Customer service careers could be wiped out in the next five years by AI-based chatbots and customer service voice assistants.

That is the prediction of Gary Blower, a solution architect and senior technical consultant at software and development company Clearvision.

Blower, who previously worked as a technical specialist for RBS, said this could become the norm as soon as 2024, with AI powerful enough to pass ‘the Turing test’, in which robots are indistinguishable from humans.

“I didn't think this was the case a couple of years ago, but now I look at the widespread adoption of Amazon's Alexa, Siri, and Google Voice that are essentially machine learning, based on algorithms.”

Blower suggested that there are a number of commercial and banking companies which are already implementing smart tech in the place of human customer service, which makes the public “hard-pressed to get hold of a human being.”

The tech professional said that without proper implementation, the technology could make customer service more difficult to use.

“I have a genuine concern about the use of AI and machine learning for customer service,” he warned.

“You can't replace the effectiveness of human-to-human or voice-to-voice communication. Sometimes, to get your problem solved you need to speak to someone.”

While large companies are forced to rely on the technology to field large numbers of customer enquiries, Blower believes that it could be a chance for smaller companies to gain an advantage.

“It dehumanises the customer service experience. Smaller companies can distinguish themselves and exemplify good customer service by avoiding going down that route.

“You need to have empathy, you need to be consistent and provide customers with the service that they expect,” he said.

As well as losing the ‘human touch’ offered by human-to-human customer service, he also expressed concerns over security, citing Facebook’s gathering of user data.

“On a personal level, I'm quite uncomfortable with it,” he said.

“I've got an application privacy and security background so I'm a bit uneasy. My key concern is that it's using personal data, and using what you as an individual are doing not just to provide customer service, but for a competitive advantage.

“There needs to be good governance around it, and that should be built into any use of artificial intelligence and machine learning while providing a service.”

For smaller businesses wishing to ease the customer service demands with new tech, Blower - who has worked with smaller NGOs and charities – suggests a similar approach. 

“They are using this type of technology in its simplest form so that they can provide a front door to their customers to ask them questions and raise requests,” he explained.

“We've all experienced sending an email into a black hole and hoping you'll get a response. It's a very poor form of service management.

“If you are a company with a shared mailbox, replace that mailbox with some form of simple service desk solution, it will provide a replacement for the shared mailbox.”