When you contact customer services at a company or organisation in the coming years,  you are likely to interact with a chatbot rather than another human being.

A chatbot is a computer programme that simulates a conversation, and it is a new form of technology that companies are using to support customer experience and improve customer service.

There's absolutely nothing to fear about this new technology, according to Dorothy O'Byrne, Managing Director of the Customer Contact Management Association.

Ms O'Byrne says it will improve the service for customers, and will give employees at contact centres an opportunity to gain more skills and do more challenging work.

IDA Ireland has launched a report that looks at the impact of technology on customer service roles, with 5,000 jobs likely to be affected in the next five years.

Companies are using data to predict what consumers want and are using that information to streamline processes, so that customers can self-serve online or using apps, where previously they would have called a contact centre.

But if companies want to provide a good customer service, shouldn't the focus be on human interaction?

"I think it's a generational thing," Ms O'Byrne said. "We have an expression in the industry, 'omni-channel', where now there's digital channels and there's webchat that companies are using because that's the way people want to communicate. Not everybody wants to have a conversation, and for a lot of the activities that they want to do, they can self-serve."

Customer service, or customer experience, as it is now being called, is a huge sector in Ireland. 56,000 people are employed in 250 contact centres, focused on meeting the customer needs.

"Where a customer wants to do it themselves for certain activities, that service is there, but what we are also saying is there will always be the human interaction," Ms O'Byrne explains.

The IDA report is telling the industry that technology has its place, that there will always be human interactions, but companies must recognise that working in customer service operations is becoming a more highly skilled job, and therefore the type of skills needed are different to the skills that were required before.

"We will see companies looking at things like date incise, business intelligence, Six Sigma training, journey mapping, those types of skills. What IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and ourselves, have done in this report is provide a framework for companies to recognise that they need to change, they need to look at what the consumer is looking for in terms of efficiency, in terms of predictive and proactive support rather than reactive, and that the structure is there and the support is there to help them," Ms O'Byrne said.

There are many companies, such as Virgin Media, AIB, Shopify, who are already using this technology in Ireland.

The MD of CCMA said they are moving up the value chain in terms of the type of support that their staff is providing to customers. "So it's probably more challenging and more interesting work because the more mundane activities that they previously had to support, is now being done by technology," she said.