Despite all the buzz about chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), industry analysts agree that the human touch is still in high demand when it comes to delivering great customer service, and will be for years to come. Since robots aren’t going to replace the people helping people any time soon, a new wave of AI-powered tools is revolutionizing the process of recruiting and hiring those customer service agents.
Several startups, as well as technology giants Google and IBM, are bringing new AI-assisted recruiting tools to the market to fix a process that human resource managers concede needs major improvement. As AI tools continue to develop, recruiting in the future will look very different from today, according to the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM).
While AI clearly has the potential to be a game-changer for recruiting, companies will need to determine the difference between hype and today’s reality. It’s important to proceed with caution and verify the product claims before jumping on the AI recruiting bandwagon.
The interest in AI for recruiting stems from the same fascination it holds in other areas of business: as AI streamlines workflows, (particularly time-consuming, repetitive tasks), it’s learning and adapting — at remarkable speed and scale — through experience. For example, early studies have shown that AI may be able to detect cancer and other illnesses with more consistency than physicians. While this won’t replace our doctors, it will help them do their jobs with more precision and efficiency. The same goes for recruiting.
Because AI involves machine learning and pattern recognition, data is its lifeblood. The more data there is, the smarter and more valuable AI tools can become, examining variables and traits across multiple dimensions and finding patterns that humans may not see. Since customer service providers often recruit and hire at a massive scale, this provides the volume of data that makes AI work best.
The emerging crop of AI recruiting products focuses on different aspects of the process, all with the goal of helping human recruiters be more efficient and effective. Several products serve as artificial “assistants”, designed to automate up to 75 percent of the work. This includes anything from attracting and engaging candidates to screening and evaluating them to determine the best fit talent. These products are geared to improve the experiences of both employers and job seekers, especially those companies targeting the highly sought-after demographic of millennials. Other tools analyze verbal and facial cues in phone and video interviews, employing the theory that they can enhance decision-making by adding science-based insight to the recruiter’s depth of experience and intuition.
While these technologies are still in the early stages, here are three ways we could see AI-assisted tools being of significant value to the hiring process, specifically for customer service recruiting:
Increased speed and talent pool:
By cutting through recruiting inefficiencies and grunt work, AI tools should accelerate the recruiting and hiring process, saving valuable time and resources. With faster, more powerful capabilities, companies will be able to process applications in exponentially larger quantities than with traditional techniques. This expands the labor pool — weeding out unqualified applicants earlier in the process allows other, more qualified applications to be considered — enabling companies to find more candidates sooner who fit the specialized needs of customer service. Combined with a work-at-home model that reaches around the globe, AI recruiting could provide a distinctive competitive edge in hiring.
With the ability to process a greater number of qualified candidates in less time, companies gain valuable flexibility in agent-hiring for quicker ramp-ups in response to seasonal peaks, new product launches, growth and other market changes. This capability is more important than ever in today’s constantly changing environment.
Improved hiring quality and retention:
Imagine using an AI tool that can identify the best-fit candidates based on data from your agents who represent both high and low ends of the performance scale, as well as those most likely to stay with or leave your company. This will help you fill your ranks with more agents who efficiently deliver the highest service quality. A better match combined with the ability to target agent tenure could increase retention significantly, ultimately improving customer experience and reducing costs.
In addition to these advantages, technology companies are working on several other creative ways to improve the arguably imperfect hiring process. Having been a recruiting executive for the past 15 years, I’m fascinated by the possibilities. After watching the recruiting and hiring process evolve from a totally manual exercise of sifting through mountains of resumes to today’s focus on online profiles and applications, I see AI as the next natural step.
Now, for the caveats.
Organizations will need to perform extensive testing before they commit to investing in or implementing AI recruiting. So far, our evaluations at SYKES indicate that some products may not deliver the required results. In addition, it’s important to distinguish between AI and automation. Some products that are promoted as AI may be based more on advanced automation. To be true AI, it needs to be algorithm-based.
Another area to watch out for is the potential for bias. On one hand, if applied carefully, AI could help reduce the unconscious bias that humans bring to the hiring process. As humans, we’re flawed and we can’t help it. However, an AI system created by a human is apt to carry on some of those traits. There’s a risk that AI could simply learn the same patterns of bias inherent in an organization’s existing employment data. AI systems will need to be explicitly designed to avoid perpetuating patterns of bias.
Speaking of being human, we need to remember that recruiting and hiring is about people, not numbers. While AI excels at sifting through vast amounts of objective business data, analyzing humans is a far more complex and mysterious process than crunching numbers.
I expect we’ll see a good deal more experimentation before AI-powered recruiting goes mainstream. In the meantime, this is an exciting trend to watch. Stay tuned!
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