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Automation vs Emotion: Are people still important in customer experience roles?

9th 六月 2021

Jason Hand, Business Coach, InXpress Australia & New Zealand
Chances are, you’ve interacted with AI technology in the past week, even if you’re not aware of it. From grocery shopping to banking, getting a takeaway to checking the weekend weather, we live in an increasingly automated world where technology reigns supreme.
But how much is too much?
With technologies ever-evolving, more and more businesses are turning to AI to improve their customer journey. This signals a shift for customer experience, where striking the balance between human interaction and automation can feel like a minefield. Too little human interaction and your customers become frustrated, too much and you’re simply wasting everyone’s time.
Streamlined processes
So you’re tired of pressing ‘one for service, two for booking’ when you ring an organisation? Spare a thought for customer service representatives who repeat the same answers again and again all through the day. For mundane and re-occurring issues, an automated virtual assistant is way more efficient than a human. 
Agents aren’t wasting time responding to the same, commonly-asked queries. Instead, they deal with more complex requests and critical interactions that require a human touch. Plus, AI programs can easily automate follow-up emails or tasks, saving on human time and errors. 
Predicting customer behaviour
Understanding what your customers want and need — ideally, before they even do — is the holy grail of successful customer service. By collecting data from previous interactions, new technologies are able to predict actions, both from the customer and the agent’s viewpoint. This personalisation speeds up the customer journey while improving and enhancing the customer experience.
Emotional connections matter
Some businesses can easily miss the point: great business is built on solid relationships, and these are essential to success. Without human interaction; these relationships simply cannot exist. 
Of course, automation can solve efficiency issues, and can be gold dust for the time-poor business. But nothing can beat human interaction. A study shows that 77% of Australian consumers consider changing service providers if they have a ‘disconnected’ customer service experience. 
It’s important businesses cater to our need for human engagement.
Chatbots lack empathy
A chatbot can send people in the right direction if the question is simple, but does it really understand the issue? For many of us, empathy is an essential part of great customer service. Often, we want to form an emotional connection, and this doesn’t exist when communicating with a chatbot. If we’re complaining about a product or service, as humans we often need someone to validate our feelings. It’s this emotional connection that keeps customers loyal. 
Technology is useful in creating positive experiences for your customers, but it definitely comes with limitations. 
What’s the answer then? What does good customer service look like? 
You need to successfully automate your customer service with the perfect blend of emotion. A combination of the efficiency of AI with the emotion of human interaction should be the gold standard we aspire to in business. And remember: 
Not everything needs to be automated
A returning buyer knows what they’re after and won’t need AI assistance to purchase a product. But a first-time site visitor? A chatbot will probably know the answers to their questions, as they would have been asked time and time before. Be selective about the areas where automation works best in your business. Keep it to the repetitive or simple tasks.
Make sure your customer service channels are consistent 
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeat your order number, details and query over and over again.  This puts customers off and important information may get lost in limbo. 33% of customers admit to feeling frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps. Businesses need consistency across all channels to improve the customer service experience. 
Combine human engagement with automated efficiency. Perfecting the perfect customer service system is no easy task. Businesses need to get the balance right and recognise when a person should take over. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
78% of customers saying they’d back out of a purchase due to a poor customer experience, so you need to find what’s right for your specific customer. From offering the opportunity to chat with a human right away, to asking for customer feedback to assess effectiveness, customer service is constantly evolving. 
Just remember AI was designed to simplify human customer service, not eliminate it entirely.
Automation vs Emotion: Are people still important in customer experience roles?