Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Our Call Centers

AI Robots as Call Center Agents

Artificial Intelligence or AI is taking an ominous turn. Will AI take the place of call center representatives? Does this spell unemployment for millions? What will job hunting look like in the future?

Everyone wanted a piece of the action till the technology itself felt creepy and invasive. Over the past six months, we’ve seen a gamut of reactions – from gloom and doom to outright panic.  Is AI the imminent demise of the call center industry? Everyone from IT trend experts to industry leaders has voiced concern for the tens of thousands that may lose their jobs and the looming financial losses (to the tune of billions of dollars in revenue) that can impact their balance sheets.

The future sounds dark, but the facts and context of the situation paint a very different picture. If correctly implemented, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be a boon for the Philippine outsourcing industry, allowing workers to keep their employment while increasing productivity and customer satisfaction.

AI in the Philippine Setting

Philippine contact centers outperformed their foreign counterparts despite budget constraints. Twenty years ago, the Philippine market lacked superior technology and infrastructure to support expansion. So, how were Philippine call centers able to obtain an advantage if neither side possessed a clear advantage based on these decisive parameters?

The answer is straightforward but frequently overlooked: Philippine call centers took advantage of their culture when it comes to service and care. It is as ingrained in Filipino culture as Samba is in Brazilian culture. It is the reason why Filipino contact center agents can accomplish in one call what foreign call center agents require five calls to accomplish.

If it were so simple to systematize this level of intuitive service, other countries would have imitated the Philippines and neutralized this advantage many years ago.

But AI will not “replace” human contact center agents.

By definition, artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that aims to simulate the cognitive abilities of the human mind, specifically through learning and problem-solving. This technology has been used to replace various tasks, thereby providing answers to common or predictable issues.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Agents

The application of AI will affect call centers

The application of AI has an effect on call centers where experts assume transactions are performed with greater precision and speed. It IS true and somewhat a threat that machines could replace humans in certain occupations. However, the prediction that the entire industry will be automated may not be accurate. This is why:

In a study conducted by McKinsey and Company, a detailed analysis of more than 2,000 work activities for more than 800 occupations was conducted. This study analyzed “work activities” as opposed to “occupations” to investigate the technical feasibility of automation.

Considering the various duties of a call center agent, the majority of their work falls into four categories: data processing, data acquisition, application of expertise, and management of others. The first two are the most susceptible, while the last two are the least susceptible.  “Application of expertise” and “management of others”  cannot be automated not replaced by AI. 

This study also revealed that even in those instances when machines can replace some human tasks in a profession, this does not necessarily signal the end of employment in that field. While some employment functions have been automated, the demand for tasks that AI cannot perform continues to rise.

Consider automated teller machines (ATMs). ATMs replaced tedious teller duties and eventually led to a decrease in the number of tellers per bank branch. At the time, there were concerns that the machines would result in the loss of many banking positions, but the exact opposite occurred. Banks were able to do more with fewer expenses, allowing them to open new branches that subsequently hired more individuals. Decades after the introduction of ATMs, there are now more bank branches than ever, and working for a bank remains one of the most stable career paths in the world.

The relationship between human employees and banking machines has enabled additional tellers to focus on building relationships with customers, resolving issues, and introducing new products, thereby eliminating basic tasks and paving the way for a more cognitively demanding position. In general, automating a subgroup of these duties does not render the remaining ones redundant. In fact, it elevates their significance. It increases their monetary worth.

In the next five years, it is anticipated that AI will take the place of process-driven or “low-skilled” BPO positions. However, customer service will remain indispensable. This aspect of call center operations is extremely human and is unlikely to be transferred to even the most advanced AI systems.

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cxperts is a global provider of multichannel demand generation and customer engagement services.  We have presence onshore, nearshore, and offshore in the USA, the Philippines, Colombia, Guatemala, and soon, Mexico and South Africa.

We partner with companies to help provide exceptional customer care that builds brand loyalty through our brick-and-mortar centers and work-from-home models leveraging top resources from the areas where we operate.

cxperts is an omnichannel customer experience (CX) provider that delivers exceptional CX for brands of all sizes.  Our contact center solutions cover all facets of customer experience and business process outsourcing, from customer care, white glove services, and technical support to sales, collections, and back office.

Within our modern contact centers in the Philippines, Guatemala, and Colombia, we provide sustainable, life-changing careers to hundreds of cxperts around the world.  On top of that, our work-at-home solutions give brands the flexibility to benefit from a limitless pool of exceptional talent.