A few weeks ago, I was heading home in a car with two of my friends. Oblivious to the hustle of the commute and barely attentive to the idle chatter, I was zoned back into the moment when my friends started talking about artificial intelligence. “Artificial intelligence is the next big thing. We are going to lose our jobs.” One of them quipped. She then added how she was looking forward to it.
Will people lose their jobs because of AI? Is that the absolute future of work? Everyone seems to be talking about it but is it just hype or is it a bonified boom?
Until a few months ago, the only thing whose future I doubted, was my television set. I barely use it anymore, as I watch my TV shows online almost exclusively. The same holds true for my dusty CD player and my collection of rarely used CDs. So, will TV sets have the same fate as the CD Player and die? You can debate the question but there is one indisputable fact: my entertainment has shifted to the cloud which is slowly becoming a dominant aspect of the future of work.
Will the customer service agent follow TVs to the cloud?
The industry is in the midst of the cloud shift and in no time, we should see the momentum pick up drastically. The cloud minimizes the cost and hassle of ownership, offers ease of scalability and provides flexibility for corporations to ‘try out’ services which they otherwise would find too costly to even venture in. In a world where the purchasing power has moved to the internet (read: e-commerce), marketing has become a virtual commodity, and memories are now stored and re-lived online (read: Facebook), this direction hardly comes as a surprise. The same goes for the workforce of an organization. Cloud services ensure that they are using the latest technologies with easy updates, are independent of devices and most importantly have the convenience of mobility. Like the smartphone has begun to do, with the advent of smart homes, smart devices, and smart things, we will witness a tremendous shift in the landscape of how we live and work – all powered by services offered on cloud and tailored to each one’s preferences.
Personalization will be the key to all successful customer interactions
Offering static, template-based services is a pathway to doom and would make consumers irate more often than not. But, for a business dealing with millions of consumers each day, carrying out thousands of communications simultaneously, it does not make sense to blindly increase workforce or even worse, burden them with mundane tasks that eventually causes a dip in performances and efficiency. A major chunk of these business engagements tend to be ‘transactional’ in nature and automating those does help strike a balance between holding down the business cost and maintaining employee productivity.
Automation will always be an important aspect of the present and future of work.
Automation as a concept that began centuries ago with the Industrial Revolution. With the rise of artificial intelligence, automation has only been bolstered and the interaction and transactional possibilities for the future seem endless. While many are grappling with what AI encompasses, I like to broadly put it as automation backed by well-structured data. So, if my TV streaming service, accurately tweaks what I would like to watch next, based on my history, has the ‘machine learnt’? I would probably say yes. Concentrating on the customer service domain (and not getting carried away by the rise of machines and the impending doom of mankind claims), the concepts of machine learning and natural language understanding are here to stay. Fueled by data (now quoted as the new oil), this will only help enhance the productivity of a business and save costs.
The explosion of channels, processing data and images will only help better serve customers beyond traditional channels and it will also assist with personalization. So, will this make humans less relevant? I think it will only make us more efficient. By diverting mundane tasks to automation, human agents will cater to what they can do best: handle the complex issues that still require a human touch. Underestimating the cognitive capabilities of mankind or overestimating the impacts of a technology can only be termed as jumping the gun. There is a sizeable amount of personalization that only humans can do like gauge emotions, rely on intuition, show empathy or build relationships. Machines/applications are best designed to address a structured task which helps automate a set of repetitive queries.
So, next time your business decides to invest in any such virtual assistant, make sure you have defined buckets of objectives that need to be automated, perfecting one as you build on the others. This activity will require patience in order to develop an efficient and effective end solution. But with the right application of technologies and a vision for sustainable development, the future for both agents and A.I. seems more promising and more powerful than ever before.
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