For some time, the burning question has been: Will robots replace humans? While the proliferation of robotic process automation (RPA) has reduced headcount in the back office, it’s a different story for customer service and sales. In a Forrester survey, 46% of companies said sales and marketing are leading the investment in and adoption of AI systems, followed by customer support (40%). With many companies putting wood behind the arrow of AI investments, there will be a ripple effect through sales, marketing, and customer support that impacts employees and customers.

Here are a few takeaways from our 2019 services and sales predictions:

  • Customers will lead a community-based revolt against corporate chatbots. Human resistance against ineffective chatbots is on the way, and a groundswell of jaded customers will crowdsource tips for end runs around chatty chatbots. A movement similar to the GetHuman movement from 2005 will start.
  • The majority of chatbot deployments will provide poor escalation paths to agents. Chatbots aren’t contact-center saviors with lifelike responses that help customers avoid the dreaded phone tree — many are just as bad. For all the hype about chatbots handling customer service, they’re little more than the interactive voice-response systems that make customers scream into their phones. A whopping 60% of chatbot deployments in 2019 will not have effective live-agent safety nets attached to web chat sessions.
  • AI-embedded sales technology will cause salespeople to falsify data regularly. The brouhaha between humans and machines is about to heat up, with sales reps throwing a sneaky overhand right to the AI learning loop in sales force automation (SFA) tools. Next year, sales managers will use AI to micromanage salespeople. In turn, salespeople will regularly falsify data to hide their tracks or game the system, thus undermining the data that machine learning depends on.

In 2019, humans will make their voices heard amid the rise of machines in workforce and customer touchpoints. While many firms cling to the belief that AI, employees, and customers will work harmoniously together, smart companies know that AI investments must include concurrent investments in education on the impact of AI in their business and employees and how expectations, skill sets, and experiences will evolve. And in the area of customer service, prudent companies will implement the proverbial live human “safety net” (web chat) for when chatbots fail.

To understand the seismic shifts that firms will face in 2019, download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide

Several Forrester analysts contributed to this year’s predictions, including: Ian Jacobs, Kate Leggett, Art Schoeller, and Daniel Hong.