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How to stop your sales or service team being replaced by robots 


Ever had one of those sales or service interactions that leaves you feeling like you might as well be speaking to a robot? Well, it turns out that we’ll soon be doing just that a lot more frequently than we might think.

Well, it turns out that we’ll soon be doing just that a lot more frequently than we might think.

You may already have had the slightly unsettling experience of being a passenger in an autonomous self-driving car, or have issued instructions in a telephone “conversation” with an autonomous telephone system, but recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (A.I), prompting increased focus at events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, herald a gear shift for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, as it has become known, which now looks ready to start influencing almost every aspect of society in earnest. But what will this mean for you and your sales or service teams?

Despite assurances from the CEOs of IBM and Microsoft at Davos last month that A.I will augment rather than replace humans in the workplace, studies at Oxford University, the Nomura Research Institute in Japan, and McKinsey have all forecast that up to 50% of all jobs will be done by robots within the next 18 years, with customer sales and service roles expected to be particularly heavily hit.

The good news is that 80% of business decision makers surveyed by Infosys recently, committed to retaining and retraining those employees displaced by A.I. The big question for those managing sales and service-oriented organisations who want to get ahead of the game and start planning for the long term, therefore, is: what skills and behaviours will my sales and service workforce need in order to remain relevant in this new A.I augmented world?

Fortunately, just as A.I is on the brink of making many aspects of our customer sales and service roles redundant, the competitive landscape of brand VS brand is also shifting, with studies such as the ‘Customers 2020’ by Walker, a customer intelligence consulting firm, finding that customer experience will soon surpass price and product as the key brand differentiator. In other words, customers are now reporting that they are willing to pay more if the customer experience provided by the brand is superior.

Sales and service employees may not be able to match a robots’ product knowledge, pricing speed (think insurance quotes with their myriad of variables), or their knowledge and meticulous adherence to regulatory process. But customer experience, the key differentiator between retaining and losing your customers, is emotional! It’s about how a sales or service interaction makes us feel. Understanding another human being’s emotional experience and responding in order to positively influence that experience is surely an area where humans have the edge over robots!

So for your sales and service workforce to remain relevant in a competitive landscape exponentially accelerating towards A.I augmentation, they need to develop the skills and behaviours that will enable them to consistently create positive customer experiences. Here are just a few of the ways they can begin to do that:

  • Know the difference between the regulatory requirements and internal process, and be able to judge when it is appropriate to go outside the latter in order to ensure the customer has a positive experience: something a robot will struggle with.


  • Listen to the customer’s communication style, current mindset, priorities…etc and adapt your communication style to them. Make them feel relieved that it’s you they are speaking with because you’re determined to resolve any issues they may have and get them what they need with minimal effort required from them.


  • Treat the customer like a relationship rather than a transaction. Take some time to explore the context around which they require this product or service, and anticipate any future support or guidance they may need but won’t yet be aware of, so you can save them having to come back or call again with a problem.


These are just a few of the many skills and behaviours that create great customer experiences. Easily said, but not easily and consistently embedded into an entire organisation, as that requires a cultural shift. At Blue Sky we specialise in helping organisations make that cultural shift, enabling them to consistently create outstanding customer experiences. An average ROI of over 300% along with 43 awards on the mantlepiece, including UK Customer Experience Awards Winner 2016, Customer Service Training Awards Winner 2016, and UK Financial Services Experience Awards Winner 2016, tells us that our approach really works.

Do you think your customers ever feel like they are speaking to robots when talking to members of your sales or service teams?

Will the skills and behaviours of your sales and service teams be redundant in the face of the more widespread use of A.I, or simply augmented by it?