The Veda Dinner

by OrtusClub on 7th June 2018

The Veda Dinner

May 24, 2018

Automation and AI: hype or hope for BPO firms?

Over 21 BPO leaders from prominent firms in Manila gathered for The Veda Dinner to discuss the threats and opportunities of AI and machine-learning to Indian and Filipino BPOs. The dinner was supported by KMC Savills, a leading global real estate service provider in the Philippines.

India and The Philippines have been the most sought-after outsourcing destinations for years, owing to its cost-effectiveness, skilled workforce, and grasp over the English language. But with the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, the implications on human resources has become a hot topic amongst BPO firms.

India, which is still the leading country for BPO, is set to lose 640,000 low-skilled jobs to automation by 2021 while the Philippines, which hosts the most call centers in the world, is predicted to lose about 45% of its 1.2 million employees.

AI and machine-learning: hype or hope?

AI keeps promising increased efficiency and cost cutting benefits but can it really change the game for BPO firms today or is it just another buzzword? When participants of The Veda Dinner were asked whether they saw AI and machine-learning as a “hype” or a “hope”, 87% of them pointed at “hope”. In fact, most BPO leaders have incorporated some sort of automation in their operations and agree that they can clearly envision technology continuing to affect how things are currently run. Other attendees, however, felt that AI and machine-learning are still very much hyped up technologies and that more development is needed before they can fully be relied on.

Replacing humans with machines

Companies all over the world have been automating low to medium complexity processes such as data analytics, rule-based decision making and repetitive customer support. Yet, the demand for human customer support, especially in the Philippines, continues to rise. This seemed to be a different prediction compared to that participants had for India. One of the participants shared:

“Jobs in India will be affected by machines more than those in the Philippines. Indian BPOs tend to focus on technical support which is easier to automate. Filipino voice support, on the other hand, is sought after for the service-prone and high tempered attitude which is harder to emulate with robots.”

Overall, the discussion concluded with the general feeling summarised by one of the participants who said:

“Machines promise to do jobs better and for less money. Yes, some people will lose their job, but, let’s face it, that’s a great opportunity for business leaders.”

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