Late last year, the story of Samantha West, a telemarketer pitching for health insurance leads, caused quite a stir when Time ran an article about how its reporters were able to uncover that the agent had been a robot all along. There was certainly nothing new about ‘robocalls,’ but it was Samantha’s persistent denial of her robotic origins along with an uncanny resemblance to a live person that really unnerved a lot of folks. It turns out, Samantha was part of a growing type of call center service known as ‘agent-assisted automation,’ and it’s something you need to be very, very careful about.
Samantha didn’t know what vegetable made up tomato soup, so that rang the alarm. But, except for that, it was extremely difficult to distinguish the automated call from a live one. Apart from its close likeness with a human agent, what set Samantha apart from traditional robocalls was that a person had actually been directing the call, screening potential health insurance leads behind the scene.
When Time reporters learned of this, they were more surprised than before. Not only was talking and responding to robots extremely awkward; it was now getting harder and harder to determine this fact.
At some call centers both here and abroad, agents are now making telemarketing calls with pre-recorded pitches and responses they invoke by pressing buttons on a computer. While this certainly has its advantages for your telemarketing campaigns, it’s not without its downsides.
Call center service companies that use this approach say agent-assisted automation has had a tremendous impact on productivity. Automating repetitive portions of a telemarketing call means fewer errors and better consistency. In addition, it has also led to higher agent productivity and success rates.
But that’s just one side of the story. The system is far from being perfect and, in some cases, it may not be a suitable route to follow in your telemarketing campaigns.
Judging from most people’s dismissive response to this, it’s only fair to say that not everyone feels comfortable connecting with a telemarketer they suspect isn’t human. There’s just no way around the fundamental fact that people buy from people. Even if your telemarketing campaign only looks to generate leads, it might have a great deal of trouble engaging prospects who feel they can’t trust a robot’s word.
Besides, other than there being no substitute for the human voice, there’s also no replacement for the human touch. That’s the reason why this new system still depends heavily on human agents to work in call center service companies. ‘Almost human’ is still a long way from being human.
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