Is Agent Assist Dead?

Agent Assist is dead. Long live knowledge-worker co-pilots.

Perhaps a bold claim but let me explain.

I’ve shared many examples of how Gen AI chatbots and voice bots can now handle more complex tasks, with powers of reasoning and conversational abilities that are nearly indistinguishable from human agents.

That tells me that Gen AI will replace a large proportion of your junior agents. A concept I explored in my email: Escape agent churn with Gen AI.

I think that changes the game when it comes to using AI to Assist agents. For years, vendors have marketed Agent Assistance solutions based on the previous generations of AI: they spot words, phrases, and intents, and use them to serve up scripted advice: say this. Don’t say that. Here’s a link to a process document.

One of the challenges is that the AI just isn’t that good, and the assistance isn’t that useful. Another is that successful adoption demands deep, custom, integration into the agent desktop.

If your assistance isn’t spot on, all the time, and presented in a way that agents can’t help but see, and use, then it’ll just get ignored.

In summary: fragile, complex, expensive and at risk of low adoption, and utility.

I’ve yet to see a verifiable ROI from these kinds of solutions. If you’ve seen it, let me know, I really would love to understand how you made it work.

My views changed on this a year ago when I read an MIT Sloan article on the subject, that demonstrated compelling results with a generative AI model tuned to provide suggestions based on transcripts of successful troubleshooting conversations. The research found that, on average, there was a 14% increase in the number of issues resolved per hour. The productivity boost was most substantial for novice and low-skilled workers. And new starters, who had AI assistance from the start, achieved a level of proficiency in 2 months, that un-assisted agents took >6 months to achieve.

Impressive, but my views changed again when I started to see how good Gen AI-powered automation could be. Why provide suggestions to a junior agent when you could fully automate what they do today?

Of course, you’ll still need more senior, experienced agents to handle more complex cases, but as the MIT Sloan research showed, the experienced agents benefit much less from the AI assistance.

But experienced knowledge workers can benefit from AI, as research by Boston Consulting Group has shown.

They found that knowledge workers, leveraging the full power of Generative AI models, performed 25% faster and 40% better than those without the use of AI. I think this is the future of Agent Assist. Not simple suggestions based on a transcript of the conversation. But fully empowered knowledge workers empowered by co-pilots with deep integration into their desktop computers, collaboration software and backend systems. Like what Microsoft is doing with co-pilot. Amazon with Q. And Google with Duet.

Now, it’s going to be a while before these solutions are really making inroads into your senior agent productivity, but in the meantime, are you sure it’s worth investing in Agent Assist, for maybe 14% productivity increase, or might your time and effort be better spent on Gen AI-powered automation that meets or exceeds the performance of your junior agents, so you can finally Escape agent churn with Gen AI.


PS: You are building with genAI right now, aren’t you? If not, what’s stopping you? Check out our latest blog on gen-AI blockers or sign up for a complimentary Strategy Workshop to help you get started.

PPS: If you want a more regular dose of insights, subscribe to our weekly email that’ll make you think differently about your IVR, voice, and chatbots.

About the Author

Kerry Robinson

Kerry Robinson
VP of AI Strategy
Waterfield Tech

An Oxford physicist with a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence, Kerry is a technologist, scientist, and lover of data with over 20 years of experience in conversational AI. He combines business, customer experience, and technical expertise to deliver IVR, voice, and chatbot strategy and keep Waterfield Tech buzzing.

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