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What Does the Job Spec for the ‘Agent of the Future’ Look Like?

This article was first published on Contact Centre Monthly on 4 July 2024.

Picture this: You call your bank to discuss a billing issue, and instead of navigating a frustrating maze of automated menus, you immediately connect with a knowledgeable, empathetic agent who resolves your issue within minutes. This isn’t just a fantasy—it’s the future of customer service.

With 96% of contact centres viewing AI as a vital technology to help their operations, it’s clear contact centres are already changing. Things are only set to evolve further as companies continue to learn and invest more in AI-driven solutions. While there may still be a disconnect between the available technology and how businesses use it, the role of agents will clearly change and require more tech-savvy, emotionally intelligent, and adaptable individuals to lead the way.

In this article, we will explore the rapidly changing role of customer service agents, the skills and traits they will need in the future, and how businesses can prepare for these changes.

A Snapshot of Today

Today’s customer service agents have a lot on their plates: they answer questions, resolve complaints, and provide technical support. However, many struggle with high call volumes and inadequate training.

Imagine starting your day with a flood of emails and calls, each presenting a unique issue. Despite your best efforts, you might not get enough one-on-one time with your supervisor to improve your performance or handle difficult customers effectively. You can feel overwhelmed and underprepared for complex, emotionally charged problems without regular feedback and support. This scenario highlights the urgent need for better support, training, and development for today’s customer service agents.

Technology Integration

AI and automation are changing job expectations. Bots now handle routine tasks like processing transactions or answering simple queries. This shift lets human agents focus on more complex issues that need expert knowledge and a personal touch. For example, while a bot can quickly provide account balances or reset passwords, resolving a billing dispute or addressing a customer’s unique concerns requires a human agent’s empathy and problem-solving skills.

Skill Shifts

Soft skills, emotional intelligence, and adaptability are vital in today’s contact centre industry. Customer interactions are becoming more challenging and emotionally charged, so agents need to navigate these conversations with empathy and sensitivity. It’s no longer enough to follow a script; agents must listen, understand the underlying emotions, and respond with tailored, empathetic answers. Adapting to the emotional tone of each interaction and offering genuine support is now essential for delivering exceptional customer service.

New Demands

Agents are now expected to be data-savvy, creative problem solvers, and capable of working well with other departments. Understanding and using data to improve customer experiences is becoming a key part of the role. To provide personalised communications, agents must analyse customer feedback, usage patterns, and service history. They must also collaborate with other IT and marketing departments to resolve complex issues and improve the customer journey.

The Future Agent: A New Breed

The agent of the future will need a diverse skill set, including:


Proficiency in using the latest technologies and tools is a must. Future agents will use advanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems and AI-driven insights and need to understand automated workflows to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing customer emotions will be essential. Agents must be able to read the emotional tone of interactions, respond with empathy, and de-escalate tense situations. This skill will help build stronger customer relationships and boost satisfaction.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Agents must quickly adjust to new challenges and changes. Whether it’s adapting to new technology, shifting customer expectations, or evolving business processes, the ability to remain flexible and resilient in the face of change will be essential.

Lifelong Learning

Continuous professional development will be essential. The future landscape of customer service is dynamic, and agents must commit to ongoing learning to stay updated with industry trends, new technologies, and best practices.


What Can an Agent Do Now to Ensure They Stay Abreast of Changes?

To stay ahead in customer service, agents must continually develop their skills through various training programs. Here are some excellent options:

  1. Emotional Intelligence Workshops

Organisations like the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence offer specialised workshops to enhance agents’ ability to manage customer emotions effectively. In the UK, RocheMartin offers emotional intelligence training tailored to corporate environments.

  1. Advanced CRM Training

Platforms such as Salesforce offer certification courses that help agents master the latest CRM tools, enabling them to utilise customer data efficiently. These courses include online learning modules and in-person workshops available in the UK.

  1. AI and Automation Courses

Courses on AI and automation from institutions like Coursera and edX can equip agents with the knowledge to leverage these technologies, improving their workflow and customer interaction capabilities. Specifically, the University of London offers AI and machine learning courses on Coursera.

  1. Cross-Functional Collaboration Training

Workshops provided by Dale Carnegie UK focus on developing interpersonal skills and teamwork, which are crucial for cross-departmental collaboration. They offer various in-person and online courses across the UK.

  1. Data Analysis Programs

Training in data analysis tools like Tableau or Microsoft Power BI can help agents interpret customer data to provide personalised solutions. These platforms offer extensive online courses, webinars, and in-person training sessions in the UK.

  1. Customer Service Excellence Courses

The Institute of Customer Service in the UK offers training programs focused on customer service excellence. These programs cover essential skills and advanced techniques for improving customer interactions.

  1. Communication Skills Training

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) offers courses on communication skills, crucial for effective customer service. These courses cover various aspects, from basic communication techniques to advanced conflict resolution.

  1. Reading and Research:

Read industry blogs, journals, and research papers regularly to stay current with the latest developments and best practices. Websites like Customer Think, and Call Centre Helper offer valuable insights.

By actively pursuing these educational and developmental opportunities, agents can ensure they remain proficient and adaptable in an ever-changing market, ready to meet the demands of the future customer service industry.

Jason Roos, CEO of contact centre solutions provider, Cirrus, says, “The shift towards the ‘Agent of the Future’ isn’t just about new technologies; it’s about redefining what it means to provide excellent service. This future agent will be more than just a problem-solver—they will be an empathetic listener, a data-driven decision-maker, and a smooth operator across departments. It’s about creating learning environments that are as fluid and adaptable as the agents themselves. We must move beyond traditional training methods and embrace interactive, ongoing learning that keeps agents engaged and growing.”

The Impact: Why It Matters

For Individuals

Adapting to these changes will fast-track career growth and job satisfaction for agents. As agents develop a broader skill set, they feel more valued and capable in their roles. This empowerment leads to higher job satisfaction and a clearer path to career advancement. According to a recent TalentLMS and SHRM Research study, 80% of employees find training beneficial for their productivity. Agents equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge are better prepared to handle their responsibilities effectively, reducing job-related stress and burnout.

For Businesses

Companies that invest in future-ready agents will reap substantial benefits. Improved customer satisfaction is one of the most immediate outcomes, as well-trained agents provide higher-quality service. Happier agents are more engaged and motivated, leading to lower turnover rates and a more stable workforce. This, in turn, creates a positive work environment and improves overall business performance. In fact, companies that prioritise professional development see a 34% increase in employee retention rates, underlining the importance of investing in the growth and well-being of their workforce.

Final Thoughts

The future workplace holds exciting opportunities for those ready to embrace change. By preparing now, we can create a more efficient, empathetic, and dynamic customer service experience for all. Agents will find greater job satisfaction and career growth, while businesses will benefit from improved customer loyalty and operational agility. The future will be one where customer service is not just a function but the core of business success.