Artificial Intelligence (AI) is disruptive because it automates repetitive human tasks. Rather than hiring IT professionals to reset passwords all day, your technology experts can spend their time making systems run faster or developing new products. Instead of tasking Human Resources staff with logging vacation requests, they could be recruiting your company’s future leaders. In other words, automation frees employees to work creatively on more significant jobs.

Office workers spend 552 hours a year completing administrative or repetitive tasks, which is the equivalent of 69 work days or almost 33% of the working year. Ninety percent of employees say they are burdened with these kinds of tasks, most of which could easily be automated — and it’s more than likely that your business is enduring these challenges as well.

By taking away monotony and allowing employees to emphasize creativity, work can become more meaningful overall. Seventy-eight percent of workers say “automation will allow them to spend more time on the interesting and rewarding aspects of their job.” In addition, jobs that present people with opportunities to use their uniquely human skills are more attractive for recruitment and retention purposes.

Unfortunately, many companies view automation as an opportunity solely to reduce human capital in an effort to cut immediate costs. Rather than decrease the number of rote tasks, companies opt to reduce the number of employees handling rote tasks — which can be a tactical and strategic mistake. These companies fail to realize that workers on the front lines of a company’s operations possess an irreplaceable knowledge of day-to-day business processes. Businesses should leverage this expertise by augmenting automation with the human creativity of existing workers, rather than simply replacing them with automation.

In this post we’ll explore three roles that companies could dramatically improve by enabling collaboration between human workers and AI systems.

AI and Customer Service Agents

Contact centers overall have high call volumes (that continue to creep up every year) and even higher employee churn rates, with many employees struggling to keep up with expectations around service quality and call resolution rates. Today’s contact center agents don’t stay very long in their jobs, especially younger workers — those age 20-34 stay only about one year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Companies that use automation to improve contact center workers’ jobs not only bring relief to burned-out agents — they allow workers to handle more interesting calls and make a greater impact on business outcomes. AI can take on the simple and repetitive tasks that human workers deal with most of the day (e.g. account verifications). It frees them to do far more complex and interesting tasks, focusing on, for example, providing service to VIP customers, or cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Experienced agents can be tapped to work with management on creative permanent solutions to high-volume problems, rather than immediate temporary fixes. By doing so, companies allow contact center agents to become more versatile, while operating across multiple lines of business.

AI and Automotive Sales Agents

Few purchases require more research and careful consideration than buying a car. Options of brands, models and features are seemingly endless. Rather than employing humans to walk through each and every customizable feature available to potential customers, AI can serve as a pre-sales professional. Basic questions can be answered by AI before customers even walk into a dealership and shake a salesperson’s hand.

When a customer arrives at the dealership, that salesperson will be armed with a history of the customer’s questions and preferences (thanks to previous conversations with the AI system). Instead of asking basic questions, such as, “What color car would you like?” a salesperson can accelerate the buying process and close a deal faster.

AI and Retail Associates

The AI-based automotive selling experience can be replicated for most in-store service. In retail, for example, a single poor customer interaction could mean the difference between making a sale and losing a new consumer. With AI enabled via in-store tablets or consumers’ mobile devices, shoppers and service agents can instantly find inventory-based information. No more asking a clerk for a specific shoe and size, and then watching as the clerk disappears into a back room for 20 minutes.

AI systems can connect to a retailer’s back-end systems and retrieve information about products, inventory levels and, if on a personal device, an individual customer’s shopping history. AI scales as demand spikes, so customers never have to wait for service; they simply launch the brand’s mobile app, or walk over to an in-store tablet or kiosk, and speak or type their questions.

Think about what that would mean for how in-store associates do their jobs. They can provide better and more personalized shopper experiences when they’re relieved of the burden of answering the same basic questions repeatedly such as, “How much does this cost?” or “Do you have this in a medium?” Those inquires can be replaced by more personal and impactful ones such as, “How do I look in this color?” or “Do you think these jeans go well with these shoes?”

In other words, for all of the roles reviewed here and regardless of industry, AI systems free human employees from monotonous tasks so they can solve real problems and make a difference in the course of their everyday work.

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