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Let me begin with my gratitude, thanking Tom for his exciting viewpoint. He had a lot of interesting insights in terms of the interface between AI and human employees. As we develop AI into our systems, we will need to determine what AI will replace, what it will augment, and what it will add.
How Quickly We Get Used to New Technology
One of the things Tom said was back in the 90s, we didn’t buy everything online or on our phones. It’s hard to remember that time now.
Another thing Tom said was that people use employees now to help in the Customer Experience. However, I disagree; fewer people work in Customer Experience these days. Moreover, organizations have fewer people. My worry with AI is that we will end up with companies that use it to slash and burn the people on staff to get profits. However, my optimistic side hopes that more enlightened organizations will use it to enhance the experience and effectively leverage it, as Tom suggests.
AI presents opportunities to shift some routine tasks off the backs of human employees and onto AI systems. The danger is if these systems fail, there is no human employee to pick up the slack.
For example, it bugs me that call center recordings always say they are experiencing a high volume of calls but that my call is important to them. I think, “It must not be important enough to ensure there are resources to help me.” Also, is it a high-volume time or instead a normal-volume time without people on staff to support them?
Remember the Last Time We Got Excited About a New Technology?
Another interesting insight from Tom was that AI is an easy path into a digital journey. He described it as pulling this information together. When you think about it, most journeys now could start with an app. After that, you can apply AI to analyze what is working and how, as well as problem-solving for frictional moments.
However, I would caution us to be realistic about what AI will do. It sounds like a magic elixir that will solve any problem you sprinkle it on, but that isn’t the case. It’s a powerful tool, yes, but only a tool. My concern is that some organizations will apply it willy-nilly to any part of the experience to fix challenges where I would rather it was focused on the customer journey and solving specific problems.
It reminds me of a project I oversaw 20 years ago. We were implementing a new system that was going to automate a lot of the processes, save money, and provide a better experience. We all talked about once the system was in place, all the problems it would solve. However, the reality was that the system was challenging to get off the ground because everyone in the organization wasn’t on board, and we experienced a lot of resistance from teams that liked working another way.
It also reminds me of the history of the internet. When the internet was first out, everyone thought it was terrific and it would change everything. However, all the hopes and dreams we had for how it would change our lives took time. It did change our lives, but over 30-some-years.
You could argue AI is going to take a bit longer. It could take some time before it really starts to provide some benefit. We are still optimistic about what it can do, and AI will affect everything, but probably not tomorrow.
So, does that mean we shouldn’t plan for it? It does not mean that, but we also should look for specific problems for it to solve.
What I’m seeing at the moment is history repeating itself with many different parts of organizations playing with AI or doing things with AI. For example, you might see customer service using it with chatbots and sales using it to manage inbound calls and various inbound requests.
What I don’t see is an overall strategy for how to implement AI across the organization, which results in siloed attempts. With the internet, we learned that siloed attempts confuse the customer, a problem we are still solving in some cases. So, I would rather that we don’t make that mistake again and have a strategy in place for AI with an organizational approach rather than a departmental one.
So, Why is Leading With Humans a Better AI Strategy?
So, to summarize why leading with humans is a better AI strategy, we have the following points:
- The best-case scenario would be to reduce the repetitive tasks so employees can do better customer-centric work for customers and the company. I worry that many companies would use AI to reduce headcount because the AI systems do the routine work. While that might be an opportunity for some businesses, I hope instead most see it as an opportunity for marketplace advantage, where one can distinguish themselves with ruthless efficiency on the back end by building out more loyalty and more positive experience on the front end.
- Every organization should have a strategy in place for AI. You need to know the areas where you’re going to invest. They should be areas that drive the most value for you, from which you will gain the most return.
- Organizations don’t know what they don’t know. The real advantage of AI isn’t happening tomorrow but in five years. By then, I hope it will help people provide a more proactive experience. But we haven’t done a lot of those, so we don’t know what the best way is to do those or how to build them. Organizations will need to experiment to find out what works for them.
That’s an optimistic path for AI, but there’s also a lot that we don’t know. There’s justifiably some fear, especially if people are worried about job disruptions. The most hopeful outcome for AI is that organizations use it to take care of routine tasks to allow those employees to refocus on the parts of the job where they can do the best for customers.
For example, if gathering and putting data together routinely distracts your team from solving customers’ problems, maybe AI could compile that instead. That would be best for everyone, from the employee to the company to the customer. I’m hopeful that this outcome is where AI will take us.
Additionally, Tom’s point that the human experience still matters resonated with me. I don’t know that anybody is super excited about interacting with a chatbot. However, suppose you have a human who can solve your problem and show empathy after that initial chatbot information gathering. In that case, the human element can bring the experience home from where the AI got it started.
Colin has conducted numerous educational workshops, on how to improve your Customer Experience, to inspire and motivate your team. He prides himself on making this fun, humorous, and practical. Speak to Colin and find out more. Click here!