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AI Won’t Take Customer Service and Sales Jobs Away; It Will Improve Them

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Since adopting a customer service automation platform, sales agents at Brimag, an Israeli electronics retailer and repair company, have seen their salaries double. This was mainly because the automation platform allows the agents to interact with more customers each day, have better data at their fingertips faster, and to offload repetitive tasks to bots, making it easier to close more sales and earn higher bonuses. This is not a success story limited to Brimag, but one that can be experienced at almost any business in almost every sector.

Most enterprises rely on call centers for customer communication. Even as most also use digital forms of communication, including apps, online chat and social media channels, the work is still human-intensive—-and humans are struggling to keep up with it. Automation of communications, including the use of AI and data, can increase job satisfaction for sales and customer service representatives while also improving customer satisfaction and the company’s bottom line. It is a win-win-win, which cannot always be said in today’s rapidly changing world of business and tech.

Bots are not only for helping customers; they also help workers

To make up for a shortage of pharmacists, Walgreens has started using robots to help fill prescriptions. Robots are also helping out more in factories and with numerous other physical tasks, freeing up humans for management and other work. A similar solution is needed in customer service and sales. Today’s customer service agents are overworked and overwhelmed amid a growing labor shortage in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Those who work in sales are under similar pressure; needing to make or answer as many phone calls as humanly possible. A key way to relieve this pressure is to use AI and  bots that can work alongside—and even at the command of—busy agents.

As is already common, online bots can answer and direct customer queries. But, increasingly, they can also complete actual tasks for customers, like opening customer query tickets, or changing the dates of reservations or items ordered. Even more valuable is that bots can also work at the direction of agents.  Agents can have bots available to them to assign tasks to; for example, after closing a sale, a human agent can order a bot to send a contract and other documents to customers. While the bot does that, the agent can move on to the next customer.

Sales and customer service reps should also be able to quickly ask questions to AI-powered databases to get information they need during conversations with clients, eliminating the need to put people on hold while seeking information. With these AI tools in place to help agents, businesses can also scale more quickly, as they don’t need to scramble to hire additional human agents—increasingly in short supply–or ask too much of their current workforce.

AI empowers customer service agents to focus on growth

These bots and other AI-enabled data systems not only take stress off agents, but also allow them to play a bigger role in business growth. Rather than focusing on how many calls they can take in an hour, agents can focus more on bringing value to the company. They can deal only with the most complex or valuable calls, while bots and other automated features serve more simple queries. Human agents will also be better-equipped to answer the sort of questions and give over the kind of information that leads to sales or increased customer satisfaction. This will happen because AI will help the human agents quickly and efficiently get the information they need for these productive conversations.

As more companies automate communications, I think we will even see human customer service reps measured by different metrics. Rather than be measured by how many calls they take an hour, agents will increasingly be measured by how much value they bring to a company. That could include being measured in terms of sales, leads, or customer satisfaction after interactions.

Human-augmented AI is a way to improve job satisfaction

By bringing in AI to help both customers and sales and service agents, enterprises can also reduce the turnover they see in these jobs because those working in them will be more satisfied. Agents will experience less pressure, and like we saw at Brimag and other places, they will see better compensation and incentive to work, as bots and automation take over many of the routine and repetitive tasks.

As more customer-facing tasks are automated, erasing the need for customers to wait on hold, and allowing them to quickly complete tasks online, customer satisfaction will also grow; Israeli energy company Paz recently saw its customer satisfaction increase 50% after many communications and other tasks were automated. This, too, will take pressure off agents.

At the same time, automated tools will assist humans as they work. In fact, the jobs humans do will likely transform, leading to opportunities for more meaningful and creative work. Research by consulting firm McKinsey has found that meaning in their work was the second most important source of satisfaction for employees, after their paychecks. With bots on their teams, more agents will be in positions of managing tasks and overseeing strategy, rather than racing to answer phone calls and customer queries. Agents will become a sort of human in the loop, making sure the bots are working how they should.

As time goes by and more companies adopt automation in communications, it is likely that the job descriptions for sales and customer service agents will change to reflect this automated component. Customer service and sales agents will no longer be seen as robots working as fast as humanly possible. Rather, with the help of AI and automation, they will be commanding a fleet of machines that makes their jobs more creative, more satisfying and more valuable.

Eli is the Co-Founder and CEO of CommBox, an advanced AI-powered omnichannel customer communication platform that allows any organization to manage seamless communication with customers across channels: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, chat, email, Google, SMS, video chat, and more, all in one smart inbox.