By Oz Desai, Corporate Traveller General Manager
Are humans overrated in a workplace where bots and Artificial Intelligence are slowly becoming more commonplace?
In China, the Ping An Good Doctor Bot gathers medical history that it uses to develop a health plan for patients. The bot even includes a smart medicine cabinet that dispenses 100 different types of medication. Zora, the Rosbot Caregiver, brings companionship to elderly patients at a hospital outside Paris in France combatting loneliness. In South Africa, Sam (Smart Assist for Mobile) is a pocket travel assistant capable of handling a range of tasks, from booking flights, hotels and ground transport, to updating users on the weather at their destination, so they know what to pack.
Ping An, Zora and Sam are just three examples of a burgeoning trend where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bots seem able to replace humans. A recent survey by Forrester predicted roughly “85% of customer interactions within an enterprise will be with software robots in five years’ time” and “87% of CEOs are looking to expand their AI workforce” using AI bots.
Will robots or bots entirely replace doctors, caregivers or travel consultants? It's unlikely, say the experts.
Research by management consultants McKinsey and Company suggests fewer than 5% of occupations can ever be entirely automated by existing technology. The reason being is that most jobs are just too varied and changeable, making it impossible for robots to take on all the tasks.
In the business travel landscape, professional travel consultants are irreplaceable when it comes to ticketing the most complex routes, and they're able to help companies achieve vital savings.
A human consultant can help companies understand how staff travel, inform the company strategically how they can manage their travel better, and help them make appropriate changes to achieve a greater return on their corporate travel investment.
Humans are also essential when it comes to training and quality control and most of all when dealing with other human beings. We all want to talk to a 'living person' when there's a crisis and when we face exceptional circumstances.
Research by the International Federation of Robotics shows most experts accept humans will remain central to any successful automation strategy. The challenge for companies of the future will be to assess where technology can yield good returns, and where human experience, even when dealing with routine tasks, provides a competitive advantage. All businesses need some degree of personal interaction. The challenge is to determine the right ratio of human to machine.
Corporate Traveller believes blended technology is the answer and will be the most exciting trend shaping corporate travel in years to come. Technology needs to be simple and implemented only when it enhances your business and enables business productivity. Corporate Traveller’s new platform, YOUR.CT, is one example of blended technology. This platform gives bookers, travellers and managers a single access point, via their customised dashboard, to functionality and information that is relevant to their business travel needs.
The surge of digital tools in the workplace has created a gap between generations in the workplace. Some employees are more tech ready than others, which can create friction. This is where the blended approach can offer tremendous benefits. With a blended approach, a Travel Management Company (TMC) can assist in the change management process and work with travellers and travel bookers who are not tech ready.
Success in a world of blended technology comes from ensuring that the service enhances human efforts to create a seamless travel experience for the customer, no matter what platforms are involved. Tools such as virtual assistants and online booking tools make the lives of travel buyers, travel bookers and travellers easier and provide a more tailored approach to corporate travel, which means the individual preferences of travellers can be met.
Travel bots like Sam enable the TMC to combine human service with technology and create a more advanced level of customer service while cutting costs. TMCs are best placed to assist with travel bots because they know the business travel environment intimately.
Are humans overrated? Or might they be? The simple answer is: no. AI and bots will not replace human interaction but will undoubtedly help service providers to deliver a better and more personalised customer experience.
For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Oz Desai, call Dorine Reinstein of on 083 278 8994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.