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Resistance is Futile - The Bots are Here

creepyIn times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists — Eric Hoffer

In a rather bold move, Frontier Airlines, the budget-friendly airline announced in November 2022 that it was completely doing away with its customer service phone service via CNBC. Instead, it was moving towards online, mobile, and text support. This, they believe, will help create a seamless experience for their customers.

Customers who visit their website are greeted with: “At Frontier Airlines, we are committed to serving our customers quickly and efficiently. Can’t find what you are looking for? We are here to support you with your inquiries 24/7. Reach out to us on one of our various channels below, at any time, and we will assist you shortly.”

The channels referenced are text and email.

While it’s easy to argue that Frontier Airlines did this to continue providing low fares, they are not alone. Breeze Airways also only offers text, email, or messenger as their customer service options. A visit to my local hardware store reveals a similar trend. What were once full-service cashier checkout points, have now become self-checkouts.

A friend sent me a video from a local Hibachi Florida restaurant he and his family were dining at, in which a robot brought the ingredients to their table (There are several restaurants with service bots now, by the way).

“The bots are taking over,” I responded with a smiley emoji.

Whatever reasons organizations may use to justify this shift to AI service, the reality is that the future of work is changing at a more rapid pace than we can imagine. These changes were accelerated by the pandemic – the shortage of human resources and remote work forced organizations to embrace AI technology to stay in business. Those who failed to change were forced to close their operations.

With organizations striving to contain agent costs, we will continue to see seismic shifts in the future of the service industry with the rise of generative AI systems, such as #chatgpt, and others becoming table stakes. While the argument is made that AI frees up time for the agent to work on ‘other’ tasks, it begs the question if this threatens job security (whatever that means).

What should those working in the service industry do to prepare themselves for this change?

First, allow me to offer a bit of hope: Research shows that customers prefer to interact with humans than with bots when it comes to customer service. In the survey, nearly 7 in 10 respondents (69%) said talking to a live agent by phone is one of their top three preferred methods of communication with a company’s customer service department.

That said, there is no doubt the rise of AI poses a threat to many basic service functions and those who choose to remain in this field will need a knowledge overhaul. Re-skilling/up-skilling their leadership, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and analytics knowledge are a few examples.

Join the discussion: What are you doing to take prepare yourself/your team for the AI impacts on the #futureofwork in the service industry?