For execs looking to harness the power of AI in their customer service offerings to digitally transform user experiences, it may be helpful to note the findings of a recent survey first.
More than half of US adults have negative feelings about AI in customer experiences according to a SurveyMonkey survey of 2200 U.S. adults, although consumers are split on whether they think they can tell when they are interacting with an AI chatbot.
Although AI is already playing a major role in customer experiences in the form of chatbots, personalization and interactive experiences, 90% of respondents across ages, genders and income levels prefer to work with a human over a chatbot.
Respondents noted how humans understand their needs better (61%), provide more thorough explanations (53%), are less likely to frustrate them (52%), and give them more options to address their problems (50%).
“While AI is an extraordinary tool, our findings relayed that customers (and people in general) still value the interaction of the human touch point,” says Laura Wronski, director of research for SurveyMonkey. “Not only is the consensus heavily in favor of humans, but that sentiment has a huge influence on how customers view the experience.”
She points out that bots enable businesses to serve customers in more hours, more quickly, and often in whatever language they need.
“The takeaway isn’t that using bots for customer service is unacceptable; it’s just that human agents offer a meaningfully better experience today,” Wronski says.
Damian Mingle president and CEO of LogicPlum, explains one common concern among consumers is the absence of human interaction when dealing with AI-driven customer service.
“Some individuals prefer the personal touch and empathetic understanding that human customer service representatives can provide,” he says.
He points out AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants may struggle with comprehending complex inquiries or resolving intricate problems.
“Consumers may become frustrated when they receive generic or irrelevant responses from AI systems, leading to a desire for human intervention,” he says.
AI algorithms may struggle to interpret subtle nuances in language, context or emotional cues, which can result in miscommunication or inadequate responses, which may further frustrate customers.
“Some customers prefer tailored experiences and personalized recommendations,” Mingle notes. “AI systems, particularly in the early stages of implementation, may struggle to provide individualized solutions, leading to dissatisfaction among consumers.”
If AI systems provide inaccurate or incorrect information, consumers may lose trust in the technology, while instances of AI making mistakes or failing to understand specific queries can lead to frustration and skepticism.
Wronski adds with AI and ML built into the customer service process, the entire experience can be more personalized.
“It can transform the customer experience from one of rote sameness into one where people feel seen and heard, building loyalty and trust,” she says.
One example could be using AI and ML to create feedback options built directly into a website or chatbot, or by generating automatic emails after specific customer touchpoints, to help them avoid getting stuck in frustrating loops with bots that lack the context needed to solve their problem.
She says the survey findings indicate companies looking to integrate AI into their products will require lots of coordination and collaboration.
“They’ll have to consider the full user journey, not just solve for the specific task that the AI is intended to support, in order to drive adoption,” she says.
At least so far, most people still prefer to interact with a human rather than an AI, so changing that status quo is going to require everyone from product to marketing to subject matter experts—customer success and customer support—working together to create a new experience that is better than what they are currently offering.
Mingle says companies are responsible for implementing AI systems and determining how they are integrated into customer service operations, which means they must consider consumer preferences, concerns and feedback when developing an AI strategy.
“Customer service teams play a crucial role in shaping the AI integration strategy,” he explains. “They need to understand customer needs and expectations, evaluate the effectiveness of AI systems, and provide feedback to improve customer experiences.”
He adds that as AI technology advances, regulators and policymakers may need to develop guidelines and regulations to ensure ethical AI use, protect consumer rights and address potential privacy, security and transparency issues in AI-driven customer service.
“In my judgment, it’s important to remember that the context of AI and customer service is rapidly evolving,” Mingle says. “These survey results suggest conversations around AI and its impact will likely continue and potentially grow in the coming months.”