Humans versus automation: achieving the right balance in customer service



Customer service automation software is becoming more prevalent, sparking concerns about losing the 'human' touch. Artificial intelligence allows companies to save resources whilst retaining service quality, but 'authenticity' is vital to customer satisfaction. Consumer trends show people want real-time access to customer service, through the digital channels they use on a daily basis. This can be difficult for companies using manpower alone, and the resources can be costly. The challenge lies in balancing both automation and quality; this article will delve into how this balance can be achieved.

Why use AI chatbots?

AI enables bots to simulate ‘human’ communication, thinking and decision making. Many companies use bots to converse with the general public, answering queries and executing task requests. Digital assistants act quicker than the average user, who may spend a considerable amount of time searching for answers. These digital assistants have been around for quite some time. One of the first examples was in 1966 with ELIZA, which communicated with pre-programmed words and phrases. Of course, today's technology is far more advanced, but the foundations were laid decades ago. With machine learning, chatbots learn over time to communicate with nuance and understanding. This significantly expands their potential in customer service. Artificial intelligence not only reduces costs and streamlines workflow, but it also helps customers. Chatbots demonstrate how artificial intelligence can help develop businesses without neglecting their customers. But are they providing that ‘personal’ touch that makes customer service so valuable? How can we retain the benefits of human contact whilst still leveraging the power of AI?

Why keep a personal touch

When it comes to client relations, companies should never compromise on personal communication. Dealing with a person helps customers feel valued, especially when stressed or frustrated. Today’s consumers have a surplus of choices and are loyal to businesses who understand their needs. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses maintain a connection with every customer. Communication is key to this connection, whether that be over the phone or face to face. The issue is that there is much more to communication than just words. When people interact with each other, body language helps express both emotions and meaning. Chatbots may be great for answering simple questions, but can lack multifaceted communication skills. Without body language, gestures, and facial expressions, bots struggle to convey genuine empathy.

How to maintain a personal touch

Utilise blended artificial intelligence

A 2018 survey found that for 50% of U.S internet users, a bot prevents them from speaking to a ‘real human.’ Unfortunately, chatbots are still being perceived as less capable than humans. With this in mind, a successful business strategy should involve collaboration between humans and bots. Many industries are now being 'disrupted' by AI technologies, offering real-time communication across multiple channels. However, businesses should still look to reach out to customers personally in order to remain competitive, whether via a phone call, personalised email, or face-to-face meeting. Empathy is key to building trust and mutual understanding. This is pivotal for customer service, as well as sales and business development, and is a known shortfall for bots despite their capacity to learn and improve. While it’s important to remain efficient and cost-effective, businesses shouldn’t look to replace human beings entirely.

Offer choice for your customers

Keeping communication channels open and varied means companies remain fully available to customers. The average person leads a busy life, whether this is spent working, commuting or with family. They should not be subject to stress when their issue could be relatively simple to solve. Email and messenger platforms are quick and accessible communication methods, saving a significant amount of time for customers on-the-go. While speaking to a service provider over the phone provides customers with the reassurance that someone is listening. It’s about having a choice of contact options. Ultimately, customers shouldn’t have to exert themselves to find the best way to reach a company. The onus is on businesses to provide clear contact information, so customers can reach out with urgent queries and receive a fast, effective response.

Have meaningful and memorable conversations

Online forums are an effective way for customers to share experiences with a company. This provides the opportunity for businesses to gain valuable feedback from their audience. Unfortunately, some organisations ignore negative feedback or attempt to placate customers with platitudes. Businesses should use online channels to create meaningful connections with their audiences. No matter what a customer’s issue may be, they will always want to feel as though it is valid. Social media is a great example, and the best brands aren’t afraid to speak with personality. While professional boundaries must always be maintained, businesses must aim to be memorable. Customers will always want their concerns to be validated, but being memorable could be as simple as making them laugh. GetVOIP recently conducted a survey to understand concerns about chatbots for customer service. 29% of respondents said that chatbots won’t understand human nuances such as sarcasm. Businesses can use AI to create ‘personas’ for bots, often influenced by Siri's use of quips in response to irreverent questions. If someone asks Siri what the meaning of life is, it responds that all the evidence points to chocolate. This is just one example of how chatbots assume ‘human’ personas, but something as simple as a name and a photo can go a long way.

Create unique, personalised experiences

If businesses want to retain customers, they must look to personalise the customer experience. Artificial intelligence helps to analyse infinite amounts of data at an unprecedented rate. Consumers can be micro-segmented with predictive analytics, providing an insight into behavioural trends. These include browsing and purchasing habits, as well as their preferred communication channels. This data has many applications, such as offering relevant discounts and special offers. Artificial intelligence can also be used for large-scale marketing research. This would usually require complex systems or considerable manpower. Bots can scan recent interactions and searches for common keywords and queries, creating an unbiased source for customer data and helping to generate sales leads. This data is raw material to help businesses understand their customers. A bot’s ability to streamline and expedite this process makes them a powerful ally for humans. Ever since artificial intelligence became a talking point, there has been speculation about bots surpassing humans. This conversation needs to be refocused, moving away from the notion of a direct trade-off. If businesses are looking to embrace automation, the current goal should be efficiency. When it comes to customer relations, organisations cannot compromise on personal communications. Companies can have the best of both worlds, getting the most out of available resources whilst making customers feel appreciated. Striking this balance is what will guarantee success for organisations in 2019 and beyond. With artificial intelligence growing in use, businesses need to stake a claim in a competitive marketplace. Are you considering AI customer service chatbots as part of your ongoing strategy? Contact We Build Bots today – our resources and expertise can help achieve long-term success with artificial intelligence.