What’s the Future of Robots in Telemarketing?

By John Egan

The job of telemarketer may be on the decline, but telemarketing isn’t dying. It’ll just be done in a different way.

An article in Wired magazine makes the case that over time, the job of telemarketer likely will be handed off from human to robot. In this scenario, computers will be programmed to make phone calls, collect money and conduct surveys, according to Wired.

In fact, Tested.com identifies telemarketing as one of the 10 places where robots and artificial intelligence already are “hiding in plain sight.” In some cases, robots are being coupled with speech recognition software to sit in for human telemarketers, the website says.

“Recorded messages have been used over the phone for decades, but artificial intelligence is making them more effective than ever,” Tested.com says.

At the DMA Chicago Nonprofit Conference, Aug. 28-30, 2017, experts will discuss innovations like telemarketing robots during a session titled “Telemarketing: What’s New, What Do You Need to Know, and What’s the Future Outlook.”

Contact Center Pipeline, a publication for the call center industry, acknowledges the future of telemarketing is bound to include AI, but not at the expense of human agents at call centers. Rather than human call center agents becoming “unicorns,” the publication says, their work will be enhanced, augmented or transformed by AI.

“Certainly, there are still companies that view the contact center as a cost center, and for these, the thought of replacing hundreds of frontline workers with robots might seem like a magical solution to control the costs associated with staffing and managing human agents,” Contact Center Pipeline says. “But the reality is that, despite the influx of digital channels in recent years, customers prefer to speak with a human.”

On the other hand, The Economist declares that emerging technology will “abolish” basic call center jobs and will rework others. “Software robots are only going to become faster, cleverer and cheaper,” The Economist says.

Mikhail Naumov, co-founder and chief strategy officer of DigitalGenius, a provider of customer service technology that includes AI, tells Contact Center Pipeline that AI and humans should be blended, with AI recommending content and humans administering the systems.

“A lot of the work is done for them by the machine, but then, ultimately, when it comes to sending the final message or solving a complex query, the human is still there to supervise the machine to make sure that it’s doing the best job possible,” Naumov says.

Naumov says relieving call center agents of repetitive, manual tasks lets them tap into their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and enables them to concentrate on calls that demand an emotional touch.

However, an article published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business questions whether people will come to value efficiency over humanity when they’re interacting, by phone and otherwise, with companies and organizations.

“I think that if the experience is good, people would prefer to have the automated systems,” Donal Daly, executive chairman of sales software company Altify, tells Wharton. “I don’t think there is any concern about being handled by a machine.”

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for the Nonprofit Federation Conference, Aug. 28-30, 2017, in Chicago.