70% of customer support agents believe AI will free them to focus on higher-value work

Customer support agents embrace the use of artificial intelligence to offload manual tasks, running counter to the oft-repeated fear of AI taking jobs.

Robots will not take over most jobs Byron Reese, publisher of Gigaom and author of "The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the future of Humanity," says robots will not take over most jobs, and discusses narrow v. broad AI.

It's no secret that people hate talking to automated customer support agents—the negative sentiment is pronounced enough that shouting "agent," or less kind words, when calling the support line of various companies often garners a reply like "I understand your frustration, but in order to direct you to the correct department..."

Human customer support agents, however, embrace the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to assist them in performing their jobs, according to a report from Salesforce Research published Tuesday, with 70% of customer support agents saying they believe "automating routine tasks would allow them to focus on higher value work."

SEE: How artificial intelligence is taking call centers to the next level (Tech Pro Research)

The report indicates that 56% of service organizations are investigating ways to use AI in work processes. Presently, only 24% of customer service teams use AI, though 34% indicate plans to use AI within 18 months.

Of the organizations that use AI, the report indicates that 81% use it to gather preliminary information when customers contact an organizations. Three quarters use it to automate handling routine customer service issues, like resetting passwords, tracking order status, and setting up devices for first use. Some 74% of organizations utilize AI for case classification and routing, and 71% use it to pre-fill fields in the agent console using gathered information.

AI is also used to track the productivity of support agents, with 71% of respondents indicating that AI is used to provide management with operational insights, including tracking customer behavior across channels.

Just over half (51%) of agents without AI indicate they spend "most of their time on mundane tasks," compared to 34% of agents assisted by AI. Only 27% of agents indicated they are worried that AI will eliminate their job.

For more, check out TechRepublic's coverage on how to prepare employees for AI's impact on the workforce, why CXOs are betting big on AI for business growth, and how Lexmark's proactive, AI-driven approach reduced IT worker stress and IT incidents by 90 percent.

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.