AI: Useless Without the Human Touch

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There are conflicting opinions about the impact emerging technologies will have on the future job market. The reality is this: many of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today. Our jobs are not at risk of disappearing, but rather evolving and ultimately enabling us to maximize the impact of the human characteristics that make us so valuable: empathy, emotion and sociability.

There is no debate over whether artificial intelligence will change the workplace – it already is – but whether or not companies will have the capacity to successfully integrate AI in a way that empowers humans to work faster, better and smarter. New tech opens up countless exciting possibilities, as long as we are able to anticipate them and adapt accordingly. If companies fail to support AI that collaborates with their human employees, new technology will have limited impact. There was a largely unanimous feeling of confidence around the future of jobs coming out of the World Economic Forum, with many leaders agreeing on human reskilling as a top priority for companies in 2018.

Studies from Forrester support this optimism, showing that while 16 percent of U.S. jobs will be lost over the next decade as a result of AI and tech, 13.6 million jobs will be created during that time due to the trend. Alternatively, Gartner reported that 45 percent of the fastest-growing companies in the world will “employ” more smart machines and virtual assistants than people by 2018, proving that there are many people who believe the capabilities of machines and new tech will surpass human potential.

It is unanimously agreed upon, however, that as customer expectations continue to grow and demand authentic and personalized experiences, companies must develop employees while embracing efficient and collaborative tech in order to keep pace. Here are a few reasons why humans will continue to play an integral role in the development of the customer experience:

Technology isn’t quite there yet

As emerging technology including AI and customer data analytics evolve at a rapid pace, companies are presented with greater opportunities to better understand their customers and employees. However, technology alone is not capable of fulfilling customer expectations that depend on human emotion and empathy. There has to be a mindful balance between human and machine interaction when it comes to pleasing the consumer. Our industry relies on powerful relationships, and robots and machines will never be capable of conducting a conversation in the way humans can.

Take chatbots for example – while successful in assisting customers with tasks such as check out and booking, they are not yet capable of comprehending tone, through which we express 38% of what we really mean. Whereas AI can pull from stored data to better assist a given customer, it cannot detect when that customer is frustrated or confused. In an ever-evolving market where consumers define brands based on the customer experience they offer, emotional intelligence is key to driving customer satisfaction.

This is why the human touch is critical to perfecting and maintaining meaningful relationships with the customer – without human agents to step in and fill the gaps, all of the achievements of AI will hold no value, because without humans, a relationship cannot be fostered.

Relationships Are Everything

Relationships that are grounded in human empathy and emotion are the backbone of successful customer experience. While technology can simplify some of the formerly complicated processes of online shopping, travel booking and the like, it is not yet capable of displaying and responding to human emotion. As AI continues to adopt mundane and time-consuming tasks, workers have the opportunity to upskill and provide higher order services and interactions. While AI will guide some of the purely transactional events during the customer journey, the true value for customers will only be realized when we leverage the main objective of AI solutions to enhance our ability to connect and build trust, rather than replacing our role in building relationships with customers. Digital and technological innovation will remain a key focus for the future, but it is important to recognize that real conversations and connections can never be fully replaced by technology.

AI is cultivating a seamless omnichannel experience that will help drive customer loyalty and satisfaction – combined with capable employees, the result will inevitably be a successful and engaging customer experience.

Human Creativity Cannot be Programmed

AI is impacting all industries, even art and music. In light of recent industry developments like AI that is trained to draw whatever it’s told, shared recently by Microsoft, creatives are also worried about their job security – but as with AI in the workplace, new technologies will not eliminate the need for people but rather enhance human capabilities to create, think and develop new forms of expression.

Mercedes-Benz, for example, recently decided to swap out its assembly line robots for humans, opting to have employees work alongside robots instead of having them operate independently. The decision was a result of the robots’ limited capacity to understand the customizable options for the company’s S-class sedan. From heated or cooled cup holders to carbon-fiber trims and decals, the machines could not keep up with the varying options in the same way humans could. While machines would take weeks to reprogram to adapt to these changes, humans were able to process and realign quickly. In allowing humans to work side by side with machines, the efficiency and speed of the machine is elevated by humans that are able to replace what it lacks.

In conclusion, it is safe to say that brands that do not innovate around technological advancements – and fail to service customers where, when and how they want to be served – will suffer. Successful businesses will be defined by their ability to adapt to the changing market while maximizing the capabilities of the human touch. We can either be fearful or excited about the inevitable rise of AI. At Sitel Group, we welcome the opportunity to integrate innovative technology as a means to develop and enhance our greatest asset: our associates.

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