Leaving the Uncanny Valley: Embracing the AI Coach
When it comes to high pressure situations, I excel. Or at least that is what I thought until one recent experience humbled me like no other. It started as a normal day when I got an email from a customer asking if I could be in Texas later to conduct side-by-sides with a few dozen of their most tenured agents to discuss Cogito in real-time and offer up best practices. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so I quickly agreed, booked my travel and headed to the Lonestar State. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me, but left with a renewed energy and enthusiasm of the future state of AI in the contact center.
An Unexpected Visceral Reaction
I started as my side by sides typically do. I introduced myself, I asked if it’s okay if I plug in my headset and then waited until the call is over to go over why I’m sitting with them. As soon as I let them know I was from Cogito and there to observe how they interact with our real-time AI Coach, I experienced a reactions that I hadn’t before…extreme skepticism & criticism. Off to a great start.
Back to the Uncanny Valley
A visceral reaction from the tenured agents is not unexpected, but the intensity of these agents unnerved me. Their objections tended to be focused on how with their experience, they didn’t need an AI coach to assist them and how an AI coach would be great for new agents, but not for agents as tenured as they were. After really listening to these agents, it was clear that although they had gone through training, they had never really used Cogito. It reminded me a bit of the Uncanny Valley hypothesis in which the closer an AI gets to human level appearance or function, the harder it becomes to accept.
From Cogito to My Cogito
After spending a couple days on site sitting with some of Cogito’s most vocal detractors, a pattern emerged. As I would sit behind them listening to their calls and watching them manipulate their desktops, they began to give Cogito Dialog a chance. This is turn led them to start seeing the value. An empathy cue here. An extended silence there. This ultimately led to the realization that Cogito is not there to replace call center agents. It’s there to augment their natural emotional intelligence and help them be more consistent on each one of their calls. Once given a fair shake, Cogito has to potential to become truly a personal coach and it’s not uncommon to hear agents tell me “My Cogito said I made a great connection!” or “My Cogito makes sure I keep my energy level up.” The most rewarding part of the job is when Cogito goes from Cogito to My Cogito.
Leaving the Uncanny Valley Behind
In my tenure at Cogito, it’s become clear that AI augmenting human skills, not replacing them, is where AI is heading. When adopted at contact centers it makes a huge impact not only on company KPIs, but on the effectiveness and engagement of front-line agents. In my opinion we are about to exit the uncanny valley and begin to rely more and more on AI coaches. All we have to do is be ready to embrace the next frontier.