Robots vs. Humans: What is the Future of Customer Service?
Earlier this year, Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store employed a new customer service representative to join their growing team. Friendly, polite and professional, Aiko Chihara is everything a high profile retailer could ask for in an employee. However, Aiko Chihara isn’t like any other employee, she is, in fact, a robot.
Powered by sophisticated technology, the lifelike humanoid became a customer magnet overnight. Her duties include informing customers about the store and acting as a store guide. Which begs the question, is robot service the start of a customer revolution? And, if the technology pundits are correct, will we be seeing more life-like robots at work and home?
Recent Forrester research identified the importance of understanding conjuring emotion and creating empathy with customers if businesses are going to deliver a successful customer experience. Emotion (defined by how people feel about their experience) was the number one factor in customer loyalty across 17 of the 18 industries analysed.
A further report by Eptica found nearly a third (31 percent) of consumers ranked companies failing to acknowledge their upset and anger as a major issue that caused them to switch rivals. Both findings suggest that businesses wanting to gain customer loyalty must place attention on emotional engagement.
However, many companies face the ambiguous challenge of growing their business to respond to the increasing number of customer interactions, across the widening range of channels. Today’s ‘connected’ customer wants to contact you around the clock on a channel of their choice. And, they expect fast replies that fully solve their problems. Providing this level of service is not always straightforward for agents.
There is a range of technology available to help boost the customer experience. Last year, Virgin Atlantic started using Google Glass to assist with passengers the check-in process. The wearable technology intended to enhance the travel experience while improving overall efficiency.
A large percentage of the questions customer service agents receive are due to customers not being able to find the answers they require. Technology can help consumers serve themselves more effectively, while creating time for human agents to deal with the customer issues requiring an emotional understanding.
As voice recognition and artificial intelligence technologies advance, robots will be able to interact with us in an increasingly worldly way. In fact, Garner predicted that by 2020, 85 percent of customer relationships will run without human interaction.
The Customer Service Battle
Today’s robotic systems are designed to deal with simple demands and, therefore, cannot manage complex interactions. An example of robot interplay is when we call a utility company to pay a bill by telephone. In this situation, we expect to talk to some kind of payment-bot ‘who’ will take necessary details and read statements.
Although we accept utility companies to use software-based payment-bots to speed up the customer process, most of us would prefer speaking to a real human given the chance. Unlike the synthesized voice, we can connect to the human voice on a personal level and that customer connection bridges trust.
Further, robots lack the understanding of a human. Usually, when something goes wrong, someone can apologise and assure the customer further action will be taken. Robots cannot.
On the other hand, the day-to-day engagement between human customer service agents and their customers is a form of art. Human agents can solve complex problems and give in-depth explanations. They can negotiate and agree on an outcome which benefits both customer and business.
The Future Of Customer Service Is Here
The future of customer service will be real human beings engaging in real conversation with real customers; addressing their needs with understanding, compassion and enthusiasm. Although robot staff are a great novelty, human interaction evokes trust and emotion.
Customers want to speak to a real person at a time suited to them. By outsourcing your call handling to alldayPA, you will receive a team of PA’s on-demand to answer your calls as if based in your office 24/7/365. Your customers will never be greeted with an automated system or voicemail again, just real people.