The prevailing, somewhat frightening, assumption about chat bots, AI, and workplace automation is that they'll lead to a future in which we will need fewer people to fill fewer jobs.
Frankly, that viewpoint is rather shortsighted.
Yes, computers are smart... and they are getting smarter at an ever-increasing rate. For the foreseeable future, however, machines will not be able to do many things well.
Contrary to dystopian assumptions, a bot-driven future arguably wouldn't mean less manpower.
Take for instance the rapidly evolving state of sales and customer service. Naturally, technology has done an admirable job supplanting certain sales roles and service functions. But most of the automated processes are strictly administrative. As a result, sales professionals are able to sell more and service agents are able to serve better. Neither job has been (or will be) phased out. Why? Because the goal of the company is to make more money. Bots and automation simply allow companies to handle more.
Trimming the fat
If we were to peak into a future office, what would it look like? Would it be a barren wasteland of bot-run data centers, or would it be a hyperactive collective of thinkers and strategists? I'd like to think the latter.
Technology trims fat. It cuts away the unwanted functions of business that are arduous and monotonous. For sales people, those might be building dial lists, prioritizing leads, and shuffling through files to locate the most up-to-date account report.
But their dynamic and creative personalities give humans an edge not easily (or cheaply) emulated by a machine. With the assistance of machines, humans can do more and together man and machine can accomplish feats that neither alone could do.
Taking on more
We are a race that constantly pushes forward. Advancement seems baked into our genetics. And although we often create machines to simplify our day, we still manage to shoulder more instead of less.
Imagine, if you will, two scenarios of a cloud contact center: one without and one with an AI bot.
In the first scenario, calls barrage the contact center agent daily, many of which require quick 30-second resolutions. However, every so often, a caller chimes in with a particularly advanced issue. This issue requires significant explanation and care, which sometimes backs up the customer service queue. Overall, the customer has a mediocre experience, but agents have set a relatively good benchmark of first caller resolutions.
In the second scenario, the AI bot alleviates the phone lines from simple 30-second conversations that involve basic solutions to routine problems. Advanced problems, ones that are difficult to articulate and require a degree of intuition, specialization, and empathy, still forward to agents, but the agents are able to dedicate more time and resources to resolving the issues without backing up the call queue.
Among the resources the agents are tapping into are bots assisting them in the background to have relevant information immediately on hand and recommendations of where to get further help. As a result of the stronger call-vetting system, agents have time to log the issues and set up calls with support teams so that the issues don't replicate on other accounts. Likewise, agents are able to proactively reach out to existing accounts with comparable profiles to ensure they aren't experiencing similar issues.
Note in both scenarios, agent are working the same amounts. However, in the second scenario, agents are doing significantly more to improve the customer experience and has more job satisfaction. The result? Not less work, but better business.
As stated by TechCrunch writer Justin DiPietro in a July post, "In a scenario where the preferred customer engagement moves away from a brand's website and onto a bot channel like Facebook Messenger, a question of scale is presented. Even with low failure rates, the number of human hand-offs will most likely grow because of the sheer volume of engagements that will likely occur."
It's a good thing
Bot advancement is on track to greatly help businesses. Today, we are seeing more of these machines advance with the help of natural language processing or machine learning. The combination of bots and humans will improve the experiences of customers, prospects, and agents, and help deliver better business outcomes and more satisfaction for everyone involved.