Getting Started With Automation: Bringing Human and AI Agents Together

Several customer service agents speaking into their headsets.

Wondering how to get started with automation in a way that actually elevates the talent of your human agents? Our operations leaders linked up for a fireside chat to discuss this and much more.  

You may be wondering just how exactly a BPO and an AI provider might choose to collaborate with each other rather than compete. But the answer is simple: we are joining forces so that our customers have the talent and the tools to provide the best possible CX. The future of customer support is hybrid, and this partnership with  PartnerHero makes blending cutting-edge automation technology with a human touch more seamless than ever.

In our recent event, “The modern outsourcing company: Bringing human & AI agents together,” our respective operations leaders, Sarah Al-Hussaini and Steve Chrabaszewski, got together to talk about:

  • Strategies for getting started with automation in the age of generative AI 
  • How bringing AI and human support agents together powers more rewarding CX careers
  • What’s on the horizon for the support industry in 2025 and beyond

You can watch a full recording here, or read on to learn their stand-out tips and hear the conversation highlights. 

Advice for support leaders as they get started with automation 

Thanks to tech breakthroughs like generative AI, automation has become much more than just a passing trend. Steve and Sarah advise businesses against ignoring the hype, but that doesn’t mean you need to blindly jump on a bandwagon either. Instead, your approach to automation should be unique to your business, and it’s best to start small and scope smart as you map out your automation journey. At the end of the day, your team’s performance and your relationship with your customers should not be compromised by attempting to automate too much too quickly.

Sarah recommends selecting use cases for automation one by one. Start by looking at your no-touch tickets – i.e. those can be solved in just one interaction – for some insight on where to begin. These can be things like order status confirmations, password resets, or address changes and are ideal for automation. Opt for realistic targets like achieving 10% automation in month one and then add another 10% in month two, and you’re already making great progress. That’s the sort of journey you should be looking for, rather than rushing to meet arbitrary KPIs that sound good on paper but are actually creating worse outcomes for your team and for your customers. 

When it comes to deciding on an automation provider, it’s important to choose wisely. As Sarah warns, “It’s very easy for an AI vendor to make promises like 80% automation rate guaranteed in just 2 weeks. But if you hear numbers that high, run.” Remember that even though gen AI may be new, CX automation has been around for a few years now. So pick an experienced vendor that can help you develop a realistic outlook on what and how to automate. As Sarah emphasizes,

“We’ve been talking a lot about trust in AI, and it starts by working with partners that you can trust. Choose an experienced provider that can help you to understand what automation could look like for your business.”

– Sarah Al-Hussaini, COO, Ultimate 

There’s already a lot of expertise out there in the realm of CX automation. There are automation solutions that have been developed over the years to work within your CRM and your back office systems, so it’s worth seeking out those that have been in the game long enough to refine their offering. Also pay attention to how well the provider onboards you and whether they are invested in building a bespoke automation journey that isn’t just about promising you big targets straight out of the box. 

Finally, the best automation solutions are those that complement your human support agents by functioning as a helping hand that takes care of the more repetitive tasks. But actually pulling this off may still feel like scarcely-charted territory, as there is a lot of anxiety about how automation will impact the labor force. Steve and Sarah delve deeper into the best practices and future possibilities of blending AI and human support. 

How to balance AI and human agents

With the hype around gen AI has come an uptick in fear about whether this tech will replace humans in the customer support industry. Yet, Steve and Sarah believe that this is simply not the case. In actuality, it’s never AI or humans. As Sarah reflects, “In the almost seven years that I’ve been working with companies and helping them to implement automation, not a single one of our customers has gone full AI and abandoned their human agents. It has simply never happened. AI is for automating the high-volume requests, the repetitive stuff, and the manual tasks. It’s the low sophistication work that is probably taking up the majority of your team’s time.”


“Organizations should be investing more in training their human agents to elevate the quality of the service they can provide, and part of that involves automating the more mundane tasks.” 

– Steve Chrabaszewski, EVP, PartnerHero

And the best part is that what Steve is seeing in this age of CX automation is that freeing up agents’ time has actually created the potential to turn draining support agent jobs into truly rewarding careers. When they don’t have to spend hours on end tagging or translating support tickets they can instead hone their craft to deal with higher stakes situations. In fact, more and more businesses are already beginning to see the merit of blending automation and human talent.

As Susan Duffy, who runs global support at luxury stationery brand Papier, put it “Our bot is for making sure our customers around the world get 24/7 support but the second it’s a mishap with wedding invitations with a bride on the line, it’s immediately escalated to my human agents.” (You can read more about Papier’s automation success story here.) In this new blended paradigm of automation with a human touch, Sarah emphasizes that, 


“Integrating automation into your support offering allows your human team to become what they should be: a white glove service that can offer a white glove experience.” 

– Sarah Al-Hussaini, COO, Ultimate  

As Steve has already seen, when the majority of agents’ time is spent on mundane tasks, their work becomes so mind-numbing that it not only affects employee engagement but also even staff retention. So when you start talking about how AI complements the workforce, it’s a way to cultivate true CX experts who are handling the more complex – and rewarding – situations. 

Looking into 2025 and beyond

No doubt, 2023 was a big year for CX automation. But even in a post-ChatGPT world – there’s still room for things to become more tailored to the customer support space. So Steve and Sarah offer some reflections on what kinds of developments you can expect to see in the months and years to come. For starters, they recommend that whether you’re looking to outsource or automate, opt for service providers that are forward-thinking and can provide a holistic solution which embraces the use of technology to resolve your pain points. 


In fact, Sarah would even argue that,  

“Beyond the automation technology, the bigger part of the industry is the expertise of the providers and the offerings, such as this partnership, which provides really innovative services for businesses.” 

– Sarah Al-Hussaini, COO, Ultimate 

Steve elaborates that this might look like choosing a service provider who has a lens on AI, someone who’s looking at conversational analytics and quality workforce management.

In the realm of AI, Sarah predicts that there will be more talk about verticalized AI models. Right now, many people are using generative AI tech that is powered by very generalized LLMs (large language models), similar to ChatGPT, which was trained on much of the written content published on the internet. These models have been trained on massive data sets, but in the future it is likely that providers will launch models that are specifically customer-service based, and on billions of customer service interactions. This will enable better, more specialized models that will have higher accuracy and be cheaper to run. 

The second trend Sarah predicts is model connectivity. It’s great that generative AI has enabled chatbots to give human-like answers, but perhaps more importantly, how will you actually integrate those AI tools into your existing tech stack? This will be a big area of focus in 2025: making these CX automation solutions more seamlessly able to access multiple knowledge sources – whether it be your FAQ page, product catalog, or order management system – to provide the best responses. 

Telia is the biggest TelCo in the Nordics, and their agents work within 50 different knowledge sources and systems to solve support queries. Read how our automation solution made their agents’ lives much easier.


Steve concludes the talk by stressing the importance of facing these technological changes head on as a business – and from a place of trust and cooperation with your support agents,

"The overarching message is that this is very much a journey, and things are going to continue to change and pivot. Automation shouldn’t be done with a set it and forget it mentality. The combination of the technology and the workforce will ensure your AI tools are properly calibrated."

– Steve Chrabaszewski, EVP, PartnerHero

Ultimately, this tech is only as good as the team that’s operating it, and the people portion of your customer support is still integral to the success of your business.  As you set out on your automation journey this point should be at the heart of the process.

Want to know more about what's in store for the future of CX automation?