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In our 3-part series:  People, Process, & Technology — and the Intersection of AI, we have asked industry leaders in technology, people and process management to explain what AI is, what it isn’t, and how it can be a benefit (and a curse) in each area.
In Part 2 of our series, we hear thoughts from industry experts Petra Seals, The Northridge Group’s Managing Principal and Patrick O’Hara, NRG Managing Director of Service Delivery, regarding the risks an organization takes when adopting new technology like AI before it’s ready.


Part 2: AI and Business Processes: How can it help? How can it hurt?

In Part 1 of this series, Eric Ludwig from RISE Technology Advisors, explained the differences between automation, AI, and generative AI, giving real-world examples of each.  

We briefly touched on the fact that while the three tools have their place, none of them can be a ‘one-size-fits-all-solution’, nor can they effectively or entirely replace people.  

In Part 2 of this series, let us look at how implementing AI in your business processes can be a true benefit to your people and a cost reduction in overhead when done properly.  

Now That I know Some Use Cases, Am I Ready for AI?  

While we have popularized generative AI such as ChatGPT, many leaders are not seeing the more foundational applications and solutions in process automation and non-generative AI. As we discussed earlier, the variation in the generic comment of AI is considerable, and matching the solutions to the problem here is critical to avoid harming the company, customers, and employees. Jumping to generative AI solutions before having a solid foundation in your data strategy and strong content sources is a little like asking your 5-year-old to paint his room on his own — you are going to get creative content for sure, but the clean-up will be considerable. 

We hear horror stories of customers being financially and emotionally impacted by poor AI that in the extreme have led to public and costly legal action and in everyday cases result in difficult and emotional interactions for contact center agents. If we pay as little attention to change management and training for the AI tools as we have done with other technology, we will make our employees’ jobs worse. This is an opportunity to demonstrate to employees the value they bring to their experience and first-hand knowledge of customer needs by involving the front line early in this adoption and design. This involvement will also help in identifying areas of opportunity and use cases that should be prioritized; the reality is that our front-line employees understand the day-to-day benefits and impact on customers that any AI technology will bring. 

How Will AI Impact the Employee Experience? 

There are copious amounts of data and studies that show a common trend, as employee experience improves the customer experience improves as well. So, the impact that AI may have on the people and the change they will face is important. A very real concern that is common amongst many leaders comes from their front-line employees: how will this affect my job?  

In a recent study conducted by Contact Center Week, 70% of respondents say fear of job loss from AI exists within their organization.  

We like to look at this concern as more of the opportunity that exists, instead of a focus on losing jobs or AI replacing humans in their jobs, what if we use this as an opportunity for doing more – revenue growth without having to grow our expenses in lockstep? Use AI to assist our valuable employees in their jobs, allowing them to do more, ease the difficult parts of their jobs, and be more productive …. do more with the same expense base that we have today. 

 To achieve that scale through AI, employees will need to develop a different set of skills than the ones they use today. The ability to understand products better have greater capabilities in emotional intelligence, and multichannel fluency are just a few competencies that they will need. In a recent market study published by Contact Center Week, it was revealed that more than 80% of contact center leaders think it will take 6 months or more to cultivate these skill sets. The study goes on to point out that “beyond providing the requisite training, contact centers will have to eliminate inefficiencies that inhibit successful performance. At present, high volumes of simple issues, ineffective knowledge management solutions, insufficient customer data, and burdensome non-interaction work create undue effort for agents”. 

A Call for Change Management and Training  

AI can be as concerning to employees about job stability as it is exciting to executives on the promise of the operational efficiencies and scale that it can deliver. An active approach to this change will be essential to closing the gap between employee concerns and the benefits sought by leadership. 

Here are three steps to best prepare your employees for this coming change: 
  1. Upfront communication, education, and engagement – this becomes the opportunity to begin conversations and get buy-in on what problems we should address and how new applications can solve these problems. 
  2. Honest discussions on the elephant in the room – “What does this mean for my job?” This is not something that has to go out in a big corporate announcement this is much better managed through one-on-one conversations with leaders to the next level in the normal course of coaching and feedback sessions especially when talking about career objectives and progression (yes. It means your supervisors must be talking to their team regularly. 
  3. Have a plan and take action on it — the best way to demonstrate to the front line about our intentions (because our actions do betray our intentions) is to start taking action….begin training and upskilling on higher level skills, begin engaging the team in the change process to show them that there is a plan for them as new applications and automation are introduced. This is the opportunity to solidify the workforce so your AI actions are driven not only by cost-reduction objectives but also by creating a workforce that can remain in place and drive top-line growth while keeping your expenses flat.  
Prepare with an Assessment  

Before purchasing any technology, including AI, have an in-depth assessment done of your operation and current tech platforms. A good assessment can reveal any issues that new technology can present and offer real-time solutions. We can also help create training programs and knowledge modules; establishing a strong base for your employees to thrive, your technology to do what it’s programmed to do, and your customers to become loyal brand ambassadors for a long time.  

Contact us today. Schedule a 15-minute discovery meeting to determine if your needs fit our expertise. A few minutes could lead to a long road to success.  


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