Introduction to the Series

In the next 6 weeks, we will be immersing ourselves into how we see Artificial Intelligence shaping the future of humanity, with a particular focus on the impact the way we interact with each other, brands and the environment around us.

We will talk about topics like Conversational Automation, chatbots, the importance of CX and how they are affected by AI.

Today, we will focus on how AI is affecting the future of work in customer support.

The future of work

When talking about Artificial Intelligence it is important to focus on the changes, mild or big, that it will bring to humanity.

It is true that important figures such as Stephen Hawking told the BBC: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race” or, in an interview by Kara Swisher, Elon Musk said: “In the long term, as AI gets probably much smarter than humans, the relative intelligence ratio is probably similar to that between a person and a cat, maybe bigger. I do think we need to be very careful about the advancement of AI”.

These opinions are from respected professionals and they need to be taken into consideration when talking about the future of our society, but don’t let the negative opinions fool you: as there’s an equal positive argument about AI.

Even though the World Economic Forum estimated that by 2020 there would be ‘a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies”, taken out of context, these numbers might scatter unnecessary fear.

What we need to consider is how, according to Forbes, Artificial Intelligence will create 58 Million new jobs by 2022. As Ray Kurzweil wrote: “Technology has always been a double-edged sword, since fire kept us warm but also burned down our villages”.

Jobs are changing continuously, and AI is only creating a shift: nothing is really lost because new opportunities are emerging at a very fast pace and the truth is that people are needed, even when considering the increasing number of jobs which are taken over by AI. Artificial Intelligence is substituting humans in those repetitive tasks that suck the creativity and energy out of us.

New jobs, such as AI Architect and AI Ethicists, are developing. The demand for new employees is rising faster than the supply: AI is quite new as a topic and Universities are implementing it at a slower pace compared to how fast the market is growing.

Technology has been seen as a threat since the first Industrial revolution. An example is the Luddite who were textile workers that would protest the introduction of machinery in fear that their job would become obsolete.

AI is not a threat: Artificial Intelligence can work on tasks except those which require human skills, such as abstract thinking, which are based on Fluid Intelligence (which machines lack).

Fluid intelligence gives humans the ability to reason and solve novel and nonverbal tasks without the need of pre-existing knowledge on the topics addressed. In fact, it allows us to solve issues though the use of logical, creative and abstract thinking, and allows us to recognize patterns and understand human relationships and interactions.

Let’s think about it this way: AI might create loss, but not all jobs will be affected and, with it, new jobs will also be created.

AI and the customer service jobs

When it comes to customer service, AI is most likely to replace tasks and not jobs. And this is positive as tasks which are monotonous and repetitive can be automated, improving the overall customer service. In fact, AI can reduce the waiting time giving quick resolutions to customer’s problems overall enhancing customer satisfaction and consequently increasing the brand reputation.

Head of customer support: needs to provide leadership and direction to the entire department. He established how to adapt the vision and the goals of the company and needs to have a clear idea of how the whole internal system works. Therefore, the level of communication and understanding of the work of the managers and agents, leads this position to be quite hard to automate through AI. It is a job that requires skills such as the ability to come up with fast problem-solving strategies while using abstract thinking, which, as mentioned above, are characteristics which are not possessed by Artificial Intelligence.

Customer Support manager: the main goal of this position it to understand how to satisfy the customers’ needs and make sure the satisfaction remains high. In order to do so, an excellent manager occasionally will need to interact face-to-face with customers to comprehend and recognize where to implement changes. As mentioned before, AI is lacking emotional and fluid intelligence, therefore the jobs which are strictly linked to understanding if the customer’s needs are met and require managers to keep in touch with clients overtime cannot be fully substituted by AI. AI can still help in the process of gathering important data to then allow the managers to make the best decisions but cannot make the decision itself.

Customer support Agent: many companies are opting for automation in the form of AI and less intelligent bots. This type of job is going to decrease in the future as 70% of conversations are handled by bots or have a bot-based component which allows the clients to receive faster service, reducing the time wasted waiting in line.

For example, call centers are likely to disappear as technology and the internet allows the agents to work from home. Many of the tasks performed by agents are already being automated through AI. The great news here is that agents are able to focus on the tasks which would bring more value to the company while dropping the overall company’s costs as the customer service becomes faster and fewer agents are required. Also, this job is likely to be reduced overtime but not yet completely disappear due to the limits of AI we mentioned above.

Conclusion

Even if big changes are happening, AI cannot substitute the empathy, abstract thinking and all the other skills that come from having a Fluid Intelligence. However, even if some customer service positions are slowly being partially or fully replaced, AI is allowing highly positive changes.

AI makes the customer service agents’ life easier, it reduces stress as it can handle between 10 to 35% of customer problems. Agents are redirected to the right task and do not need to spend time on repetitive tasks.

Consequently customers are happier as times are reduced and even if the AI does not satisfy the customer, still an agent can easily take over and resolve the issue. The combination of AI and human support is a win-win for the agents and for the company.