I recently watched a brilliant comedy routine involving a man with a thick Scottish accent trying to purchase cinema tickets from an automated phone line. “I began to encounter some difficulties,” he joked, as the machine blankly responded that it didn’t quite catch what he was saying. The comedian suggested that the Glasgow cinema must have been empty because the booking system was unable to understand anyone.
The lesson for businesses is that too much automation can have a negative effect on customer service; therefore, a hybrid approach must be adopted. Of course machines and digital solutions are transforming retailers and the customer service landscape. However, as analyst firm Gartner warned last year, we need to maintain an objective understanding of what machines are capable of achieving, and stay in control.
For example, with retail garnering an ever-growing digital presence, it’s important to retain human support and service, particularly in areas that could prove problematic for machines. The human touch brings personality, providing customers with meaningful interactions and more rewarding experiences.
Keep it real
There are some basic details technology might overlook which are second nature to humans, such as understanding customer accents. Businesses must create a happy medium between artificial intelligence (AI) and human insight. Here are some areas they can work on to create this ‘hybrid intelligence’:
1) User-centred design: Place the end user at the heart of the gathering, design and development processes. The design should be regularly reviewed and updated in line with advances in technology, consumer behaviour and trends, adoption of best practices and lessons learned.
2) Live updates and real-time engagement: Flag service updates to customers, and listen to feedback. Provide live updates on availability via platforms such as SMS and email; if you’re aware of a system-wide problem, for example, keep your customers in the know.
3) Two-way interactions on social media: Foster two-way communication by engaging with your audience and inviting people to comment, share and interact. By directly engaging with consumers and answering their queries and questions, it’s possible to create a genuine rapport as well as a communal feeling.
4) Offer channel-specific promotions: When emailing offers, for example, it can be a positive personal touch to explain it has been sent because you value that customer. Providing a unique discount code such as ‘DISCOUNT125JOHN’ will go a long way to showing that you appreciate their custom and take notice whenever they shop.
5) Make live/video chat available: Calls and video chat represent an opportunity to retain the human element of a brand’s personality even online. It will demand investment in staff, and information being made available to agents without delay. Otherwise you risk presenting a service that is little better than a robotic one would have been anyway.
6) Scrap the scripts: Underestimate casual conversation at your peril. Small talk is very important as it can calm and reassure an irritated customer. Give the customer the human interaction they were expecting when picking up the phone, rather than just an automated response.
By addressing these six points, both retailers and customer service agencies/providers will be in a position to enjoy the benefits of hybrid intelligence, using both man and machine. With a strong combination of the best elements of artificial intelligence and human insight in place, the quality of customer service can only improve.
Words by Matthieu Clauzure, brand and marketing manager, CCA International