Automation is on the rise, with companies across all sectors viewing it as an effective tool for positive business transformation.

But, as technology advances and becomes ever-more sophisticated, it’s perhaps not surprising that employees are concerned for their future and the impact that automation will have. After all, by its very definition, automation is the application of technologies to deliver goods and services with minimum human involvement.

A recent survey from PWC looked at the views of 32,500 workers around the world, including their perceptions of automation. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 60% are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk
  • 39% think it’s likely that their job will be obsolete within five years
  • 64% agreed that technology presents more opportunities than risks

These results highlight that, at a grass roots level, people are generally concerned about automation and perceive it as a risk to their job security and their future. And this is nothing new – despite the many benefits it offers businesses, automation has always been viewed as a risk from an employment perspective.

What risk does automation pose in customer service?

When many people think of automation they are imagining machines taking on the roles of humans, leaving factory production lines being run by 2 people instead of 200, for example. And, while that is certainly true of automation, it isn’t the whole story – especially in key outward-facing roles such as customer service.

In a customer service environment, it isn’t possible to replace humans with machines because the machine can’t replicate every element of human behaviour required for the role.

Customers call because they want, or need, to talk to someone. And they want to talk to a person. The nature of human interaction is to offer infinite possible scenarios, so the Customer Service (CS) colleague’s input is necessary to assess the mood of the customer, understand their need, and read between the lines of what they say. Humans rationalise and reason, but machines can’t do that to anywhere near the same extent yet. These aspects of interaction can’t be automated.

But, while human input can’t be replaced altogether, automation can help in the customer experience.

For example, automation speeds up issue resolution, eliminating repetitive tasks, and improving process flows. With supporting automation in place, the CS colleague is the bridge between the customer and what the system brings forward. On one side, the customer looks for an answer, while on the other the automation platform provides recommended answers. The CS colleague works between the two as the human interface, using information from both the customer and the machine to establish the need, articulate it, and resolve the issue.

The colleague is not replaced by the technology, but is helped by it.

In customer service, automation is very much an opportunity. But it’s one that must be embraced and, in embracing it, we’re not replacing all humans with machines. Rather, we use automation to support frontline colleagues by taking away mundane, repetitive tasks and give them time to focus on vital human aspects of the customer experience.

SYKES uses automation to help our teams, enabling them to deliver the best possible service to customers with every interaction. To find out more about the opportunities automation creates in the customer experience, please get in touch!

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