Young people have stopped picking up the phone to complain. Instead, they’re increasingly likely to do business over web-chat, messenger or Twitter. As artificial intelligence advances, it’s likely we’ll all be chatting with even more automated and intelligent bots. Even if they appear on the surface like a human customer service agent.
In February, the CEO of Citigroup, Mike Corbat, suggested that “tens of thousands” of people who are currently working in their American bank centres are likely to be replaced by machines. A few days later, a report from two economists at University College Cork suggested that two in five Irish jobs might be supplanted by Artificial intelligence, with administration and customer service roles at particular risk, although another economist later suggested that their report was “overstated” and “fear-inducing.”
What jobs are at risk?
Dorothy O’Byrne is managing director of the Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA), which represents contact centre management and encourages knowledge sharing and continuous professional development in the sector. “Customer service has evolved with new social media and digital channels,” she says. “Less calls are being handled and there is a lot of messaging, web-chat and automation coming into contact centres. From our perspective, the industry is growing and thriving and the challenge is recruiting people. And as an industry, we embrace AI: it means that companies can do more in customer service. Using simpler, more transactional activities supported through tech and the higher value tasks handled by more skilled advisers. Our members see opportunities to up-skill staff to handle more complex queries.”
O’Byrne says that their members are already using technology to engage with and understand their customers. “Artificial intelligence can do incredible things but you need to use data to establish patterns and knowledge, and this means we need people with data analysis skills. So the roles might change, and the operations might become more sophisticated but, even with the advances to date, we haven’t seen significant job losses in the industry – indeed we’re seeing more recruitment, particularly at eir.”
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