Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. It isn’t just a trendy name that will disappear in a couple of years. It is here to stay and to run in many aspects of our lives.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. In computer science, an ideal “intelligent” machine is a flexible rational agent that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.
BUT…if you try to use it to “improve” your customer service today, you are most likely to fail. Encouraging he?
According to Accenture’s “Global Consumer Pulse Research”:
- 83% of US consumers prefer human beings over digital channels when it comes to solving customer service issues.
- 52% have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service.
- 80% of “switchers” feel the company could have done something to retain them.
- 83% said better live/in-person customer service would have impacted their decision.
Do I need to say more? YES!
Surprisingly enough, even Millennials prefer human interactions. Based on a recent survey of over 1,000 millennials conducted by Mattersight Corporation, this age group still prefers person-to-person interactions over digital options for most situations.
“Despite growing up in the digital age, Millennials haven’t abandoned person-to-person contact,” said Mattersight CEO Kelly Conway. “Contrary to popular belief, we found that most Millennials prefer to communicate in-person and over the phone because it allows them to have the most meaningful conversations.”
Technology is great, when using it right
Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I believe technology is improving the way we live in many different aspects and will still do it for many years; but it can also make our lives more difficult when not using it properly. Does the picture below clarify what I am saying?
Examples of virtual customer service fails
- Anna, virtual help desk (IKEA): remember Anna? I am sure you do. WE loved her, just for the first few minutes. This was a great initiative by IKEA trying to automate its customer service for FAQ. It worked pretty well as a system, very advance at that time being able to respond not only to expected questions but also to original ones. Do you see it on IKEA’s website today? I don’t. Why? Because people didn’t use it. People liked it but used it more to ask silly questions for fun that for real problem interactions. For those, customers still prefer to pick up the phone and call the contact center.
- Automated Twitter replies (Bank of America): a picture is worth more than 1,000 words.
- Video conferencing at airports: not sure if they still use it at Munich airport, but when I saw it there, first thing I thought was: WHY? Putting a screen between you and a real person to help you, it is just a bad idea. Why you just don’t have the real person then? If he/she needs to be somewhere in a room waiting for people to video-talk to him/her, you will disappoint both customers and your employee. This, makes no sense, at all.
Examples of good technology use for customer service
As mentioned before, people just prefer human interactions in general when trying to solve issues. To be able to be efficient and to make it work, we need to focus not just in the technology itself, but in the type of interactions we have with our customers. We need to evaluate on which ones of those, customers will actually appreciate the use of technology.
There are several technologies that are proven to be good for your customer service. They automate some parts of the interactions but still keep the human touch, improving trust from consumers when having a question or a problem:
- Live chat: for very urgent issues, we are still more likely to pick up the phone and make a call to solve it quickly and make it more personal. For many others, we do prefer not having a warm interaction but still with a real person. Live chat solutions are becoming the most preferred option when dealing with the majority of customer requests. There are more sophisticated ones like Boldchat , that include automated responses, automatic distribution channels, canned messages using AI, omnichannel solution, etc. Nobody likes to call a contact centre, live chat is great for those times when you really don’t have to.
- Feedback: customer feedback is key for you to keep improving. Although usually the best feedback you can get is when you actually talk to a person, there are many people that consider anonymous feedback as a good thing and they are willing to provide it to you. Automated surveys after providing the service and follow up messages after collecting that feedback are tasks that can be automated and appreciated by customers. Tools like Survey Monkey, AskNicely can be a good option. Please, don’t ask for feedback about your website when someone comes in and even didn’t have the time to see it. That’s simply wrong!
- Reactive and more importantly, proactive email: automatic emails after signing up for a trial, a service, buying something; all are good if they provide extra information about your service or product. The key is to also incorporate proactive automated emails that are sent to customers after they reached some milestones, with product enhancements, or just saying “hi” to see how they are doing. All can be made very human alike and customers will appreciate you staying in touch, not only when they have problems but also when nothing is happening and you are just curious about how they are doing with your product. Hubspot , Eloqua are two of the most popular tools you can check.
Machines can’t have the human touch (yet)
I guess this field will evolve significantly in the coming years, but today, it is still clear that human interactions provide better results in customer satisfaction, NPS, CES or whatever customer care KPI you would like to measure.
We are driven by emotions. And emotions are the most difficult thing to replicate using artificial intelligence. I believe we are still far away from the point where a machine can provide responses like the ones below:
And that’s why you should use less artificial and more intelligence when dealing with your customers. 🙂
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