“The magic is not in what the machines do. It’s in what they empower humans to do.”

Shock waves went out a few weeks ago when Google CEO Sundar Pichai called artificial intelligence (AI) “more profound than electricity or fire.”1 It’s no surprise that his provocative statement grabbed headlines. But I think Pichai is right. AI is a major transformative force that will change so many aspects of our lives at work and at home.

I’ve been thinking about how AI will shape the next generation of customer care in financial services. Thanks to Hollywood, there are a lot of myths flying around about it—that AI is all about machines taking over the world. This is not the case. AI is a collection of advanced technologies that allows machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn. The magic is not in what the machines do. It’s in what they empower humans to do.

As AI augments humans, we’ll see changes in customer care. These are four critical areas to watch:

1. The future workforce

Customer service organizations have been chasing efficiency for years. AI changes the dynamic here. By using AI (think virtual assistants or chatbots) to automate simple tasks, organizations can shift the workforce to higher-value tasks that involve complex problem solving and empathy. This is a win for customers because they get the service they need. It’s a win for employees too because they have opportunities to do more satisfying work. The impact on tomorrow’s workforce—from the way they work to the skills they need will be monumental.

2. The technology stack

Today’s technology stack is complex. There are products that support customer interactions in call centers, branches/agencies and digital channels, and products that support the formats of these interactions, such as IVR, telephony, email and more. AI can simplify this busy technology stack. There will no longer be a need for different people with different skills to script every “if,” “then,” “and,” “else” and “or” to get the required functionality. Embedded in the technology stack in the future, AI can work seamlessly across channels, eliminating the need for so many products and scripting.

3. Knowledge management

Even with the best of intentions, knowledge management can be overwhelming. People often use it as a last resort because it’s just too cumbersome—and the information ends up being incomplete, overlapping or out-of-date. With AI, customer care organizations can take a giant leap forward here. There will not be a need for people to publish content and figure out how to tag it so someone finds it because AI can take over basic information management tasks. And with AI learning on the job, it can anticipate what people need, locating information for them with sophisticated search capabilities.

4. Leadership

Many leaders today in contact centers and branches/agencies are doing what I call operational firefighting—working reactively to solve the issues of the day. With AI, expect leaders to be able to work proactively, and even increase their span of control. What’s more, AI will enable more decision making on the line, such that organizations become flatter. This has the potential to strengthen the leadership DNA that organizations see at all levels.

In future blog posts, I will explore these areas in more detail. Please follow my blog for more insights to come.



“Google CEO: AI is a Bigger Deal than Fire or Electricity,” Fast Company, January 19, 2018. Access at Google CEO: AI is a Bigger Deal than Fire or Electricity.

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