How Human Should Customer Service Be?


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Personalized customer service is the foundation of business success, but does personal service need to include an actual person? This is the question many businesses are currently asking as they face the rise of AI in the workplace and it’s ability to respond to many basic service requests fluently and accurately.

There are pros and cons to both adopting AI in limited circumstances and putting it aside for the time being in favor of that human connection. Here are a few aspects you should consider as you dive into the fray.

What’s Your Function?

From the get-go, there are certain businesses that are better suited to AI adoption than others. For example, a chatbot that can troubleshoot software installation is a powerful innovation; it speeds time to service completion and offers customers more options – do you want a person to prepare your taxes or will you choose to have AI guide you through the filing process? For highly precise operations, many people are even more inclined to trust a robot in hopes of fewer errors.

On the other hand, there are certain services that simply can’t be provided by AI – but technology can smooth their provision. Consider, for example, medical care. AI can’t perform a checkup (at least not yet), but access to telemedicine is helping people in isolated communities gain access to needed care. Telehealth options can also help chronically ill patients and those with cancer receive better, less burdensome treatment.

Transitions Are Tough

One of the most difficult things about adding AI or any kind of advanced client services to your business model is the transition period. Too many companies launch AI across all markets simultaneously, leading to system overload and poor service. Another common error is deploying AI without a sufficient message base. In these situations, the system tends to flounder as it’s unable to provide accurate answers to user questions.

It may not seem like a big deal when AI messes up – customers understand the challenge of a new system, right? But, in fact, research shows that poor customer service is harming businesses at an escalating rate. Provide poor customer service and clients will post about it on social media, magnifying the reach of their complaints.

Offer Options

Some customers love AI or any system that frees them up from human interaction – they will choose intelligent self-service over active assistance every time. Others will always prefer that human touch, and in many cases, this hinges on generational differences. The key to satisfying all parties is to offer options. AI may allow you to eliminate some of your customer service staff, for example, but you’ll still need some staff for non-standard problems, to accommodate customers who have access barriers to AI use, and to meet the needs of those who simply prefer to talk to a real person.

AI is the cutting edge of customer service, but businesses should always draw up a careful implementation plan before they make the leap. Run simulations, test the process with existing customers, and be prepared for a pileup of problems during the first few days or weeks. Like a new app, a redesigned website, or a product in beta form, AI will have to jump through some hoops before it becomes the technology we all imagine it to be.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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