Digital Labor: Are Your Customers Talking To Chatbots Or Humans?
by Betsy Burton and Jim Lundy
Jim Lundy and I were talking about a chat session he had with AT&T recently. It is interesting because after some questions were asked and information shared, the customer was informed he would be transferred to a “live” agent, named Lester.
The question we left asking was, is Lester a real human or not? How can we tell? And when do we care?
In this blog, we explore the cost and benefits of using AI-enabled chatbots or humans for customer support, and most importantly, how it can affect your customer experiences.
Chatbots Should Benefit Your Customers More Than You
There are many reasons a company might leverage digital labor, including reduced costs, and increased scalability and availability. In addition, chatbots have instant access to all your product, pricing, configuration, and inventory data, which can make them highly effective for supporting large inventory sales.
However, organizations should not deploy chatbots solely because they benefit the organization’s bottom line. The customer value and benefit must be the primary goal, with the secondary value focusing on cost reductions.
This illustrates the fundamental difference between architecting solutions from the outside-in (from the perspective and context of your customers, partners, and constituencies first and foremost) and architecting inside-out (from the perspective and context of your business). Learn more about the “inside-out” versus “outside-in” approach by reading Time For New Business Perspectives: Looking Outside-In.
In competitive markets, organizations that don’t think of the customer first and foremost risk losing sales and damaging customer relationships. Even in noncompetitive markets (e.g. government organizations and large public utilities), inside-out thinking can lead to customers circumventing business processes and public backlash.
Give Me a Real Person
There are many cases where customers may want to speak with a real person, even if it means waiting for a callback; for example, a complicated or private customer support issue or monetary issues. In addition, some people just want to speak to a person due to comfort and trust issues (see Are You Ready to Manage Digital Labor?).
Many organizations, such as Comcast Xfinity, support the additional capability for customers to get a call back from a real person at a specific time. The benefit of this model is that it sets customer expectations and addresses their desire to speak with a person.
Lester, Are You Human?
The problem with the chatbot conversation mentioned at the beginning of this blog is that the customer really has no idea if the agent is human. And, as AI technologies become more advanced and able to predict behavior better, it will become easier for AI technology to “seem” human.
Over time, customers will become more and more comfortable with communicating with AI chatbots, even for complex issues. Especially if the chatbots become easier, more responsive, and more effective than a human agent.
However, until that day comes, organizations must provide customers with a way to reach a human. And, it must be clear that they are communicating with a human—not just a chatbot with a picture of a human next to their messages.
Technologies will continue to evolve that enable organizations to support digital labor, including AI-enabled chatbots, voice simulations, and avatars.
In many cases, these technologies will evolve faster than humans are ready to accept them, particularly in industries with a highly diverse customer base, such as healthcare/pharmaceuticals, retail, and government.
Organizations must design their AI-enabled technologies with the customer perspective (context, beliefs, relationships, and bias) first and foremost—not their own cost savings. In addition, they must also continually update their strategy and offerings to reflect changing human behaviors, perspectives, and acceptance.