Recent data out of the World Economic Forum in Davos has shed new light on the role that AI and customer service are playing in shaping the future of work. Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy provides much-needed insights into emerging global employment opportunities and the skill sets needed to maximize those opportunities. Interestingly, the report, supported by data from LinkedIn, found that demand for both “digital” and “human” factors is fueling growth in the jobs of tomorrow, raising important considerations for a breadth of industries worldwide.

The report predicts that in the next three years, 37% of job openings in emerging professions will be in the care economy; 17% in sales, marketing and content; 16% in data and AI; 12% in engineering and cloud computing; and 8% in people and culture. Among the roles with fastest projected growth include specialists in both AI and customer success, underscoring the need for technology, yes, but technology that incorporates the human touch.

Taking A Closer Look At The DTC Landscape

This increasing demand for digital-human hybrid solutions is all around us. We don’t need to look further than the rising crop of DTC retail brands— the Dollar Shave Clubs, Bonobos and Glossiers of the world— to see and understand the critical role that this hybrid approach can play, especially when it comes to transforming the customer experience. Today’s DTC brands have figured out how to harness AI technology to provide intelligent and personalized customer service from start to finish, moving the customer experience from a back-end cost center to a front-and-center brand differentiator, loyalty builder and ultimately profit center.

There’s been much chatter and speculation about how so many DTC brands have been able to go from zero to 60 in a relatively short amount of time and, of course, the ones that have attained the elite unicorn status. While many factors have contributed to this growth, one of the most interesting (and obvious) is the tremendous opportunities selling directly to the consumer offers. By eliminating the middleman, the “salesperson” of yore, brands are able to put the consumer center stage and focus on meeting the full spectrum of their needs through a richer understanding of each stage of their journey. Nowadays, there is an entire ecosystem that is forming around the customer with a suite of platforms and services designed to handle everything from marketing to payments to delivery to shipping. But, without customer service as the human touch point, this ecosystem would crumble like a precarious house of cards.

This brings us back to the Davos report and why the growing demand for AI and customer service specialists makes so much sense. It’s projected that AI will create nearly $3 trillion in business value by 2021 and AI usage in customer service will increase by 143% by late 2020. At the same time, leading companies understand that AI solutions are most effective when they work hand in hand with humans, not instead of them. And with more and more customer service departments on the frontlines, serving as the main voice of the company, the need for practical AI solutions become more urgent. After all, 77% of customers expect their problem to be solved immediately upon contacting customer service, but most brands simply can’t afford to have unlimited agents working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By relying on AI, companies can promote more self-service and eliminate agents’ tedious and menial tasks, in order to focus on the bigger picture: building long-lasting customer relationships and more authentic engagement.

Beyond DTC: How AI Is Transforming Other Industries

While the growth of AI and focus on customer service across the DTC landscape is prevalent, it’s far from the only industry experiencing the digital-human crossover. In healthcare, for example, AI is being used to augment patient care and develop drugs. For example, the startup Sense.ly has developed Molly, a digital nurse to help people monitor patient wellness between doctor visits. And during the recent Ebola scare, a program powered by AI was used to scan existing medicines that could be redesigned to fight the disease instead of waiting for lengthy and costly clinical trial programs to be completed.

The travel industry has also been disrupted by AI, aiding travel companies in providing personalized and intelligent travel solutions and recommendations tailored to meet customer needs. The AI system at the Dorchester Collection hotel chain pours through thousands of online customer reviews to pinpoint what matters most to customers, a process that would otherwise take weeks. Google Flights uses AI to predict flight delays before the airlines even announce them, and Lufthansa’s bot Mildred helps customers find the cheapest flights, freeing up time for airline employees to focus on more creative tasks.

In these and other industries, the possibilities for AI seem limitless. But the need for human oversight of AI cannot be discounted.

What Can We Learn?

Although some still fear that AI will eventually automate everything and humans will be replaced by robots, this really isn’t true. If anything, the current climate demands human involvement to help the industries and brands of today navigate the evolving business landscape. While AI is changing the skills and requirements that the jobs of tomorrow require, we are also reaching a point in time when AI is elevating the role of people, not vice versa. When technology and humans interact seamlessly to improve the way we work, both businesses and their consumers will be able to reap more and more benefits. Whether it’s to enhance the DTC customer journey, discover new medicines or better plan a trip, we know that the jobs of the future will be filled with a healthy balance of advancing technology and human interaction to ensure customer satisfaction at all costs.

Via Forbes.com