Non-Human Resources – Career Opportunities in Customer Service for reliable and friendly A.I.

ROCCO’s Operations Manager Nicola, reminds us why there’s no A.I. in TEAM

“A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees” Shep Hyken

I was happily double tapping my way through Instagram the other day when I came across a favourite brand advertising their latest wares. I was immediately reminded to be annoyed; I still hadn’t had their response to my email complaint about a product fault. I decided to leave a comment on their new product post. My grievance, sitting there in all its public glory pacified my frustration as I mused that perhaps a two-pronged attack would evoke a reaction? And I did this without a second thought, it was quick and easy.

3 days later, more product flaunts in my feed and still no reply. Red mist ascending, it started me thinking their resources must either be overwhelmed, or there was a serious breakdown in communication. Either way I concluded their customer service was just plain dire. Tenacious as I am and in full on complaint mode, I considered my next move on the offending vendor; I could tweet or leave a post on their Facebook page? There are sites like ‘How to Complain’ and ‘Ripoff Report’ that not only allow me to vent, but assist me in a resolution with claims of a 76% success rate!

Finally, after 20 minutes I wanted answers, I was down to caller 32, did I know they had a web page and that my call was important?  After a further 25 minutes, I stabbed at the end call symbol on my phone and resolved to never shop with them again, told everyone I know to avoid them, and furthermore (and this would hurt), I stopped following them on Instagram.

“Effective communication is important in every business, big and small. The expansion of social networking has thrown open the door for companies to build a strong network of loyal customers. The internet is swelling with online communities, discussions group, forums, tweets and fan pages all ready to talk about your business” – Be Social Worldwide

There is talk of the end of omni-channels (multiple ways for your customer shop), with companies restricting the way a customer can interact with them, but for now contacting a brand is easier than ever, you may not always get a reply, but there are many routes available and convenience wins the day.

So how do vendors in 2017 control and direct the ever-increasing consumer traffic in their own virtual spaghetti junction, whilst avoiding infuriating jams and expensive collisions? No 3 in the top Customer Experience (CX) trends coming into fashion this year is…


A.I. and I.A.  

Deploy the bots! Whether it’s a virtual assistant that can order your groceries whilst telling you a joke, a Chatbot that can educate your toddler to learn a foreign language or a break dancing robot that can also hoover; Artificial Intelligence is everywhere and we know this as consumers.

We have, even if we did not realise it, directly conversed with A.I. for basic fact finding, whether for personal use or in communication with a company. We must even prove at times that we are not robots by selecting the relevant captcha squares! But, is it really possible for businesses to replace humans in such delicate CX circles and still provide an efficient and empathetic service without causing waves?

“When it comes to chatbots-one of the most recognisable form of A.I. -80% of the 800 sales and marketing leaders asked say they already use or plan to do so by 2020 to better serve customers”. The Oracle Report 2016

To this point, I was reading an article the other day about an “Intelligence explosion” and how in 45 years’ time, half the jobs currently filled by humans will have been taken over by an A.I.. The study was compiled by the ‘Future of Human Institute’, Oxford University.  This became frighteningly evident when earlier this year an Insurance firm in Tokyo had made more than 30 employees redundant in their office replacing them with A.I.. The company believed that it would increase productivity by 30% and save more than $1.2M a year. More Japanese companies (even their government) are following suit and already looking at similar systems. Martin Ford identified this new era in his book ‘Rise of the Robot’

“The Robots haven’t  just landed in the workplace—they’re expanding skills, moving up the corporate ladder, showing awesome productivity and retention rates, and increasingly shoving aside their human counterparts”

Still I figured I was safe, my work revolved around CX, a specific business that no matter what happened, would need the human touch. After all, scientific evidence had stated that consumers are driven by emotion, and whilst google maybe building worker robots with personalities, a machine is not capable of understanding true emotion (yet).

Despite Forbes Magazine claiming; “Machines’ ability to interact with humans is stronger than ever” they haven’t quite managed to extend this to understanding the complexities of a mood or an emotion (that’s sometimes even difficult for Humans!).

So whilst the multi-tasking bot that can make (and flip) a hamburger in 10 seconds will soon replace an entire McDonalds crew, this isn’t the optimum route for all customer facing businesses, and with innovation in digital technology advancing fast, it’s difficult for some companies to keep up with the latest tech and pick the best solutions.

‘A.I. won’t necessarily take over the human function, although in some places it can and will, but it will assist customer support people, becoming an I.A., or Intelligent Assistant” – Forbes.

Like myself, we have all become frustrated at some point with the customer service of a company, whether that’s the difficulty of interaction, poor communication or the inability to have the information we need at that moment in time. Some businesses just fail to provide successful CX due to a lack of training, and /or resources, so it makes sense that businesses are turning to A.I. to help.

But whilst A.I. in various forms is quickly becoming the first contact; Businesses that decide to ‘deploy’ rather than to employ to improve their CX, must also be aware that Artificial intelligence still needs to be managed and measured just like a human. Educating, training, coaching, quality control, damage limitation, plus having an emergency fall-back should the machine, like a human ‘catch a bug’.

“Less than 15% of customer interaction will be performed by human employees by 2020”. The Gartner report.

For this other 85% of future customer interaction to provide efficient and successful service, businesses need to be logical about how they incorporate AI into their existing CX infrastructure. With ‘Silly bots’ to deal with F.A.Q. and ‘Smart bots’ to sell products or to help the consumer find information. Bots are best programmed to specialise in basic CX tasks, limiting exposure to unpredictable circumstances. However most importantly the company needs to ensure the bots recognize when the customer is confused and hand off the conversation to a human, working seamlessly together in a A.I. –Human mixed doubles teams to grand slam frustration levels.

I’ve worked with businesses that do not want to adopt social media marketing purely because whilst it improves a brands exposure, it equally gives consumers a new method of contact, saturating the resources.  But the benefits can outweigh, if the vendors are prepared; A.I. plays a key role in successful customer service in the future, it will enable businesses to make better decisions and extend communication channels – saving consumers precious time and freeing up humans to become intelligent assistants. Managed sympathetically A,I, can even improve bottom-line profit, but like all CX trends, it’s all about a careful balance.