Are bots killing jobs, is your job at risk and what can businesses do to make the most of the AI tsunami.
Let’s assume you work for the sales department of a large and thriving SaaS company. You fire up your laptop to start the day, but unfortunately, you know you’re very late. You expect to see lots of missed opportunities in your inbox. Prospects looking for answers and abandoning the site when they don’t find the information they seek.
But lo and behold, instead you discover two callbacks on your dedicated VOIP number. From people who have downloaded lead magnets and are seeking to explore a particular feature set of your product. Suddenly you go from possibly overwhelmed and mad at yourself for missing leads to happy and productive for the rest of the morning.
So, what’s the magic here? How did a potential disaster turn into something that’s actually to your (and your business’) advantage?
The missing link is your standard AI-powered chatbot.
Nope, I am not talking about the rudimentary (and slightly annoying) bots that you see popping up on more and more websites. They are just Live Chat functionalities with a shoddy make-over.
But truly well-taught chatbots, strategically deployed, prove to be gamechangers. They can not only say “hi” to prospects and stand-in for missing human agents, the more sophisticated versions can even detect hesitance based on prospect actions, remember context – as in what happened in the past – and communicate (almost) like you.
The result? Chatbots sharing your VOIP number with a lead who has previously downloaded a whitepaper and is back on your site for more.
The World Economic Forum has spoken. Robots and AI will displace 75 million jobs in the near future. But that’s simply looking at one side of the story.
The other, brighter, chapter is – these same technological advancements will add more than 133 million vacancies to the economy. And these are just the jobs that are accounted for.
With every wave of advancement, the marketplace expands. Productivity skyrockets. People find it easier to make and spend money.
Those with latent skills – or skills which were not valuable till a suitable platform arrived, create a whole new industry and myriad new streams of prosperity.
The quote by the National Commission of Technology sums up the truth about AI and chatbots. “The basic fact is that technology eliminates jobs, not work. It is the continuous obligation of economic policy to match increases in productive potential with increases in purchasing power and demand”
In the past, there has been a choice – to view progress as a convenience or a competitor that is out to swallow jobs.
Human thinking has always been the privilege of well, humans. And as such the momentum generated by technology has ultimately served us, thanks to individuals who dared to dream of bigger possibilities because of the “better” tools. Is this time different?
A study by Forrester shows that 1 in 4 jobs in the world will be impacted by AI technologies, including intelligent chatbots by 2019.
Gartner further elaborates, “By 2020, 85% of all customer interactions with a brand will happen without human intervention”.
Professional platform LinkedIn has found that fields related to AI – like machine learning, natural language processing and neural network engineering – are growing faster than anything else out there.
Artificial Intelligence works! Its commoditization isn’t a pipe dream. The future is right now. And if chatbots can truly assimilate the spirit of AI, they can graduate from acting as interactive FAQ pages to becoming reliable brand touchpoints for prospects.
What sets this cycle of progress – displacement- betterment apart though is the bold encroachment of tech on the sacred human territories of thought, context and autonomy.
In short, any task that doesn’t require very specific know-how and spontaneous decision making can be taken over by chatbots and robots with a thinking cap on. Returning to our opening example of the tardy sales executive, if the prospects who are looking to connect with him simply want a breakdown of what certain features can accomplish – a chatbot will prove as effective as the human. Perhaps more. A human can forget benefits and implications. The bots won’t.
But let’s dig deeper into the scenario.
First and foremost, the prospects may not be comfortable continuing a complex conversation with a chatbot. The default preference might be a good, old human. There are lots of controversies around deception and if a chatbot (or any AI entity) can masquerade as a person. Most people are wary of being duped.
Secondly, picture this! The prospects hail from a cultural background where asking too many questions is frowned upon. In an interaction with a bot, these individuals will give up on the conversation because of their innate inability to be thorough and direct about their needs. Even if the bot is a level 4 personalized assistant and understands that the humans on the other side are from a particular country and thus will display certain quirks.
The sales rep on the other hand will have both empathy as well as context. Armed with the knowledge that:
They will be able to negotiate closes on deals that a bot finds underwhelming!
In short, interpersonal skills and understanding nuance are attributes that only humans can possess, at least in the near future.
It isn’t wise to stick our heads in the sand or try to hinder the development of AI. Measures like taxing the income generated by chatbots that displace human jobs are being considered.
Resolution is still far away.
For businesses, it doesn’t make sense to pass up on the benefits AI chatbots can bring.
However human employees don’t need to be sacrificed either. There is a happy medium that can be achieved with a three-pronged strategy.
The development of chatbots is a by-product of the progression of Artificial Intelligence. We are at a pivotal moment in history when we can either recognize AI for what it can be – an excellent complement to human cognition, or take ourselves back by decades in a stubborn bid to shut out improvements.
Which side of the fence are you on?
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