There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is the future of customer service.
AI has shown up everywhere in recent months, even taking fast food orders in drive-thrus. And with it come many ethical gray areas and calls to slow down the speed of its development. One of the biggest opportunities and fastest adoption rates is in customer service.
But AI’s growth in customer service brings a big question: Will AI replace human customer service jobs?
Although Goldman Sachs says AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, most experts agree that customer service jobs will be augmented and automated but not replaced.
By automating mundane tasks, AI could provide a better experience for customers with more self-service options and help fix some of the industry’s biggest problems, especially employee burnout and inefficiency. Working in customer service is notoriously stressful—it was named one of the world’s top 10 most stressful jobs—and companies see turnover rates of up to 45% of agents every year. That has led to a massive talent shortage and is costly for companies to continually recruit and train new employees—all of which affects the customer and employee experience.
AI won’t replace human customer service jobs in the short term simply because there are so many open jobs. With limited budgets and talent shortages, contact centers are looking to do more with less and make the most of their limited workforce—AI is the best tool for both of those issues.
AI Will Automate Repetitive Tasks
Most customer service requests are fairly mundane or repetitive, such as tracking an order, checking a balance, or resetting a password. Modern customers increasingly want fast, convenient service. Leveraging AI to provide frictionless self-service through bots and other channels is a win for customers and agents: it provides faster, more efficient service while also removing much of the repetitiveness for agents.
Leading HBR researchers put it this way: “Despite the media narrative to the contrary, generative AI will not wipe out entire categories of jobs, such as those in customer service. Automation is ideally about unlocking human potential to do tasks differently and do different, higher-value tasks.”
AI Allows Humans to Focus on the Human Side of Customer Service
Even with AI, customers will always need humans. With many repetitive tasks removed, customer service agents can focus on more creative and fulfilling jobs, such as providing personalized service, working through complicated issues, and building relationships.
That same research from HBR found that companies that strategically apply AI to customer service create a new set of human tasks, many of which are higher value than traditional customer service responsibilities, including the following:
- Pursuing continual improvement
- Making sure the system aligns with the customer
- Testing and evaluating avatars for customer interactions
- Monitoring data privacy and minimizing data bias
- Assuring ethical machine behavior
When companies redesign customer service jobs with these new tasks in mind, they can create a more engaging work environment and attract and retain great talent more easily.
AI Builds a Better Customer Experience
AI can’t replace human interaction. And as much as customers want speed and efficiency, they also want someone who understands them, and that can’t always come from AI. Customer service agents provide a critical human element: empathy. By providing the best of both worlds: speed and human empathy, AI can create more satisfied customers and more engaged employees.
Developing consistent, convenient, and personalized experiences at scale has never been more important. 47% of Gen Z will walk away from a brand after a single bad customer service experience, so every interaction matters. AI helps brands provide reliable experiences for every type of interaction.
That isn’t to say AI has reached its full potential yet. There are still countless issues and regulations to address with its use, plus building systems that seamlessly move customers from AI to humans. Still, the foundation has been set to revolutionize customer service and create an excellent experience for customers and agents.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the Future. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here.