There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is going to be more and more common in customer service and support interactions. Its versatility in expanding self-service options across channels, its ability to capture robust customer insights, and its efficiency in handling contacts make it a very attractive investment for contact center leaders. Customers realize this and are tolerant of the increased use of AI technologies, but they fear that organizations will abuse and misuse the automation.
Research by PwC1 found that 78% of UK customers (and 75% across all other countries) “want to interact with a real person more as technology improves.” Additionally, 59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience. Most customers hate AI because organizations are using it to replace the human touch instead of augmenting it. This is not a sustainable solution for companies who want to stand apart from their competition. The customer experience is increasing in importance as a competitive differentiator and a bad AI implementation puts revenue, customer satisfaction and even employee engagement at risk.
Considering how customers feel about AI and all that is on the line, what can contact center and customer service leaders do to find the balance between creating exceptional experiences and delivering efficient service through chatbots or virtual assistance?
One of the best ways to get started is by leaning into the natural advantages of each method for delivering service. Artificial intelligence carries certain distinct advantages in efficiency that aren’t easily duplicated by humans. In the same respect, humans provide advantages in handling emotional, volatile or complex interactions that technology cannot. If organizations want to deliver a service experience that their customers won’t hate, they need to play each platform to its advantages and seamlessly integrate them.
The two fundamental challenges for contact center leaders are to:
- Thoroughly understand their customer’s expectations and the moments of truth within the typical customer journey.
- Leverage technology that enables immediate self-service, provides seamless transitions to agents and delivers access to the full context of each interaction.
The first challenge can’t be overcome by the contact center alone. It takes a cross-functional group of stakeholders, ranging from the contact center to marketing, product development and more, to fully understand and map customer expectations and moments of truth in their journeys. Along the way, customers should be interviewed—using methods like focus groups and surveys—to test and affirm any assumptions about their preferences and previous experiences.
From the perspective of technology, contact center and IT leaders should not underestimate the importance of using an integrated platform that balances self- and assisted service. For example, the highly repetitive and transactional tasks should be easily automated; contacts needing a degree of triage should employ chatbots or virtual assistance solutions as a first line of defense; and the platform should quickly and seamlessly escalate to an agent when necessary. If the customer’s need is resolved quickly and easily, they’ll be satisfied and won’t care how a company gets it done.
The reality is that customers don’t hate AI & chatbots—they hate organizations that don’t know how to provide great service.
1 PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey 2017/18
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