The future of work and the impact that artificial intelligence will have on the workforce has been a hot topic lately. The publicity has been a bit unsettling, though, given the tendency to couple the acronym AI with the word “replace”—as in “AI Will Replace Half of All Jobs in the Next Decade” or “Could AI Replace Teachers, Lawyers, Drivers, Doctors, [fill in your job]?”
These types of headlines might lead you to believe that call center agents will soon become unicorns, along with other support-type positions that include a lot of repetitive tasks and activities that can be automated. But exchange the word “replace” with “enhance,” “augment” or “transform” and that may provide a better sense of how customer-centric brands are leveraging AI to support the human element in their service operations.
Certainly, there are still companies that view the contact center as a cost center, and for these, the thought of replacing hundreds of frontline workers with robots might seem like a magical solution to control the costs associated with staffing and managing human agents. But the reality is that, despite the influx of digital channels in recent years, customers prefer to speak with a human when it comes to service issues (confirmed by recent studies from Verint and Accenture).