How Bots May Take a Big Human Job Away

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We tend to think of bots as clever auto-responders we can query from inside social apps such as Facebook Messenger, but automation is no mere trinket: there’s good reason to think it could limit or eliminate at least one important job.

Dice data shows that, across the United States, ‘Technical Support’ remains one of the most in-demand jobs. Often trading with ‘Project Manager’ for the top spot on a state-by-state basis, the lowest it ranks in any of the 50 states is fourth, in Hawaii.

Technical Support isn’t limited to one task or performant job description, but much of its work involves solving simpler problems that can derail a customer’s workflow. Sometimes, technical support specialists are tasked with solving a company’s internal issues, as well.

But bots may change all of that. Instead of having a human answer tedious questions about email syncing or hardware malfunctions, bots can often return simple fixes for those types of problems.

It’s already a somewhat-familiar concept, thanks to Google and other firms crowdsourcing tech help via forums and offering assistance through contextual Q&As. Bots and other automation techniques accelerate the process began in those forums. With services such as API.AI (ironically just purchased by Google), creating and managing bots is simple. With some upfront knowledge of the problem and solution, the software can be trained in similar fashion to human staffers.

Robot Boss

And it goes beyond the simpler tasks. Salesforce recently launched Einstein, a tool that adds artificial intelligence to CRM databases. Here’s how Salesforce describes it:

Powered by advanced machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing and smart data discovery, Einstein’s models will be automatically customized for every single customer, and it will learn, self-tune, and get smarter with every interaction and additional piece of data. Most importantly, Einstein’s intelligence will be embedded within the context of business, automatically discovering relevant insights, predicting future behavior, proactively recommending best next actions and even automating tasks.

While Einstein isn’t necessarily a bot, it’s nonetheless automating a task (or tasks) many tech support jobs require.

It’s not yet a crisis for human job-holders, though. Bots are still pretty nascent, which naturally means they’re also fairly terrible. Simpler bots, like those that return weather results or tell you what movies are playing, simply access data on a server, or via an API.

And they’re still not good at solving more complex issues. If you want to see that 3:00 matinee, your movie app probably isn’t checking traffic to tell you when to leave home; it just doesn’t know to do that yet.

It will, though. As bots get smarter, humans will have to follow suit (especially since we’re programming them). Moving forward, there’s every reason to think we’ll need people in positions of authority, even if it’s managing bots and issues the machines can’t handle. Much like the self-checkout at the grocery store, bots will always need a human watching over them to make sure things run smoothly, or use critical programming to solve problems that transcend programming.

Bots also need to be created and programmed. As the category evolves, so will some job duties. While ‘Tech Support’ as we know it may become increasingly bot-based over time, our shifting responsibilities just mean we’ll need new skill-sets to manage them.

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