So we have already predicted unemployment and political upheaval in 10 to 15 years as AI plows into the pool of unskilled labor here and more in-depth here. I would argue job losses will far outnumber job gains as AI picks up steam. That said, I question how far and how quickly AI will displace customer service positions in banks and doubt Salesforce has the advantage as stated in this Forbes article.
First the part that identifies why customer service reps will be targeted:
“Customer service is a tough nut to crack for banks. Despite all the money they spend developing online banking, smartphone applications and automated teller networks, customers still want to deal with other humans.
Citigroup spends $8 billion annually on technology, according to FT, and the firm still employs armies of call center workers.
They are the last line of defense. They help cancel lost credit cards or explain why you can’t see your electric utility payment online.
But paying them is costly.
Bankers hope to eliminate most customer service reps by digitizing the processes they perform. You might have noticed the prevalence of self-service menus online. With the right software, it’s easy to cancel a lost credit card without ever talking to anyone.
The next step is implementing the right AI software, to help assist customers who want or need some sort of interaction with a company representative that doesn’t have to be human.”
Next is the section with the dire predictions. Just a quick note to Deutsche Bank, while investors certainly enjoyed the statement regarding a “bonfire of bank sector jobs” that quote is unlikely to be helpful when politicians remind you of it:
“AI is coming fast, and it’s freaking out people because they can see how disruptive it might be in the real world.
Bankers have been clamoring for more AI, faster for years. In 2017, Vikram Pandit, Corbat’s predecessor at Citigroup, told Bloomberg that better AI could reduce headcount at the bank by 30%.
Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan told a London audience to expect a bonfire of bank sector jobs.
I’m fairly certain they meant this as a good thing, as it reduces costs and increased profitability. And sure, they will make the case it leads to a better user experience — but they claimed the same of automated phone trees, too. I’m still waiting for my positive touch-tone phone menu experience.
McKinsey & Co., a global consulting firm, estimated in 2017 that as many as 800 million jobs could be lost to automation by 2030.”
So certainly many mundane questions will easily be answered by AI and it is likely that represents a significant number of the calls received today. But even apparently simple questions can be difficult to answer. What’s my savings interest rate would for many banks be simple, but what happens when a promotion runs that offers customers 5% APR on the first $5,000 in the savings account? The customer calls up and asks what the interest rate is – that’s simple. But when that same customer needs to be taught what that means as the look at the latest bank statement expecting to receive 5% on all funds in savings on a monthly basis, that is going to be far more difficult to both understand what the customer’s problem actually is and then how to explain APR.
There are millions of consumers that would gladly select an automated agent just to experience how it works. Those individuals not only expect some trouble, some will also test the system to see if they can break it and it is likely criminals will also test the system for vulnerabilities.
Regarding Salesforce as a company that has a lead in bank call center automation, that lead will only be possible if they partner with companies that have expertise in developing automated agents for banks as while AI is still challenged to recognize complex questions, it is even more challenged in finding the answers that are buried inside policies, marketing brochures, terms & conditions, and of course state and federal regulatory documents. A good call center agent is the opposite of an unskilled laborer.
Overview by Tim Sloane, VP, Payments Innovation at Mercator Advisory Group