The fifth of our 2024 AI Predictions Mini-Series focuses on exactly how much generative AI could continue to impact customer support in the immediate future.
– The year 2024 will mark a significant disruption in the realm of customer support, with up to 30% of traditional support functions being replaced by AI-driven efficiency.
– The AI-driven efficiency revolution will redefine customer support, shifting the focus from technology as the disruptor to the efficient use of AI-powered tools.
– Organizations that embrace these efficiency-driven changes will thrive, while those resistant to change may find themselves left behind in a rapidly evolving landscape.
Undoubtedly, customer support is one of the most impacted businesses disrupted by AI and, more specifically, generative AI. Let’s look at the stats and predictions so far before we find out exactly how AI impacts customer service.
A 2017 PwC study predicted the automation of up to 30% of jobs by the mid-2030s, long before ChatGPT’s debut of generative AI for the masses. A new ResumeBuilder survey reveals that 44% of companies believe AI will replace some employees in 2024, and 37% of companies have already laid off workers because of AI. The survey confirms that customer support is the predominant use for firms that currently use AI or that plan to start doing so next year. Julia Toothacre, resume and career strategist with ResumeBuilder, says:
“Employing people full time to do customer service is expensive, so we’re seeing AI take over the chat. It’s AI first, and when you have a more complicated issue it goes to a person.”
The second and third popular use cases from this survey are conducting research and creating document summaries. A substantial four out of five companies said AI skills will help employees retain their jobs. This illustrates the anticipated shift to workers operating side-by-side with AI in many roles now and in the future.
McKinsey’s Generative AI and the Future of Work in America report, published July 2023, predicts that 30% of all work hours across the US economy could be automated by 2030, accelerated by generative AI. Office support, customer service, and food service employment are experiencing automation’s most significant effects, driving the average.
A Gartner release in August 2023 focuses in on digital customer service, conversational user interfaces (CUIs), and generative AI as three technologies that will transform customer service and support by 2028.
Drew Kraus, VP Analyst in the Gartner Customer Service and Support practice, says:
“The common theme of these three technologies are their ability to streamline the customer journey and enable customer service leaders to meet customers’ growing expectations.”
Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Customer Service and Support Technologies 2023 puts generative AI in the highly-hyped stage, with significant adoption opportunities remaining as customer support technologies progress to “Contact Center as a Service.”
Source: Gartner (August 2023)
Gartner says generative AI will be used for content creation, AI-supported chatbots, and automation of human work but also says the biggest impact will be on customer experience. 38% of leaders say the primary purpose of deploying applications that use large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT is to improve customer experience and retention. Kraus adds:
“Not only do we expect organizations to replace 20-30% of their agents with generative AI, but also anticipate it creating new jobs to implement such capabilities.”
Conversational user interfaces (CUIs) enable interactions between LLMs and the user or customer and automate support via chatbots, enhancing customer experience and “self-service” adoption. Krause says:
“Customers increasingly expect to be able to interact with the applications they use in a natural way, and this has been accelerated by the emergence of large language model-enabled enterprise applications, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft 365 CoPilot.”
IBM shares six ways AI can influence the future of customer service and says there is no question that customer service is about to take a massive leap forward.
An IBV study found that 63% of leaders expect to have invested in generative AI use cases to help customer service agents by the end of 2023. From IBM:
“AI will become the central brain of the contact center, where the organization interacts with the customer base. AI-powered customer service does not necessarily mean that all interactions will be self-serve. It instead means human support teams will utilize AI and machine learning tools as they are helping customers.”
Reports and predictions generally point to around 30% of human hours or employees being replaced by AI in the next few years, with customer support being the sector most immediately impacted. The rapid adoption and customer experience transformation seen with generative AI could well mean that the 30% figure becomes a real 2024 statistic.
Although some basic customer support roles could be replaced entirely with AI, the human customer service function is also shifting to a more skilled problem-solving role where agents work side-by-side with AI. The shift will require companies to reassure and train their employees on the benefits of generative AI.
Nvidia co-founder and CEO Jensen Huang said in May 2023:
“Agile companies will take advantage of AI and boost their position. Companies less so will perish. While some worry that AI may take their jobs, someone who’s expert with AI will.”
Companies resistant to change may find themselves quickly outperformed by industry peers who deploy generative AI for customer support. MIT Sloan found that 87% of global organizations believe AI will give them a competitive edge. AI Business expects 19 out of 20 customer interactions to be AI-assisted by 2025. Furthermore, a new Hubspot analysis reveals customer support agents could be more open to AI than many expect, with 84% believing AI improves the customer experience.
Discover 7 Big Brands Putting Generative AI to Work in 2023 already, or check out the fourth of our 2024 AI Predictions Mini-Series – How the 3-Person Unicorn Company Will Rise with AI in 2024.