The Future of Customer Service Career Paths

February 5, 2024

Recently, you have probably heard, "AI won't take your job; somebody using AI will." And while that does ring true for many departments—marketing, sales, and operations—where human ingenuity and innovation are, on many levels, irreplaceable. The question of customer service roles being replaced by another human rather than the machine itself requires further investigation.

In the first month of 2024, the online reselling giant Ebay eliminated 1,000 customer service jobs. On January 19, Wayfair cut about 13% of its global workforce for resource allocation, and just last week, American Airlines announced the layoff of hundreds of employees while the company seeks to reorganise and improve its customer service team. It's evident organisations are considering the impact automation can have on cost savings and efficiency in customer service. Against this backdrop, the pivotal question arises: How can customer service specialists navigate the evolving landscape of their careers?

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in Customer Service

AI is proving to be invaluable in streamlining routine tasks and providing instant solutions to simple customer queries. Contact centres using AI achieve faster response times, which in turn improves overall customer satisfaction. AI can also proactively engage with customers through automated texts or emails, ensuring they have more of their questions answered before even having to ask.

Interestingly, a study by Statista recently discovered that around 60% of customers are satisfied with their experience interacting with AI-driven customer service bots. This demonstrates the potential AI has for enhancing the customer experience and, by leveraging large amounts of data, the ability to provide personalised solutions.

However, despite the increasing role of AI in customer service, human agents retain a distinct advantage over AI systems. They possess emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills, which enable them to address complex problems with empathy and cultural sensitivity.

Navigating the transformative tide

Individuals must proactively embark on a journey of upskilling and professional development. Central to this endeavor is the cultivation of expertise in leveraging AI technologies effectively. As AI assumes a more prominent role across industries, from customer service to data analysis and beyond, individuals need to equip themselves with the requisite skills to harness its power. This entails mastering AI-driven tools, understanding algorithms, and leveraging data insights to drive informed decision-making.

As generative AI assumes more responsibilities in customer service, it ushers in a new era of job roles and skill demands. The emergence of professions like prompt engineer, problem formulation engineer and AI ethicist exemplifies this transformation. To thrive in this evolving landscape, professionals must embrace adaptation and skill acquisition.

Source: World Economic Forum

Acquiring expertise in AI literacy, data analysis, and collaborative AI integration becomes imperative. These skills enable professionals to effectively navigate alongside AI systems, ensuring seamless cooperation and maximizing the potential of both human intellect and machine capabilities. Success will hinge on the ability to coexist and collaborate harmoniously with intelligent machines. It's not just about embracing change—it's about harnessing the synergy between human ingenuity and AI advancements to drive innovation and excellence in customer service and beyond.

As technology evolves, agents will naturally move beyond merely answering phones and replying to emails. They will engage in high-level problem-solving and collaboration to provide more efficient and personalized customer experiences. According to McKinsey, AI is already handling approximately 95% of customer inquiries in a few highly advanced organizations — the remaining 5% of inquiries are the most complex, and therefore require all the attention of their human agents.

The Right Mindset About AI

Fostering the right mindset about AI among employees is crucial for maximizing its potential within an organisation. In recent years, as AI technology has become more pervasive in various business functions, it's increasingly evident that many employees are utilising AI tools without proper training or understanding of its capabilities. In a recent training session at Digital Bricks with a marketing team, it became apparent that while employees were using AI, there was a prevailing sentiment that it somehow amounted to cheating. This perception underscores a critical gap in knowledge and highlights the importance of providing comprehensive training and education on AI utilization.

Digital transformation, when approached with the right mindset and equipped with the necessary training, can be a liberating force for employees. Offering structured training programs empowers employees with the confidence and skills needed to leverage AI effectively. By demystifying AI technologies and emphasising their role as tools for augmentation rather than replacements for human creativity and expertise, organisations can instill a sense of empowerment among employees. Proper training enables individuals to harness AI's capabilities, including prompt engineering techniques, with proficiency and precision, fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration within the workforce.

Organisational Upskilling with Digital Bricks

Prompt Engineering

In navigating the new landscape of customer service, it's important to recognise the power of prompt engineers within an organisation. It equips agents with the skills and resources needed to navigate dynamic customer inquiries and contribute to organizational success. Prompt engineering not only prepares agents for new roles but also fosters adaptability and agility in responding to customer needs. As businesses increasingly rely on AI-driven solutions like chatbots, the human touch remains indispensable, making prompt engineering a vital aspect of agent training. Here's how prompt engineering helps customer service agents excel:

  • Adaptability to New Roles: Prompt engineering equips agents with the flexibility and agility to adapt to evolving customer service roles and responsibilities.
  • Effective Handling of Ad Hoc Inquiries: Agents trained in prompt engineering are adept at handling ad hoc customer inquiries with professionalism and efficiency.
  • Enhanced Customer Engagement: By leveraging prompt engineering techniques, agents can craft personalized responses that resonate with customers, fostering deeper engagement and loyalty.
  • Supplementing Chatbot Interactions: While chatbots play a valuable role in customer service, they're not infallible. Prompt engineering enables agents to intervene and provide assistance when chatbot responses fall short.
  • Tailored Solutions for Complex Issues: In situations requiring nuanced problem-solving, prompt engineering equips agents with the skills to navigate complex customer issues and provide tailored solutions.
  • Building Customer Trust: By delivering accurate and timely responses, agents trained in prompt engineering build trust and credibility with customers, enhancing the overall customer experience.
  • Empowerment Through Data Insights: Prompt engineering empowers agents to leverage data insights and customer feedback to continuously refine and optimize response strategies.
  • Facilitating Collaboration: Through collaborative prompt engineering exercises, agents can share best practices and learn from each other, fostering a culture of teamwork and innovation.
  • Promoting Continuous Learning: Prompt engineering encourages agents to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and skill development, staying abreast of industry trends and evolving customer needs.
  • Ensuring Business Vigilance: With the understanding that chatbots may not always provide accurate responses, prompt engineering instills a sense of vigilance among agents, prompting them to verify information and maintain quality standards in customer interactions.

