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Service and sales to be replaced by robots?

18th Sep 2015
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The BBC is currently running a content series on the topic of automation and artificial intelligence, and one recurring theme has been which jobs are most likely to be replaced by robots in the near future.

About 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of being automated within the next 20 years, according to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte.

The big question is, how likely are customer-facing roles to be handed over to the robots?

If you’re in a marketing role, you’ll be glad to know, your job is safe from automation, for the time being.

In ranking 366 different job types, the BBC’s list rates the likelihood of automation among marketing associate professionals as 33%, or not very likely, at 223rd among the 366 job roles. Marketing and sales directors have a 1% chance of being automated, ranking 347th out of 366.

The bad news appears to lie with frontline sales and customer service staff, however. Telephone salespeople, for instance, rank at the very top of the list, with a 99% chance of automation.  Sales administrators rank 7th, with a 97% chance.

Customer service occupations fair slightly better, with a 91% likelihood of automation, while call and contact centre occupations are ranked 109th of 366, with a 75% chance.     

The BBC’s report states “roles requiring employees to think on their feet and come up with creative and original ideas, for example artists, designers or engineers, hold a significant advantage in the face of automation.

“In contrast, while certain sales jobs like telemarketers and bank clerks may involve interactive tasks they do not necessarily need a high degree of social intelligence, leaving them exposed to automation.”

The report echoes various recent industry studies in predicting the imminent demise of certain customer-facing roles, including Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum which forecasts that 1 million B2B salespeople in the US will lose their jobs to self-service ecommerce by 2020.

Many call centre job function have long been prophesised to be replaced by self-service tools, and recent research by Amdocs found that 75% of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online self-service over a call centre, while a study by Nuance found reported similar findings, with 67% of respondents preferring self-service over speaking to a company representative.

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