Humanizing AI: How to Automate in a Sympathetic Way

Gary Barton – Analyst, Business Network and IT Services

Summary Bullets:

• Whilst AI can replace humans, it often works best when used to enhance what humans are doing.

• AI can deliver significant business benefits, but if implemented unsympathetically it can also cause disruption.

GlobalData’s research indicates that businesses understand that AI offers significant potential benefits in areas such as efficiency, R&D, and staff training, recruitment, and retention. The same research finds that enterprises also see potential pitfalls. Whilst the 5% of respondents in GlobalData’s survey who stated that AI is the ‘beginning of the end of the world’ may have had their tongues in their cheeks, a level of concern is not uncommon. Indeed, KPMG has referred to the concept of ‘Robocalypse Now’. It is also not unreasonable for employees to be worried that AI driven automation technologies will mean job losses because the adoption of those solutions usually does lead to headcount reductions.

Economic realities mean that it will not be possible for most enterprises to ignore AI automation technology. But there are ways that companies can mitigate the impact. A good example has been provided by Vodafone UK with its own call center staff. Vodafone started rolling out AI-powered chatbot technology within its contact center estate as part of its efficiency program. This led to a reduction in the number of human agents needed, so Vodafone also began a re-skilling program to allow those agents who want to retrain as programmers. Vodafone is paying for the training scheme as the mobile operator has, as many other companies have, encountered an IT skills shortage.

Not all job losses can be avoided but adopting a constructive and conscientious approach to deploying AI technologies – both with employees and customers – will bring better results. For customers this means ensuring that customers know that they are talking to a chat bot rather than a human. It also means monitoring dialogue flows to ensure that customers are getting the answers that they need.

With employees, businesses should consider how AI can help their staff to be more efficient. Contact centers again provide a great example of how this can be done. AI-powered assistants can help call center agents find the right answers to a customer’s question. No agent can know every procedure and every detail about every product and/or service. Furthermore, these assistants can make newer employees less reliant on their more experienced colleagues meaning that the most experienced staff are on the front-line helping customers more often. AI assistants can also help convert contact centers into profit centers by suggesting potential sales opportunities and helping agents to find the most appropriate product for a customer.

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