The story of man and machine need not always read like dystopian fiction; technology offers exciting opportunities to digitise customer experiences and supercharge workforces.
The final scene of 90’s sci-fi classic Terminator 2 ends with the film’s metallic protagonist slowly sinking into a vat of molten steel, thus ending the threat posed by robots, technology and a cyborg-dominated future.
Before the closing credits begin to roll, however, viewers see a tiny silver digit protruding from the liquid lava giving a definite and defiant thumbs-up.
The message is clear: although the physical embodiment of technology may have been destroyed, following a redemptive transition from robotic baddie to robotic goodie, a Skynet-future, where robotics will replace man-made choice and functionality, is inevitable. Arnold Schwarzenegger will, of course, be back.
In 2019, a healthy hesitancy towards technology and of the potential power and danger of machines, remains, as evidenced by the Pew Research Center, which recently discovered that large percentages of populations, in both advanced and emerging countries, believed robots and computers would probably end up doing much of the work currently done by humans within the next 50 years.
Despite many holding the eerily familiar view that “robots are coming here and stealing our jobs”, there are also those who hold more liberal views towards technological integration, or what could today be referred to as the Digital Transformation of a company’s operations. In research conducted by the World Economic Forum, for example, it was discovered that 133 million new roles could be created to adapt to a burgeoning division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.
The story of man and machine working together, then, is unlikely to be either utopian or dystopian, or just black or white; the future is much more likely to be Space Grey.
For example, the dawn of the digital era and of the ubiquity of affordable digital solutions, from AI to automation, has led many to predict the end of the traditional contact centre. Despite these gloomy predictions, they have endured throughout the years, mainly because of their ability to adapt and integrate new technologies into their operations. In 2019 and beyond, the most effective Customer Contact Centres will be those that equip their agents with the digital tools to be able to offer remote customer journeys that replicate the benefits of face-to-face interactions.
The future Customer Contact Centre will enable customers and agents to interact remotely, over the phone or online, while still being able to share, display, exchange, complete, verify and sign documents as if they were face to face.
According to Gartner, most future interactions will take place via digital channels, such as social media, chatbots and online self-help. Occasions where customers will communicate with a human, via a customer contact centre, for example, will become fewer in number, but are likely to become more valuable experiences; augmented and aided by technology.
In the future, therefore, communicating with a customer contact agent will likely be reserved for when a customer has a complex question or particular problem. After all, when we are in search of further information or clarification, we often prefer speaking to a person, especially when it is about a complex product, or high-value transaction. Speaking to a human, we feel a level of reassurance, compassion, and understanding that is just not possible to be replicated by a robot.
Of course, a fear of the future, of machines and how advancing technology may replace mankind’s usefulness is nothing new. In the 19th century, groups of English textile workers, who later became known as Luddites, would travel from town to town smashing machinery in protest to the rising popularity of automated textile equipment, and what they feared would be the inevitable knock-on effect to the jobs and livelihoods of skilled workers.
The rebellion eventually quietened down, aided by military might and criminal proceedings, and the sons and daughters of the Luddites went on to work alongside the machines to make better quality textiles and fabrics, in a quicker and more labour-saving manner.
Digital Transformation offers exciting opportunities for both the business and the customer. Enterprises that combine the best of ‘man’ and machine’ will be able to supercharge their work processes and create better customer experiences.
Those that do will be able to embrace the multitude of positive changes that technology brings; the savings to labour costs on the business side, for example, and the improvements to customer experience on the consumer side.