Gartner Warns Against Using AI to Replace Human Agents

61 percent of customer service and support leaders expecting headcount reductions of only five percent or less due to GenAI

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Published: April 10, 2024

Rhys Fisher

Emily Potosky,  Senior Director of Research in the Gartner Customer Service and Support Practice, has discouraged companies from focusing exclusively on self-service and automation technology intended to replace employees.

Discussing the issue in a Gartner Q&A, Potosky highlighted the limitations of existing self-service solutions, arguing that very few possess the capabilities to resolve customer issues fully and that “some level of assisted service will always be needed.”

Indeed, a recent Gartner survey of 822 business executives appears to support this claim, with 61 percent of customer service and support leaders expecting headcount reductions of only five percent or less due to GenAI.

Rather than investing in GenAI-powered tools to replace human agents, Potosky believes that the more beneficial strategy for both the customer and a company’s bottom line is to incorporate employee enablement technology.

This tech will assist and empower existing employees, improving both the efficiency and effectiveness of agent performance. As Potosky explains:

Providing employees with context and guidance through their technology will reduce a dependence on skills and expertise, and in doing so, lower costs and widen the available talent pool that can engage in customer-facing work.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways that organizations can use AI and technology to assist their employees.

A Helping Hand Rather than a Push Out the Door

Despite the majority of leaders not foreseeing major GenAI-induced staff cuts, Potosky explains that self-service solutions have historically been utilized to reduce costs and prevent the need for additional staff, even while an organization is growing.

By implementing employee enhancement tech solutions, companies may maximize the potential of their staff and improve the overall CX without having to replace or increase the number of human agents. Here are a couple of examples of how they may do so.

Staff Retention

Many companies face the problem of new employees leaving shortly after completing the onboarding process or even during it.

However, instead of making the onboarding process lengthier, organizations could use AI to route simpler contacts to new hires, which they can handle quickly and efficiently. This strategy allows new hires to gain more confidence before they decide to leave the company.

Employee Development

Organizations can utilize AI to develop more personalized performance management programs.

For instance, Auto-QA software allows supervisors to identify the most pertinent behaviors to target during coaching sessions and enables managers to evaluate the effectiveness of supervisor interventions and coaching.

More Gartner AI Predictions

In a report released earlier this year, Gartner made several bleak predictions about the future role of AI within the customer service sector.

Amidst the increasing prominence of AI in contact centers, Gartner cautioned against solely pursuing digital solutions – predicting that within the next three years, the EU might incorporate “the right to talk to a human” into its consumer protection laws.

This response is driven by the rapid expansion and significance of GenAI. With automation impacting more customer service agent roles, Gartner forecasts that by 2027, 30 percent of organizations will merge multiple positions into a single customer-facing employee role.

More troubling still, the report predicted that AI advancements could actually lead to customer harm.

As part of its Strategic Planning Assumptions, Gartner claimed that by 2027, a company’s generative AI chatbot could cause a customer’s death due to misinformation it provides.

Brad Fager, Senior Director and Chief of Research at Gartner, explained that this threat could arise from “hallucinations,” a term used by OpenAI to describe content generated by GenAI that is nonsensical or untruthful in relation to certain sources.

However, despite the findings in the report and Potosky’s warning, Gartner also recently made a prediction that suggests that many companies will continue to persevere with an ‘AI instead of humans’ approach.

According to the analyst, by 2028, one-third of interactions with generative AI will involve action models and autonomous agents, which can complete tasks without constant human intervention.

These agents – capable of learning and improving from their environment – are expected to have significant applications across sectors such as healthcare, education, insurance, and gaming.


Artificial IntelligenceAutomationCCaaSChatbotsGenerative AI

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