The Impact of AI and the Empathy Economy on the Customer Service Experience

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Why you should reinvent your organization to take advantage of the best of digital and human capabilities

In recent years, AI and machine learning algorithms have held the world spellbound with rapid pace of development and integration in various industries and verticals. The all-pervasive premise: in the not too distant future, AI and robots will take over the world.

Although this may sound far-fetched to some, it is already happening, most significantly in the business world. Most experts agree that AI will eventually obviate the need for most traditional jobs and industries.

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A Pew Research Center study reports that by 2025, AI and robotics will permeate most segments of daily life, while another an Oxford University Study projects that within the next 25 years, developed nations will experience job loss rates of up to 47 percent.

The impact of AI on traditional jobs

Over the last twenty years, the digital revolution and the advent of AI has largely replaced both white and blue collar workers, from travel agents to bank tellers, gas station attendants to factory workers. This has resulted in tremendous implications for industries such as home maintenance, transport and logistics, healthcare, and most significantly, customer service.

It is widely believed that AI will kill off a lot of jobs, making people obsolete in the business world. Although AI will obviate the need for most traditional jobs, the truth is that AI technology will make the role of humans more important – not less.

Benefits of AI: Automation

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More businesses are using AI and machine learning algorithms to automate their daily operations and help analyze customer data. Although this leads to better anticipation of customer needs and faster delivery of services and solutions, the increasingly scarce element is the human touch.

Since customers are interacting more with robots and less with real people, the human touch has become more important than ever. With technology and digitization progressing at a tremendous pace, true human values are being sidelined.

The need for a paradigm shift

However, the answer doesn’t lie with decelerating the current pace of technological advancements. Instead, a paradigm shift is needed in which organizations leverage technology to perform trivial repetitive jobs, leaving employees free to focus on the more important tasks – empathizing with and delivering a more personalized customer service experience to consumers.

Industry experts have predicted that by the year 2020, 85 percent of customer service interactions will be handled without the need for human agents. As such, businesses should anticipate changes in consumer expectations and put in place measures to ensure that these expectations are managed.

Reinvent your customer service approach

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The rapid growth of consumerism and the attendant increase in customer expectations have forced organizations to reinvent their customer service approach. The major factor enabling this shift is technology – with automation, connected devices and AI enabling businesses to better address customers’ needs.

There are plenty of benefits that AI can bring to your business’s customer service department. In another blog post, we discussed how AI-based solutions can help automate certain trivial and repetitive tasks such as data extraction and analysis as well as time-consuming, repetitive manual workflows. This gives your customer service reps the time they need to focus on your number one priority – your customers.

The rise of the Empathy Economy

With the emergence and rapid rise of the “Empathy Economy”, your business must leverage AI solutions to increase the effectiveness of its customer service department. Some of the tasks that can be automated using AI include:

  • Categorizing and tagging emails
  • Responding to queries
  • Rerouting calls, etc.

By taking care of these tasks, AI enables your customer service department to focus on delivering higher levels of service interactions that contribute to customer retention, lifetime value, and overall satisfaction.

What AI cannot do

Despite the obvious advantages of having AI-based solutions accurately and efficiently handle trivial, repetitive tasks using solutions such as automated FAQ deflection tools and chatbots, businesses are realizing that customers still need to be serviced in a way that addresses their pain points on a personal level.

Highly developed robots can perform basic human interactions over the phone, but they are limited by their inability to deliver the personal touch and understand/engage humans on an emotional level. The most important asset needed to truly connect with customers is the ability to empathize – an ability that AI lacks and is nearly impossible to replicate using machine learning algorithms.

AI solutions are incapable of placing themselves in another person’s shoes (figuratively speaking) to sense what they feel, a task which is critical in communicating effectively with customers, managing their emotions and reading their feelings.

The importance of empathy

The customer service industry is one where empathy and interpersonal skills are required to truly understand a customer’s needs, desires, and emotional state. Without these skills, your customer service department cannot deliver a high-quality service experience to customers.

With the digitization and increasing automation of customer service departments, your agents should focus exclusively on delivering empathy to customers. The best customer service experiences are those in which humans are involved and the customer was genuinely surprised by the level of attention and service they received.

The future of customer service 

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AI can predict what a customer needs and deliver service that is commensurate with those expectations and within the scope of its abilities. However, only humans can overdeliver, leaving the script to color outside of the lines in favor of customers.

The future of customer service is one in which organizations use the best digital interfaces to achieve operational excellence while simultaneously delivering customer intimacy.

And the only way to do this is by leveraging AI-based solutions to automate the trivial and repetitive tasks usually performed by your organization’s frontline representatives. This leaves them free to be the true differentiator – a human interface that delivers genuine empathy and the personal touch, culminating in a truly awesome customer experience.

You should reinvent and transform your organization from both a digital and human perspective. Only by combining the strengths of digital interfaces and humans can your organization hope to achieve its highest customer service objectives and goals.

This blogpost was first published on the Omnicus blog.

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