Artificial intelligence has been making the headlines a lot lately. And it doesn’t stop there. AI is at the forefront of our political discussions too, and the use of machines by businesses is a trend worth noticing. From looking over applications to dealing with customer concerns, the rise of the machines is happening before our eyes. Even supermarket tills haven’t been safe from the shift. Some even say that the current Prime Minister is a robot. (Although, this is less believable; Theresa May has plenty of human genes – and she wears them regularly.) It’s all getting out of hand. Well, human hands anyway.
While there have been undeniable, tangible advantages for businesses to come from this, when the shift to technology is put under the microscope, it becomes clear that an unchecked embracing of all technologies will most likely harm the nature of your business. You can’t help but think that this represents nothing other than the adoption of technology for technology’s sake.
Yes, it’s tempting to look at AI systems as cheaper than employees and yes, you can see, in machines, a cost-effective way of improving efficiency, but is it worth it?
It’s no secret that people like to deal with people – particularly when it comes to getting assistance and clarity. There are few things more frustrating than calling a company’s customer service helpline and spending lengthy amounts of time pressing numbers to respond rather than talking. Equally, it’s infuriating when you’re left in an endless cycle of dialing and redialing because the AI system installed on the company’s phone cannot decipher whether you said “yes” or “no” (those famously similar-sounding words). On the simplest level, calling up a company and hearing another human on the other end is reassuring. Granted, that may be because it offers a target to aim a sweary rant at, but even then, that does at least reduce frustration, not increase it.
Crucial components of customer services require human improvisation; it’s hard to imagine an AI-operated sales representative negotiate a deal by persuading a customer. (If you don’t believe me, just go on any mobile phone provider’s website and try to haggle with the “online agent”.) Equally, finding solutions tailored to a customer’s problem can be extremely problematic without a human’s knowledge of company practice and empathy in play. The further problem of accountability manifests itself in complaints’ procedures and errors. How do errors made by AI systems get resolved in ethical ways?
So, what’s the solution? The best solution to this particular problem is (drum roll) Outsourcing.
If you look at what is generally falling to AI services, customer service is the largest victim. Now, as mentioned before, shifting to AI in this area is not entirely profitable. This is a big reason why outsourcing sales and customer services to countries overseas has been the most popular option for companies wanting to meet profit margins and improving efficiency.
Outsourcing simple sales and customer services are a lot cheaper than installing entire AI systems and the skills that are quintessential from the customer’s perspective are retained. Outsourcing these services can also increase the number of operational hours for business as overseas working hours mean that more of any given 24-hour period will be available to customers who may need it. The expertise ensured by outsourcing is something that AI systems will be unable to replicate for quite a long time.
While there’s a lot more that can be said, it should be clear that outsourcing fills the gaps caused by blind embraces of technology. It seems only right to end with a joke:
Two robots walk into a bar. And that is why humans are better. We only walk into stuff after we’re drunk.