30 Apr 2024 – Tata Consultancy CEO: chatbots “a year or two” away from replacing almost all call center agents

Published by rudy Date posted on April 30, 2024

Merkado Barkada

30 April 2024

The CEO of Tata Consultancy Services [link], a multi-national IT behemoth in the BPO industry headquartered in India, said that he thinks AI-powered chatbots are a “year or two” away from almost eliminating the need for first-level call center agents. While the CEO said that he hasn’t seen any reductions in the BPO labor force yet, he said that the “ideal phase” for the industry will be to move toward a system where “there should be very minimal incoming call centers having incoming calls at all… where the technology should be able to predict a call coming and then proactively address the customer’s pain point.” The CEO acknowledged that we are in the “hype phase” of AI development where we are most likely “overestimating the benefits [of AI]”, but that these benefits are expected to fully develop over the long term.

MB BOTTOM-LINE: Here’s the hard truth: BPO is just a step in the global “race to the bottom” to minimize the cost of customer support. We can look at hilarious examples of AI struggling, like Will Smith eating spaghetti [link] or an AI chatbot for a car dealership getting tricked into selling a guy a truck for $1 [link], and similarly trick ourselves into thinking that AI is still just some goofy tech doing dumb party tricks on the periphery of mainstream society. I think that’s dangerous. Not because I’m an AI alarmist who thinks that the robots are coming to kill us, but because of what I saw while covering the PSE and the economy during the pandemic and our subsequent recovery. While we are all celebrating the normalcy of going back to work to earn the money we need to pay for the necessities of life, a huge number of corporations both here and abroad were working feverishly to insulate themselves from the painful effects of another shutdown. While “shutdowns due to pandemics” is the official risk that will show up on a prospectus, the true risk there is “reliance on humans”. The chatbots are coming. Not because they’re better at the job of being a customer service agent, but because they’ll end up being cheaper, easier to scale, and more resilient to the natural disasters (pandemics or weather-related) that most experts agree will be more common in the coming years due to climate change. I know I sound crazy, and I’m probably a little bit crazy, but I’m very curious to see where our commercial property sector will be in just five years’ time. Even if it takes twice as long – two to four years – for the chatbots to do their thing to BPO, where will the occupancy rates be in Metro Manila by then? What is the next industry that we can court or develop that will soak up all the GLA?

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