all sizes. The classic cloud usage-based pricing means that even the smallest of contact centers can afford an automation solution.

“Our COVID-19 Vaccination Response platform gives local health and government heroes their own set of superpowers by enabling them to personalize communications with their constituents across multiple digital touchpoints and to do it with fewer resources. This means that existing employees can remain focused on other critical activities and agencies can make their CARES Act funding dollars go a lot further,” explained Xaqt’s Crosby. “And the usage-based delivery model makes this solution financially feasible for counties and municipalities of any size to cost-effectively scale their scheduling efforts with automation.”

Once automation has heroically saved the day and we’ve all been scheduled for and received our COVID vaccinations, it will be time for our automation superhero to turn its attention to inefficiency evildoers in other vertical markets.

“I think we’re still in the early days of how AI and automation is going to transform customer and employee experiences across industries,” Crosby continued. “As an example, we’re already seeing bots providing customer interactions in hospitality and healthcare that will long outlive COVID-19.”

Experts agree that superheroes typically appear in literature and at the box office when times are not so good. People are looking for heroes. The same can be said for those of us in the contact center. It’s been a tough year with the pandemic and the industry having to deal with its crash course in contingency planning and being forced to accept a whole new way of managing a remote workforce, like it or not. And do it all in a matter of days rather than years.

The contact center industry is ready to welcome a new superhero to save the day. The industry is ready to turn to AI-enabled intelligent automation.

The National Association of Call Centers

Did you know columnist Paul Stockford is also the editor of In-Queue, the monthly newsletter of the National Association of Call Centers? Get your free subscription and read more of his provocative commentary every month!