If you are an individual looking to expand your prompt engineering skills then take a look at our Prompting 101 Course. If you are an organisation looking to upskill employees with prompt engineering skills then contact us here.

Problem Formulation Engineer

While prompt engineering focuses on the workings of a particular AI tool and how you can manipulate it to produce the best results, problem formulation engineering tackles the wider problem areas that exist for your customers.

This role involves identifying and comprehending problem areas, analyzing them, and defining their focus, scope, and boundaries. Developing an in-depth understanding of the problem domain makes the bot-tuning process more effective, and ultimately, delivers a better customer experience. Bots that are trained by a problem formulation engineer to deeply understand the issue a customer is experiencing will be extremely valuable assets to your business – they can suggest not just short-term solutions to that immediate problem, but related improvements that could uplevel their experience within your product.

At its core, problem formulation engineering entails a meticulous examination of customer pain points, encompassing identification, analysis, and definition of problem scopes and boundaries. By immersing themselves in the intricacies of the problem domain, problem formulation engineers gain profound insights that fuel the bot-tuning process, resulting in more precise and effective solutions.

The true value of bots refined by problem formulation engineers lies in their ability to not only address immediate customer concerns but also anticipate and suggest enhancements that elevate the overall customer experience. By deeply understanding customer issues, these bots become invaluable assets, offering solutions and paving the way for sustained customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Here are some of the key responsibilities associated with the role:

  1. Mastery of your AI tool: Different AI tools respond to prompts in varied ways, influenced by the underlying LLM and the content they draw from. Achieving proficiency in selecting suitable prompts necessitates a deep understanding of your chosen AI tool and its responsiveness to customer queries.
  2. Insight into customers' challenges and communication styles: Your support team possesses invaluable insights into common customer issues and the language they use to articulate their queries. As a prompt/problem formulation engineer, translating this knowledge into effective AI interactions is essential.
  3. Testing and refinement: Experimentation plays a pivotal role in this role as you trial different approaches, monitor customer feedback, and refine prompts or problem formulations for optimal performance.
  4. User-centric research: Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative research methods, you gather insights that guide experimentation, informing the selection of tests and adjustments to enhance AI interactions.

Digital Bricks uses various techniques to provide individuals and teams with problem formulation training, we encourage your team to not just use your AI tool, but gain a comprehensive understanding of how it works, how it processes your support content, and how it interprets the questions it’s asked.

We ask your team to note any instances where customers aren’t getting the answers they need, and flag any patterns that might be solved by some bot-tuning.

Problem Formulation by Digital Bricks

Support Design Strategist

This role involves taking a bird’s-eye view of the entire support experience and deciding where AI and humans fit best at each stage of the customer journey.

If you’re a support leader, you’re probably thinking, “I’m already doing that,” and you’re totally right. This work will likely fall under the support leader remit for some time, but once AI is industry-standard, companies will differentiate themselves by the seamlessness of their service delivery, coordinated by an optimal human-AI partnership. That’s when the need for a dedicated support design strategist arises.

Here are just some of the responsibilities that will be associated with this role:

  1. Process analysis and improvement: As AI bots become fully integrated with support teams, support design strategists must constantly monitor, update, and overhaul legacy processes to meet rapidly increasing customer expectations.
  2. Strategy and planning: Planning ahead may seem like an overwhelming task as AI transforms the world of work, but as support teams get used to working alongside AI, the support design strategist will figure out what’s working, what’s not, and what goals the team should be striving to reach.
  3. Resource management: Creating the optimal human-AI support strategy requires the right balance of resources; namely time, team members, tools, and budget.
  4. Collaboration with other key roles, like the conversation designer: The support design strategist will require insights from the entire support team to create a truly holistic support strategy.

The best first step you can take towards developing a holistic support design strategy is to learn as much as possible from your team as you guide them through this enormous transition.

How organisations can begin to foster this function within existing team:

  1. Include the team in decisions being made about their roles, and make time to discuss updates, changes, and experiments in full.
  2. Reassure team members worrying about the security of their roles by acknowledging their concerns while getting them excited about the new career and upskilling opportunities AI will bring.
  3. Keep the lines of communication wide open and encourage your team to provide honest feedback about how they’re feeling and how their everyday work is being affected by the introduction of AI to the team. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it – there will be lots of experimentation as AI is incorporated into more and more processes.
  4. Welcome suggestions on all aspects of your team’s work, from improving workflow efficiency to automation of team processes.
  5. Think about how your team’s performance will be measured in the human-AI support world. With an AI bot handling the repetitive queries that used to take up so much of their time, they can turn their attention to more impactful work and spend more time outside the inbox. How will this be reflected in their goals, career objectives, and performance reviews?

At Digital Bricks

We hold a strong belief in the transformative power of AI to elevate careers in customer service, making them more fulfilling, impactful, and brimming with opportunities. The future of customer service careers shines brighter than ever, and the roles we've explored here merely scratch the surface.

We anticipate that customer service positions will increasingly become sought-after roles as AI continues to reshape the landscape of work in this domain and beyond. Whether you're an individual seeking to thrive in the evolving landscape or a business keen on preparing for the future with AI, we invite you to reach out to us to explore the possibilities ahead. Contact us today to embark on your journey toward AI-driven success.