3 Things Service Companies Should Do to Prepare for AI and Automation

As more businesses look to incorporate new efficiencies through AI and automation, what can service-oriented businesses do?
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are often highlighted in fields like manufacturing, transportation, and technology. After all, these industries are already incorporating technology in ways that have become commonplace. Manufacturing plants are more automated than ever, inventory can be tracked electronically, and we can even buy plane tickets, check in for our flights, and check our bags without ever speaking with a human being.

But, what about businesses like travel agencies, real estate practices, or independent retail shops? Or industries like hospitality and customer service? Is any industry truly technology-proof? Will anyone’s job stay the same?

While different industries may adopt new technologies at different times, AI and automation changes are coming to everyone sooner than one might think.

While service-oriented industries require competencies that are distinctly human, like rapport and empathy, other aspects of these roles require routine tasks. Actions like delivering towels or even cleaning hotel rooms may be shifted to automation to streamline costs and increase guest satisfaction.

As more businesses look to incorporate new efficiencies through AI and automation, there are three main things that any service-oriented business can do to prepare their employees to change along with them, while remaining competitive in the marketplace. These actions will help employees and businesses alike not only survive the predicted influx of AI and automation, but thrive as the business world adapts to new and ever-changing technology.

1. Invest in Education and Training

Otherwise known as upskilling, investing in education and training for employees is the number one way that employers can support their staff, according to a recent report conducted by Southern New Hampshire University. Businesses can invest in their people in more ways than one.

Providing volunteer opportunities, either through organized events or by allowing for a set amount of time off during the year to volunteer, promotes support of the community. This is a deeply rewarding way of investing in human capital. Providing paid internships and funding scholarships for staff members and even their families is another way to continually invest in the lifeblood of any organization.

Workforce training, be it through additional college degree programs or earning micro-credentials, can and should continue throughout a career. This is true whether or not technology should change, because we all learn and grow as professionals throughout our careers.

2. Transition From Already Outdated Systems

Changes in technology do not happen overnight. They require careful planning to accommodate changes in technology, workforce needs, and budget. Alignment with company culture and mission is also critical.

Using outdated systems not only prevents a business from moving forward, it can cause a business to take several steps back. Using technology that is already or is soon to be obsolete hinders progress, slows processes, and creates roadblocks to productivity.

While there are industries that seem more technology-proof than others, it’s important not to be complacent. Consider your existing systems, and start planning updates now so you aren’t caught by surprise when the systems become obsolete. By building in time today to plan for change tomorrow, your business will be better positioned to not only ride the wave of change, but weather the increased costs that inevitably come with purchasing new software and implementing new systems.

3. Talk Regularly with Employees About the Future

There are many ways for companies of every size to communicate with employees. Provide career counseling. Hold regular town hall meetings. Create an online discussion board where employees can have an ongoing conversation about their concerns. Be honest and straight-forward in addressing employee questions and concerns. Offer ongoing presentations to employees with updates on new technology, plans, and ideas for future change.

Trust your employees to make good decisions, give them the tools they need to do their jobs, and then step out of the way to let them shine. Celebrate milestones for individuals and as a team as new processes are developed or new ideas are implemented.

Most importantly, give employees the opportunity to speak up and be heard. Truly consider their ideas and address their concerns. The more open you are to creating an ongoing dialogue, the more your employees will trust in your leadership and function like a cohesive team.

Change is Coming

Above all, understand that incorporating AI and automation is unavoidable no matter the industry. In service industries, in particular, employees are used to adapting to change very quickly because that’s the nature of supporting customers. In today’s business world, the influx of technology is aimed, after all, toward improving processes, providing better service overall, and strengthening business and the economy. That’s good for everyone.

As long as businesses and employees alike are ready to embrace an ongoing conversation about what incorporating new AI and automation might look like in their own workplace, the more everyone will be prepared to embrace change and move forward with confidence, no matter the industry or profession.

To learn more about what service companies and all industries can do to support employees in preparation for AI and automation change, read the full report here.

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