Chatbot is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) or an internet robot to conduct a conversation in text or auditory form.
Tech experts and customer service experts have predicted that there will be a handful of large-scale companies in the United States (who offshore their customer service in the Philippines) will invest in this program.
Here in the Philippines, most of us believe that this will become a major threat not just in the employment rate of the country but also in the economy. Since human customer service agents will be replaced by these robots, this will eventually lead to a reduction of employment in call centers and other BPO companies in the country.
These large-scale companies are not in a hurry to upgrade to AI because they still believe that nothing beats the soft skills of a live human being. Live human being has emotions and shows empathy, though most of the time (but not all the time) they just fake it. When you have concern regarding products and services and you call a customer service hotline, it is still comforting to hear those overuse lines with emotion like “I understand,” “I know how you feel,” “I will do my best to help you,” “You have nothing to worry about.” from a live human being.
But when it comes to our personal information (such as name, address, date of birth, bank account details, credit card details), most of us are adamant to give it to a live human being who has a natural intelligence to collect data and has the ability to disclose it to someone else even when tasked not to do so. Because unlike artificial intelligence, human intelligence is not manipulated by any computer programmer who has a higher rank in the company.
In oppose to what most of us believe, these companies are not just investing to chatbots to simply reduce the cost of having human employees who have the rights to take vacations and who may get sick more often than a robot, because developing chatbots is also costly. And these companies also believe that through chatbots, as long as they can use it correctly they can better secure their clients’ data privacy. Since information is being provided and stored to a robot instead of a live human being who can collect these data and who may also sell it to fraudsters.
There have been a few cases of fraud in call centers here in the Philippines, wherein one call center agent has collected personal information of a client then sold it to fraudsters. That company has pulled out all of their accounts from that call center resulting in many people losing their job.
Now we realize that even if we always do the right thing in our job, there’s still a risk that we may lose it. One thing that we can do is to be adaptable. Don’t look at chatbot as a threat. Look at it as an opportunity to learn new things. Let’s face it, there will be many call center agents who may lose their job in the coming years. On the lighter note, we also expect that there will be many job openings as well since they will also need computer programmers who will develop the chatbot systems.
There are call center agents who are studying again in their own initiative to become computer programmers. Also, BPO companies here in the Philippines are already working with the government to help their employees to acquire new skills that are necessary for preparation for the rise of chatbots.