By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
As we prepare for all the 2020 predictions coming, I will bet you $50 that AI will appear on 90% of the lists (including mine). There is no denying that AI holds incredible potential for your business going forward, but in talking with service leaders I do hear some common myths that keep companies from realizing that potential as quickly as they could.
Myth #1: AI is Futuristic
I believe this myth occurs because AI is a broad term. Sometimes what comes to mind are more futuristic, sci-fi like applications which causes people to think – eh, maybe someday. The reality is, AI is here NOW and already providing immense business value for companies today. A couple of examples are: advanced scheduling and dispatching tools, chatbots for customer service to help customers resolve issues for themselves and to empower support staff to resolve more quickly, and knowledge management – using AI and chatbots to help technicians easily find relevant information. In fact, when you consider these tactical examples of AI you may realize that it is already hard at work in your business. These examples are just the beginning, however. More advanced AI is on the horizon, so even those futuristic visions are not far off. Putting off the evaluation and adoption of AI because you think it’s something that can wait is a big mistake!
Myth #2: Machines Will Replace Humans
AI is a technology that can cause a lot of anxiety and fear among employees, and a lot of that anxiety comes from the thought that advanced AI will ultimately put humans out of work. The reality is, AI may automate some areas of work to the point that it does eliminate labor needs – but those labor needs will be redistributed elsewhere. This is because as the use of AI increases, the need for human experience in the appropriate scenarios does as well. If you look at customer service, for example – AI is great when used effectively and handling basic tasks. But when a customer is frustrated or has a more intricate need, there is no substitute for the human experience. Customers need empathy, and that’s something that AI isn’t (yet) able to provide. In today’s world, the field technician is often the person who spends the most time with your customers. They have the most impact on customer loyalty and your building your brand. AI augments their skills by removing tasks that don’t require their value, which is a good thing in a time where there’s a large talent gap. Maybe we will be recruiting field techs based on their soft skills rather than technical skills in the future, but we won’t be replacing them with robots.
Myth #3: We Know Better
The final myth I see is that sometimes companies think they can have the best of both worlds – the automation of AI, but the human control over it. The reality is, it just doesn’t work this way. AI is most effective when you relinquish your need for control and let it do its job. This is because it is self-learning. So for example, an intelligent scheduling solution – if you are constantly manually intervening and meddling with the tool because you just aren’t ready to trust it, it won’t be as effective as it could ultimately be if you let it self-learn and do its job. “Having the patience to let the technology do its job is one of the biggest barriers I see to AI and ML adoption,” said Paul Joesbury, Commercial Operations Director at Homeserve, during his interview for the Future of Field Service podcast. “The technology is not plug-and-play; it has to learn your business language. On average, it takes three to six months for this learning process to take place and for the technology to work to its full potential, and many companies don’t have the patience to allow this process to take place.” While it is a big and often uncomfortable change for many companies, if you choose technology providers you feel confident can deliver, then you have to be ready to relinquish that control and let the AI do its job.