AI Limits in Customer Service: The Need for Human Agents

The recent boom in generative artificial intelligence (AI) has been impossible to ignore. In fact, a survey conducted by Writer’s found that 59 per cent of businesses have either purchased or are planning to purchase a minimum of one generative AI tool this year, while almost one in five companies use five or more generative AI tools.

From financial services and telecommunications to healthcare and manufacturing, the deployment of the technology has become increasingly prevalent throughout a variety of industries, reshaping how businesses interact with their customers and beyond. This includes the customer service industry, which is currently assessing the benefits and subsequent the impacts of AI within the industry prior to making strategic investments in advanced digital solutions.

The benefits generative AI brings

In fact, generative AI has taken the customer service sector by storm in recent months, with ChatGPT being the most well-known solution. The tool, which is already the most used generative AI application with 47 per cent of companies utilising it, brings numerous benefits to customer service organisations, highlighted by its ability to create human-like responses to questions.

For those businesses with particularly formidable customer experiences, generative AI provides them with an opportunity to distinguish themselves from their competitors by decreasing wait times and ensuring consistency, as well as by providing data analysis in addition to the opportunity to create a uber-personalised experience for customers. Ultimately the capability, benefits, and qualitative aspect as well as security implications for such tech are yet to be fully realised. 

As companies continue integrating generative AI technologies within their business, they’ll start to reap the benefits that it should help initiate, both from an internal and external perspective. Amongst these benefits is the technology’s ability to improve customer experience (CX). Generative AI is capable of providing personalised interactions and recommendations, as well as content tailored specifically for each individual in order to improve customer satisfaction.

What’s more, the technology also enhances creativity. By inspiring and boosting human creativity, it assists individuals when it comes to generating new ideas, designs, and campaigns. Adding to this, generative AI can manually sift through vast volumes of data and subsequently analyse it, processing and translating these raw data sources into more digestible insights. From this, contact centre agents can contextualise these insights to make informed decisions, saving customer services firms lots of time, boosting efficiency and productivity.

Human expertise will always be required

Nevertheless, while generative AI undoubtedly has an extensive list of capabilities, it cannot eclipse the role that contact centre agents play in the customer service industry on a day-to-day basis. 

The technology simply doesn’t have some necessary attributes which contact centre agents bring to the table, such as empathy and understanding. When customers are facing an issue, they will want to communicate with someone who recognises and is conscious of their situation. Contact centre agents are specifically trained to be sympathetic and well-mannered when dealing with customers. Irrespective of how unpleasant the circumstances may be, a customer service representative will endeavour to respond to queries in good faith and continue to assist until the issue is rectified – which cannot be guaranteed for generative AI in the same scenario.

Elsewhere, tools like ChatGPT lack the personal touch of contact centre agents. As social creatures, people look forwarding to speaking to another person to discover answers and solutions to a problem. Customer service representatives have the experience of speaking with customers that have different personalities and come from different, distinct backgrounds. This enables contact centre agents to provide customised solutions for every request and complaint they have to deal with, interacting with customers in a manner that suits them. In contrast to this, due to the size and scale of generative AI applications, they cannot be tailored to suit the requirements of every single customer.

Additionally, customer service representatives are able to provide strategic customer engagement. While there is no doubt that AI-based chatbots are quicker than contact centre agents at providing a response, these applications do not have the understanding to comprehend the relative severity of what they’re dealing with. Although individuals may take small steps to accomplish something substantial, they do not adopt the same approach towards all customers when it comes to resolving problems – unlike trained generative AI tools. Customer service representatives have the ability to create a holistic CX journey that ensures effective solutions with advantageous results and peace of mind for customers.

Ultimately, businesses will make strategic decisions to either fully automate CX or to utilise human in the loop solutions which will ensure that customers do still have the ability to engage with an agent, albeit in a much more informed, next best action, interaction which drives better outcomes. 

Why generative AI alone is not the solution

As is often the case with new technologies, it is important to find the right balance between the tech and human interaction – this is no different for generative AI. The technology should be used to enhance human skillsets rather than replace them entirely. In terms of the customer service industry, by embracing generative AI applications like ChatGPT, contact centre agents will be able to improve their own performances and succeed in several business areas.

Relying on generative AI tools alone to take sole responsibility for customer support will provide an experience for individuals that lacks empathy, understanding and human interaction. While generative AI unquestionably has numerous benefits that can help to reconfigure what the CX industry looks like, a human and digital experience will always be the favoured option – with the combination of the two ensuring efficiency and productivity, as well as helping to build rapport and increase loyalty amongst customers.

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David Morton, chief revenue and customer officer at HGS UK

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