When I visited Jamaica recently, one of the recurring conversation topics repeated several times by government and trade association representatives was ‘how long has Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) got before Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over?’
It’s a genuine concern.
Some people are thinking that maybe it’s not even worth considering a BPO career if the robots take all these jobs.
In fact, two years ago The Economist actually predicted the death of the contact center. It noted that AI and voice recognition would make the role of the agent redundant.
But as we have seen, contact centers in locations such as Jamaica are still growing. The Economist prediction hasn’t quite worked out – yet. In fact the World Economic Forum predicts that AI will only automate all human jobs within the next 125 years.
The Customer Experience (CX) is being changed and influenced by several connected technologies. In fact, in many cases it is the desire to improve CX that is driving much of the research and investment into these new technologies.
However, what is important to note is that in most cases the technologies are supportive, rather than being a direct replacement for human employees.
Some AI tools, such as chat-bots, are already helping contact centers to eliminate very simple enquiries. This helps the human agents focus on more complex queries where natural language and an ability to empathize with the customer are important. It cannot be denied that contact centers will be changed because of these emerging technologies like AI, but instead of proclaiming that the contact center is dead, I would suggest that we will see these five supportive trends in the near future:
I believe that machine learning, AI, and Big Data analysis are going to dramatically change the customer experience, but it is incredibly simplistic to believe that just as customers expect a more personalized service brands would shift entirely to bots.
Smart brands will use the opportunity to automate some customer interactions and increase the engagement value of the human interactions. Supporting the agents and ensuring they always have the right answer is a great start on this journey.
Customers want to engage and get closer to brands and this simply cannot happen at present with bot technology – have you tried to have a meaningful conversation with Siri?
Voice recognition and AI will be good enough and cheap enough for brands to deploy as standard eventually, but the human interaction will remain important inside BPO companies for several more years. The contact center isn’t dead yet!