January 23, 2019 | By

AI IRL Podcast Episode 3: No, AI Won’t Destroy Customer Service Jobs. (But It Will Improve Them)

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Directors and VPs come to him all the time with a unique problem: CIOs and CTOs handed them a budget for new technology. “Spend this money on AI and machine learning.”

The budget isn’t the issue. The problem is knowledge. Between all the hype and press releases, where does a business start putting their AI and machine learning dollars to leverage actual growth?

John Ragsdale provides a few phenomenal launching points.

John works at TSIA as Distinguished Researcher and VP of Research and Service Technology. He was also a Research Director at Forrester Research and Research Director for Giga Information Group. He knows his stuff.

He came on the AI: In Real Life podcast to discuss a new report that TSIA recently released on AI in business.

AI Receives Plenty of Hype, but How Can Businesses Leverage AI for Profit?

Companies have an interesting conundrum. They know AI is important, but they just don’t know what to do with it. “It’s like where we were 7 to 8 years ago with social media,” John noted. Hype. Press releases. Plenty of Conferences. But something is seriously lacking.


CIOs and CTOs are passing out large budgets to their constituents for AI and machine learning services. As the year comes to a close, plenty of employees are rushing to John to ask where to put the money.

To help, TSIA recently conducted a comprehensive report called “The Future of Support Interactions: Persistent, Personalized, and Intelligent” (if you want a copy, email John at

“The good news is: Today’s chatbots are not yesterday’s chatbots.” — John Ragsdale

They know everyone has been focusing intensely on their customer experience and customer journey.  Business are constantly asking, “How do we build the ideal infrastructure for our customers?”

As customers move away from traditional support interactions like telephone, they are moving toward new ways of communicating with customer support. Namely, chat has taken center stage.

So here are 3 focus areas businesses should use when using AI to enhance CX.

1: Persistent (Creating a Fluid Conversation)

Every time you interact with a single customer, there needs to be a continuous conversation. Disillusionment sets in quickly when a customer uses a chatbot or email on Tuesday, then Wednesday they phone in to speak with a customer support agent, and the agent has no context for the conversation.

If you are leveraging AI correctly, then it should be able to persistently create a conversation that carries from one interaction to the next.

A benefit of AI: The more data you feed into AI and machine learning, the more these systems are able to determine how to help the customer. A customer service rep could assist a customer, and a bot could “watch” the interaction. Then, it learns how that use case can be replicated to help others.

For example, say someone calls in or uses chat with an agent, and a bot tracks the interaction, and then feeds the solution from the agent to other channels to help other customers with the same problem set.

2: Personalized (Grab the Low-Hanging Fruit)

Personalization is the next area business can leverage from a good AI or machine learning platform.

“94% of people start their problem resolution with a google search.” — John Ragsdale

Businesses can often get too creative and complex with personalization, but John said there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit that create amazing value for the customer:

  • Personalized FAQs. Currently, only 15% of companies have FAQs that are personalized to individuals
  • Searches only relevant to a customer’s product and geography
  • Index your support: Currently, 94% of customers start their problem resolution with a Google search

Not only does search filtering create more personalization, but it creates shortcuts for customers. As machine learning determines where other customers facing the same issue landed, it lifts those results to the forefront for the next customer.

3: Intelligent (No, AI Isn’t Here to Take Everyone’s Jobs)

Want to know how to use AI intelligently? Consider it not only as a customer-facing entity, but as a customer support assistant. AI isn’t not about replacing employees; it’s about freeing them up to solve more complex issues.

“Many press releases say AI will replace employees. That’s a pretty ridiculous statement.” — John Ragsdale

Fears of rampant AI usage destroying employees jobs are completely unfounded, says John. In fact, he sees the opposite. He sees an enriching future for customer service reps as AI and bots take over mundane tasks. There’s no faster way to burnout an agent than by having them spend 8 hours a day on password resets.

Also, AI can be a tremendous assistant to agents. Consider a new employee with limited training in a new role. If AI is leveraged correctly, it can automatically suggest content previously utilized by others to resolve a similar issue. Even if the employee searches for the resolution by using a term unrelated to the solution, AI can track where other employees have ended up by using that same term.

Further, AI can help illuminate content gaps by alerting someone to a commonly researched topic that has no content available.

If you make AI persistent, personalized, and intelligent, customers will come back, and your agents will ultimately thank you.

If you want the report from John, you can email him at

This AI discussion with John Ragsdale was taken from our podcast. If you want more AI: In Real Life, check out our podcast on iTunes.

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