Written by Benjamin Lee
In October of 2018, AIA Singapore made history with the introduction of two robots; Pepper and Nadine. These two socially intelligent robots have been tasked with front-line duties at AIA Singapore’s customer service centre in Finlayson Green. Customers visiting the AIA centre will have the choice of interacting with the robots or their human counterparts. While automation has been on the rise over the years, this marks the first time robots will be used in an actual frontline role.
Frontline employees like customer service agents typically need to deal with unhappy or even angry customers while contending with punishing shifts and long hours. To top it all off, customer service agents are usually underpaid and overworked as seen by this survey conducted in Malaysia.
Thus, it goes without saying that customer service agents are often unhappy and disengaged which naturally leads to an extremely high turnover in the customer service industry. The introduction of AI and the use of robots in the industry is merely a natural progression in response to this as companies attempt to optimize their operations.
However, automation does not spell the end of human interaction, quite the contrary as with the introduction of AI and increased automation, the human touch is still very much vital. Here, we take at how HRM systems can help both employees and employers step up their game and generate value for their organizations.
While the implementation of AI and automation in the workplace is an attractive proposition, several factors need to be taken into account. Firstly, while robots do not need to take breaks and never get sick, they are unable to respond to certain emotional and social cues which makes most human-AI interactions awkward with the absence of a personal touch..
As advanced as Artificial Intelligence have become, robots are only able to mimic and respond to human emotion to an extremely limited extent. This is known as the Uncanny Valley effect and can generate feelings of distrust and unease in humans.
Instead of viewing the introduction of robots and AI into the workplace as risk to future employment, HR professionals should view this as an opportunity to further develop the skills of employees.
As several studies have shown; customers prefer dealing with actual humans over machines. As mentioned above, robots are impersonal and do not have any ability to deal with the nuances of human emotion. Any attempts at mimicking these emotions or feelings by the robot will only appear false and insincere.
These finds support the fact that human interaction is still very much a vital component of the customer service experience. In response to this, HR professionals and business owners need to take steps to ensure that their current customer service professionals have the training and ability to provide the customer with an excellent experience.
A well-trained customer service agent would be able to empathise with his/her clients and can
utilize these skills to defuse high-tension situations and generate customer loyalty. Human interaction is an ingrained part of our nature and as such nothing inculcates goodwill quite like a great customer service experience.
With robots expected to replace 700 million employees by 2030, it comes as no surprise that employees are understandably worried about their employment prospects. Employees and employers alike need to recognize that while AI and robotics technology may result in some redundancies, the key to remaining relevant lies in one’s ability to diversify one’s skill set.
From a HR management point of view, talent management is especially crucial in this area and this means that HR professionals need to be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their employees to help them develop skills that will improve their marketability.
From a recent study that was conducted, it was determined that employees are hungry for training and are more than willing to improve their skill set. Further supporting this fact are research findings which show that employees who receive training are also much more likely to remain loyal to the company.
This is why at IQDynamics, we offer a variety of training and talent management modules to help employers identify skilled and talented employees. All of this in turn will lead to improved employee engagement whilst also allowing your organization to gain a competitive advantage.
Ideally, KPIs should be a relevant reflection of the organization’s employees. However, given that technology has such a disruptive effect on the workplace and various industries, previously set KPIs may no longer be relevant.
For example, the introduction of automated call centres and robot phone operators have made the number of calls answered a redundant KPI for most customer service centres. I
Instead, managers should consider focusing on other factors such as the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) or the customer retention rate which measures the percentage that a customer would remain with the organization.
Updated KPIs provide a much clearer reflection of a team’s performance while ensuring that HR professionals and managers are able to take the appropriate measures to further motivate their team.
With IQDynamics, our KPI and performance monitoring modules allows you to ensure that your organization’s KPIs are up-to-date and relevant. On the long-term, this allows for improved employee management and engagement.
While the introduction of robotics and AI technology may be a daunting prospect for many, with the proper training modules and the right approach, HR professionals can ensure that human capital remains a decisive factor for years to come.
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