“The AI revolution is not about machines. It is about humans and machines working together.”

If financial services companies invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and human-machine collaboration at the same rate as top performing businesses, they could boost revenues by nearly a third over the next five years.1

This compelling Accenture data speaks to what a transformational force AI will be in our industry. It also underscores something about AI that I believe gets overlooked too often. The AI revolution is not about machines. It is about humans and machines working together. That’s why we can’t explore the impact of AI on customer care in financial services—a topic that I introduced in my last blog—without discussing the future workforce.

Customer care roles in branches, agencies and call centers have historically focused on efficiency and transactional tasks. Digital has already reduced the volume of work that human agents handle thanks to self-service options across online and mobile channels.

Virtual assistants and chatbots will handle exponentially more simple transactions and transform how financial services organizations gain information and interact with customers.

Yet what happens to the work that remains? Augmented by machines, people can do higher-value tasks. For example, instead of spending time researching or getting stuck in cumbersome customer issue resolution processes, agents will have at-the-ready information and insights not just to solve problems after they happen, but to prevent them from happening. This is a game changer for financial services as agents pivot to building customer relationships. It will be much more satisfying work. But it will require new skills.

In addition to the skills and comfort level to work with intelligent machines, agents will need what we call “human-centered” skills like problem-solving, empathy, judgment, communication and creativity. The irony is not lost on me that adding machines to the financial services customer care workforce actually brings out the “human” aspect of this work for people.

What’s interesting is that contrary to popular belief among executives across industries, the workforce is willing to acquire the right skills to work with intelligent machines. One in four executives cites employee resistance as a major obstacle to adopt AI. Yet 67 percent of workers across industries think it is important to develop their skills here. And half of lower-skilled workers are positive about the impact of AI on their work.2

Financial services companies will need to make changes to thrive in the era of human-machine collaboration. “New skilling” current staff to do more valuable work should be a priority. Hiring profiles and practices will need to change too. The focus will no longer be on hiring people who excel at navigating systems and who can be quick and efficient about it. Human agents will need to have the skills—and the mindset—to cultivate and own meaningful customer relationships.

For more information on this topic, read Accenture’s new workforce report Reworking the Revolution for great insights on how to strategically prepare the future workforce for human-machine collaboration. And in future blog posts in this series, I will explore more about AI in financial services customer care.

 

References:

  1. “Reworking the Revolution,” Accenture, 2018. Access at Reworking the Revolution.
  2. Ibid

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