HAMPSHIRE: Call centres are under threat, a new study suggests, as chatbots redefine the customer service industry, with healthcare and banking sectors set to reap the greatest rewards from staffing reductions.

Juniper, a UK research agency, anticipates cost savings of up to $8bn by 2022, as enquiry resolution times are reduced and cost savings amplified. The biggest winners, the authors say, will be the healthcare and banking sectors.

However, the researchers warn, as artificial intelligence advances. "Reducing reliance on human representatives undoubtedly spells job losses," said Lauren Foye, one of the study's authors.

"We believe that healthcare and banking providers using bots can expect average time savings of just over 4 minutes per enquiry, equating to average cost savings in the range of $0.50-$0.70 per interaction."

The study found that many bots are suited to enquiries such as healthcare diagnosis, where users can select predefined answers allowing bots to assess health issues and provide a recommended course of action.

As AI capabilities grow in sophistication, bots will eventually be able to aid in more complex diagnostics, including monitoring and potentially mental health analysis, the report claims.

The success rate of interactions in healthcare (those not referred to a human operator) is expected to grow from 12% currently to 75% in 2022. By the same time, 90% of banking interactions will be successfully completed by a chatbots.

However, businesses have stressed that the value lies in "augmenting" and not replacing human staff.

Speaking at the AI Summit in London yesterday, Mark Lien, director of digital development and applied science at Lloyds bank, said chatbots will have more power "on the colleague facing side," City A.M. reported.

"Helping to bring together the entirety of the knowledge base of the institution, to a colleague where and when they want it in a conversational manner is extremely powerful."

So far, the chatbot usage rate is low, with a March report pegging chatbot use among US consumers at just 22%. However, lawmakers, businesses, and economists remain split on the implication that automation will have on jobs.

Data sourced from Juniper Research, City A.M., WARC; additional content by WARC staff.