How AI will change the nature of customer service work

Any report predicting the “jobs to be replaced by AI” will tell you that top of the list of endangered roles is the customer service representative. But this is overly simplistic, and I believe the reality will be much more interesting and positive.

A key thing currently missing from the narrative around AI replacing customer service reps is that customer service teams are under huge pressure almost all of the time.

More often than not they have more questions than they can answer. This can lead to their customers getting bad experiences, and a perception that the customer experience isn’t a priority.

Customer service challenges

We speak to customer service teams constantly, and something not visible to people outside the industry is that customer service leaders and managers really want to provide a great customer experience. They care, a lot – it is why they work in the job! But the reality is that the job is hard, and the current economic climate has made it way harder. Teams are being asked to do more volume with less people, but keep customer satisfaction high.

“With the latest AI models, it is feasible that we’re looking at AI accurately and immediately answering 50%+ of questions”

AI is the solution to this currently impossible task. It is going to be win-win for customer service teams, customers, and businesses. AI is going to remove all the repetitive questions, and for many businesses that is the majority.

With the latest AI models, it is feasible that we’re looking at AI accurately and immediately answering 50%+ of questions. At Intercom, we already have examples of customers doing this. This is going to give customer service teams way more time.

Three possible developments

I see this playing out in three ways:

  1. Yes, customer service teams will get smaller. This is inevitable, but it isn’t the doom and gloom people project. Many teams have high staff turnover, and constantly open roles, and this will reduce pressure. It will give managers more time to invest in growing their people.
  2. The customer service job will get much more interesting, and rewarding. Reps will only deal with more complicated questions, or really important customers. The job will still be about human connection, empathy, but also deep problem solving. Reps will have more time to provide the excellent customer service they are striving for.
  3. New types of jobs will emerge in the customer service team. The customer experience that blends AI and reps needs to be designed, to be orchestrated. And it needs to be analysed and improved.

At Intercom, we’ve been working on this problem space for a decade. And we’re convinced that 2023 is the watershed year where everything will change. We believe that the current new generation of AI models are going to rapidly accelerate everyone into this new future.

Last week we launched a new product based on GPT-4, the latest AI model from Open AI (the creators of ChatGPT). It is called Fin and it makes the future above a reality today. This is the breakthrough that has been years in the making.

See for yourself! You can check it out, and play with the demo, right here.

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