China Could Automate Away 2.5 Million Customer Service Jobs, Banks Amongst Leading AI Adopters


Chinese financial institutions are taking the lead in the adoption of artificial intelligence-driven customer service systems that could dramatically reduce staff numbers.

Data from consulting firm Zhiyan Zixun (智研咨询) indicates that China is currently host to around 5 million full-time customer service jobs, of which as many as 40 – 50% could be replaced by machines in the wake of the latest artificial intelligence (AI) advances.

The Chinese banking sector is playing a leading role in the adoption of smart customer service systems that leverage the latest AI advances.

“Our bank’s customer service staff has been cut by around 50%, and many operations have started to use machines to replace human staff,” said one customer service employee at a joint-stock commercial bank to Yiben Caijing.

“Customer service staff need to rest, but machines don’t rest, and can work for 24 hours.”

The second half of 2018 saw China’s big five state-owned banks as well as 12 nationwide joint-stock commercial banks launch smart customer service systems that replace human employees with machines.

The first half of 2019 has since seen small and medium-sized Chinese banks and municipal commercial banks follow the lead of China’s large-scale lenders with the deployment of smart customer service systems of their own.

“Consumer finance companies and small and medium-sized banks have all started to prepare arrangements for smart customer service,” said Xiong Xiegang (熊谢刚), Chief Privacy Officer of Beijing Ronglian Yitong Information Technology (容联).

“At present the operations of banks are highly differentiated, and they demand independent control of systems. Consequently for certain links they will require the provision of original code to conduct security checks.”

Xiong said an increasing number of Chinese financial institutions are searching for cooperative partners in the area of smart customer service.

“Aside from banks, the demand from financial clients such as insurers and brokerages for smart customer services has increased considerably,” said Xu Yang (徐阳), senior market supervisor at Ping An-backed fintech vehicle OneConnect.