Customer Service Automation

Is Automation a Threat or Opportunity for Customer Experience Professionals?

By Engage Hub expert 18 July 2018

While technology advances societies, makes life easier, and creates opportunities, it can also cause disruption, particularly in the job market.

For example, the number of agricultural workers in England and Wales has declined by 95%, and while 32.5 million people in England and Wales once worked as washers and launderers, today only 35,000 people work in that sector.

Now it seems that we’re on the brink of another technological revolution that will shake the global workforce and force us all to rethink how we work. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI), once confined to science fiction, are now a part of our everyday reality. And while the advancements are exciting, there’s inevitable concern about their effect on the workforce – expertspredict they could threaten as many as 800 million jobs by 2030.

However, automation and AI can and should be seen as an opportunity – particularly for those working within the customer experience and service sectors.

Who needs humans?

The main threat of AI is its ability to process information and complete manual or repetitive tasks faster and more efficiently than a human being. For customer service professionals, chatbots and automated messaging services are already beginning to replace call centre agents. Indeed, according to the popular site, customer service representatives in the US have a 55% chance of being replaced by a robot.

However, most people agree that AI and the technological advancements that surround it will actually help the workforce more than they’ll harm it. For example, 71% of UK CEOs expect AI to create more jobs than it destroys, and 62% of CEOs globally believe the same.

Long live our robot kings

While nothing can quite replace the human touch, AI can enhance the customer experience in a number of ways – the most obvious being the ability to provide an immediate and personalised response to a customer query.

Self-serve customer service is already on the rise and is seeing great results. Research by Aberdeen Group suggests that companies with a strong omnichannel presence have on average an 89% customer retention rate. What’s more, giving customers the option to contact a company while they go about their day helps them report minor concerns quickly, rather than waiting until an issue has escalated. This reduces the time companies spend resolving major issues, and improves brand satisfaction.

That being said, chatbots alone can’t completely replace traditional customer service. Sometimes, there are complex questions or problems that AI can’t solve, and customers need to be able to speak to a human adviser. In these instances, AI and humans can work together to enhance the customer experience and ensure issues are resolved as efficiently as possible.

By using intelligent deep learning capabilities, AI could make decisions on whether to reply to a customer automatically or transfer them to a human. This combination of automation and human action gives the customer the best overall experience: the chatbot can give them a quick answer without having to wait on hold for an agent to become available, while the human can work to resolve more complex issues or be there for customers who find online chat options frustrating or confusing.

The value of AI also goes beyond customer service. This same technology is processing huge volumes of structured data (emails, text messages) as well as unstructured data (voice calls). As a result, it can provide profound insight into ways your organisation can streamline operations and offer a more competitive product or solution.

Joining forces for the future

Ultimately, while AI may replace more menial or repetitive jobs, there will, continue to be a need for a human element in customer service. Customer experience professionals, therefore, should not view AI as a threat, but rather view it as an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and enhance their customer journeys.