Robots charged with artificial intelligence are taking over. That’s the path that a lot of speculative reports take when talking about the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace. Most recently, Forrester has warned that robots will ‘eliminate’ 6% of all jobs in the US by 2021. This is a startling figure and, with low skilled jobs like customer service representatives and truck/ taxi drivers in the firing line, is one which could have significant socio-economic repercussions if not properly mitigated.
Technology that performs simple service tasks already exists in the homes and lives of many consumers; many people will have interacted with a chatbot, or made use of a virtual assistant like Siri, Alexa or Cortana. Knowing that this technology is really only in it’s infancy, it’s not a stretch to say that customer service offered through AI platforms will continue to evolve. These platforms will become much better at making decisions on our behalf, and their adoption by businesses and consumers will continue to grow. This isn’t just a possibility; it’s inevitable.
Augmentation, not destruction
But it’s unhelpful to approach the opportunities offered by AI with fear. More than that, it’s inaccurate. Most conversations about AI are hyperbolic; it’s as attractive for journalists to reach to extremes about how AI will either save, or destroy, the world as it is for the everyman to escape into sci-fi fantasies about turning up to work one day to find a robot sitting at his desk.
Peter Stone, a computer scientist at the University of Texas and author of Stanford University’s recently published report Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030, believes that “it’s a misconception of people . . . that AI is one thing. The general public is either very positively disposed to AI and excited about it, sometimes in a way that’s unrealistic, or scared of it and saying it’s going to destroy us, but also in a way that’s unrealistic.”
A realistic view of AI’s development
As a company, we’ve been using Artificial Intelligence to help our clients (many of them large enterprises) to improve their on- and offline service offering. Over the last 6 years, our AI has developed to make digital sales and service processes run smoother, to create seamless omnichannel shopping experiences, and to improve customer journeys. Our complete focus is on improving our clients’ service offering, and on making life easier for their consumers.
Our brand of Artificial Intelligence won’t replace humans. Any company with a service element will always need humans. People will always want to talk to, or interact with, other people in order to reach a resolution. They won’t want to do this every single time they interact with a company, nor should they necessarily be encouraged to do so, but the need for human to human contact will prevail.
Sure, the methods that consumers use to communicate with businesses will change; people will start to use the phone less, chat more, and IM will become a big player in the contact channel space. But when they do reach out to communicate with a company, and they have an issue that demands human empathy or conversation, they will want to interact with a real life person.
What our Artificial Intelligence does is identify the people who want to communicate with human advisors, and others who want to self-serve. It transforms an understanding of a website’s behavioral data into unique, personalized experiences for every web visitor. It improves the customer journeys, and makes the job of the contact center advisor far easier. It doesn’t harm the sales and service experience; it augments it.
Artificial Intelligence will enhance service
AI isn’t going to deter from the human experience. It’s going to enhance it. And while it’s true that some AI will replace some tasks that can be automated, that doesn’t mean that there will be a job deficit. With the robots looking after the automatable tasks, humans can be moved onto more complex processes.
Within the context of service, this reallocation of services means that there are more opportunities for deeper enrichment. AI will replace the task of helping web visitors who are only interested in quick, easy solutions. It won’t replace the humans who can create extra value; if anything, it’s just going to free up their time so that they can deliver better customer experiences. The robots aren’t going to take over; they’re going to make our lives better.