NicoElNino - Fotolia

AI need not be a threat to call centre jobs

A fear of AI and automation costing people their jobs is not the response being found on the shop floor with staff more confident about the impact of technology

The dystopian world of replicants and humans rubbing alongside each other portrayed in Blade Runner 2049 might inspire some fears of the rise of the robots but AI is not necessarily going to kill jobs.

Resellers trying to pitch more automation to customers already worried that a robot will replace them can go in with a more sympathetic story about using time more wisely and for staff to get the chance to add more value.

Aspect Software has been looking at what AI and increased automation will mean for customer service centres and the outcome is not necessarily a blizzard of P45s.

“The introduction of automation is not an either-or proposition. Instead, the two sides can work in unison to establish a higher level of customer care, while making sure agents have a greater sense of value within the company," said Stephen Ball, senior vp Europe & Africa at Aspect Software.

The use of chat bots was seen as a positive by users who told Aspect that it would give them more time to add a more personalised service for the customer.

That assumes that the customer is rolling out more automation with a clear idea of how it will change the lives of staff.

“If you’re going to use automated technology in your contact centre, you must be ready with a strategy to make the most of your personnel as you offload basic responsibilities onto your software,” said Ball.

“The future isn’t a gloomy robot-infested world with higher levels of unemployment. It’s a brighter place with more work satisfaction from a generation who have a better quality of work-life balance. The implementation of automated technology in the customer contact centre will only empower the work force to become more committed to the business,” he added.

Another potential problem that the channel could help iron out is the lack of preparation from vast numbers of customers around the adoption of new technologies.

Research from Ricoh Europe exposed around a third of staff were not in a position to start working with more automation and AI tools.

“There is a great deal of hype in Europe around digital empowerment and its impact on productivity. While AI and automation will transform the way that we work, a lack of training will drastically reduce ROI. Businesses need to consider the person who will be using the new technology. No amount of infrastructure spending will help a business that isn’t encouraging its staff to develop the right skills," said Javier Diez-Aguirre, vp corporate marketing, Ricoh Europe.

“Despite headlines about being replaced by robots, Europe’s workers see technology as a way to do higher value work not something that will replace them. However, improving workers’ confidence to use new technology is not a catch-all situation. Successfully empowering digital workplaces requires different skillsets and a variety of needs must be catered for. Engaging with workers at every step is vital," he added.

Read more on Salesforce Management