A funny thing happens as humans create, develop, and improve the technology that make life more organized, convenient, and yes - social. We begin to put all too much faith into the tech that we have built, believing that higher tech means a better experience. In many places this mentality is understandable, I don't know many who would give up their iPhone or Android for two cups and a string. However, in at least one place, these advances have left us tired, frustrated, and desperate: brands' belief that AIs and IVRs deliver a quality customer service experience. There is simply is no replacing the human factor.
Long before I found myself working for Conversocial I focused on perfecting the way brands communicate with customers over social media, I was a consumer. As a young, internet savvy adolescent, I remember being introduced to a screen name on AIM (yup this is a throwback) called "Smarter Child". Many probably remember this AI, and its ability to converse. It is also easy to remember is that "Smarter Child" wasn't very... smart. It was however a first glimpse of the customer service frustration that we would soon come to know and loath.
As confidence in technology's ability to understand our needs grew, quality customer service dwindled. The days of a human operator picking up your service call gave way to navigating through touch-tone menus, shockingly poor voice recognition, and the feeling we've become all to familiar with; pounding on the "0" key and shouting "OPERATOR" at the IVR system. This has been a cause of broken telephones, hypertension, and angry customers for decades, and for some reason it has only gotten worse. As the preferred method of communication changed, customers and their frustrations transitioned to social channels. Yet brands, again hoping to discount their service invested in poorly built tech with the hope of needing fewer agents, automating Twitter support, and lowering their bottom line. But much like "Smarter Child", R2-D2, and C-3PO, these are not the droids we, the customers, are looking for.
So what is the reprieve from this customer service hell of robots, droids, and AI? The answer is simple: People. Brands need to rediscover the value of a trusted, informed, and capable customer service agent, that can go beyond answering a question, and deliver resolution. Investing in bots and cutting staff to pay fewer people is not the road to improving long term net revenues. It is however, a fast track to pushing frustrated customers away to competitors.
We accept the notion that maintaining a customer or client is vastly more profitable than finding a new one, it is with this in mind I extend some suggestion to all brands hoping to cut corners with their customer service:
- Remember that people want to interact with people.
- Invest in the tech that will enable your agents to deliver a best-in-class customer experience.
- Find the best channels to deliver resolution without forcing customers to hold and/or wait any longer than absolutely necessary.
- Enable agents to go beyond answering questions; empower them to deliver resolutions.
In a technologically advanced world where our watches are beginning to do much more than just tell time, and our phones can pin-point our exact place on the planet, let us be proud of our achievements, but never lose sight of what really matters: human interaction. Customers deserve more than a robot, an AI, or a droid making a best effort at deciphering the nuances of our questions and concerns. We as customers deserve to have our customer service experience valued as much as our dollars and cents. When we have a question, a concern, a grievance, or an issue, we deserve to speak to a living representative of the brand to see to it that we are provided a resolution, not just a glitchy response or touch-tone menu. Only when we are treated as people, by people will we as customers return again and again to brands with confidence.
If you have any questions, thoughts, or opinions about the post, or anything else, feel free to comment below or follow me on Twitter @TODenis5.