Institute of Customer Service CEO calls for businesses to embrace AI

5th May 2017

Jo Causon, chief executive of The Institute of Customer Service, has called on companies to embrace use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to improve their customer service.

Discussing a recent report by the International Bar Association, Causon says that when correctly applied, automisation is a force for good.

The report suggests that innovation in AI and robotics could compel governments to legislate for quotas of human workers and disrupt traditionally accepted working practices.

“There is, in my view, no denying that automisation is a force for good where it removes activities which, in reality, are purely transactional,” she explains. “Imagine someone wanting to purchase a train ticket or pay their Council Tax; both are simple scenarios requiring logic, with little emotion, real problem solving, communication or innovation skills and competences required and there is no reason why a computer cannot be deployed to perform these tasks.  

“Doing so will free up individuals to undertake what are, in my mind, real customer service roles and activities, creating more job satisfaction – and therefore, engaged employees – as the people in these roles can be retrained for customer-facing roles that require a greater level of interaction.”

Causon says organisations should focus on appropriate people development so that employees have the right skills, competencies, capabilities and training to be able to deliver in their roles and find well-paid, productive work in the future.

“The new apprenticeship levy does encourage people development at one level, but good employers will be those exploring ways to upskill their people across the full range of today’s multi-generational workforce,” she continues.  “Put simply, automisation and AI will not just affect new entrants to the labour market. To ensure customers’ experience a seamless and more than satisfactory service across every channel and opportunity, employers should be considering how they ensure the workforce is fit for purpose now and capable of handling tomorrow’s future.

“There are still some who doubt the benefits that AI and automisation can bring.  Yet both should be embraced, not feared.  Neither can fully replace relationships between customers and suppliers, but with the right skills, the right training and the right balance, both can be used to create more meaningful customer relationships that build trust and loyalty and, ultimately improve organisational performance.”

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