Happy New Year! Reports that SpeakingDIRECT will be written by robots in 2018 are greatly exaggerated. As promised last week, our first blog of 2018 will recap Forrester’s recent report titled, “Artificial Intelligence With The Human Touch.”
As the introduction eloquently states, “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already transforming enterprises by increasing worker efficiency and productivity, delivering better customer experiences, and uncovering new revenue streams. This transformation has extended to customer service, as many companies increasingly leverage AI capabilities to interface directly with customers and handle a variety of simple, repetitive requests.”
As readers of science fiction (and watchers of Star Trek) know, emotion is still too intricate and nuanced to be programmed accurately. That means customer experience—including its creation, execution, and maintenance—is best served by “blending AI and human modalities” together to deliver a powerful end-to-end experience for customers.
A Cautionary Artificial Intelligence Tale
Here’s an example of what happens when the human element is removed. A few months ago, we lost power for two days due to a powerful wind and rain storm. The local power company made it impossible to speak to or communicate with a human (other than going out to find a line crew to talk to). In search of an answer, I went to the police station and the dispatcher told me that even “the secret phone number used by police and fire” was getting the same automated response as everyone else. The backlash was immediate and swift and the power company used many channels to let customers know they “learned from their mistakes in implementing a new system” and promised to “do better in the next storm.”
Forrester’s key findings support this real-life example of what happens when an enterprise removes the human element. The findings are summarized in three simple statements:
- Enterprises adopt AI solutions to improve both customer and agent satisfaction ahead of cost savings.
- Human agents are still superior in understanding emotion and building trust.
- Blending AI with human agents allows enterprises to achieve the strengths of both.
The statistics are compelling, particularly in support of finding number three above: Enterprises that have blended AI with human agents report that their customer service efforts are more effective at improving both customer satisfaction (61%) and agent satisfaction (69%).
Forrester identifies the key attributes of good customer service as “ease, effectiveness, and positive emotion.” Because AI cannot perfectly replicate these attributes as a human can, some have reached the conclusion that AI has no place in customer service strategy. Forrester reminds us that AI is still new to many enterprises so there is a learning curve that must be smoothed. When new technology is leveraged, there is often a shortage of skills, expertise, and data. In what may seem like a catch-22, many enterprises (30%) do not have the data assets in place to provide the initial data to test AI solutions.
Without the Human Element, Artificial Intelligence Lacks Authenticity
Forrester’s study provides a clear and compelling recommendation—allow both human agents and AI to deliver on the capabilities they’re best suited for throughout the customer journey. Humans excel at conveying emotion and understanding context. Machines (aka AI solutions) can better handle simple requests with greater efficiency. When these capabilities are blended in the right way, customers are appropriately supported in their end-to-end journeys. As Mike Dietz has suggested when writing about effective design, start with strategy, end with technology.
To learn more about how IWCO Direct is automating for efficiency while providing the highest levels of customer satisfaction through human interaction, make reading SpeakingDIRECT a 2018 resolution that you keep. If you haven’t already subscribed, click here.
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