Thought Leadership Series

How to Find the Balance Between Humans and AI in Customer Service

AI in customer service to boost contact center productivity

As technology evolves, there's talk of the unavoidable battle between the automation of jobs and human interaction. While some people believe technology will replace the average human worker, the eventual outcome is probably not as simple as, in many instances, human interactions remain superior. One of these is in the field of customer service. While technology can undoubtedly improve efficiency, it is crucial to strike the right balance between automated solutions and human interaction to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Here, we explore how to achieve this balance and why it is essential for businesses.

The Rise of AI in Customer Service

Technological advancements have revolutionized customer service in recent years. Chatbots, generative AI, and machine learning algorithms are enabling businesses to improve agent efficiency, personalize interactions and streamline the day-to-day tasks of the contact center. Automated systems can efficiently manage routine tasks such as answering frequently asked questions, processing orders, and tracking shipments, allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.

A significant benefit of generative AI in contact centers is its ability to save agents time and reduce costs for the business as a whole. These AI systems can handle a large volume of routine inquiries and tasks, such as responding to frequently asked questions and helping customer service agents in drafting emails. By automating repetitive tasks, generative AI frees up human agents to focus on more complex and value-driven interactions, ultimately improving efficiency and reducing operational costs. This technology not only streamlines processes but also enhances the overall customer experience by ensuring quick and accurate responses.

The Human Touch: Why It Matters

Humans possess emotional intelligence and the ability to understand the nuanced situations that often arise in customer service. According to the NTT 2023 Global Customer Experience Report, the preference for human-led, telephone interactions declined over the period from 2021 to 2023 from 12% to 7% for those under 25 years old. For those over 40 however, the desire for human interaction remained strong, averaging a 30% preference compared to other contact channels.

Human agents can build rapport with customers, fostering trust and loyalty. A positive interaction with a knowledgeable and empathetic representative can turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one, enhancing the overall perception of the brand. Furthermore, human agents are adept at handling unpredictable situations that may not fit into pre-programmed responses, ensuring a more flexible and adaptable service.

When adopting new technologies, businesses should consider if they are frictionless for customers and employees. While it is important to stay ahead of the curve, avoiding the use of automation for its own sake will help companies create the most meaningful customer experiences.

Finding the Right Balance

To strike the right balance between technology and human interaction in customer service, businesses should consider the following strategies:

1. Leverage Technology for Efficiency

Utilize technology to handle routine and repetitive tasks, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex issues. Chatbots can manage basic inquiries, while automated systems can handle order processing and tracking. This not only improves efficiency but also ensures that customers receive quick responses to common questions.

2. Humanize Automated Interactions

While using automated systems, it is essential to humanize these interactions as much as possible. With Gartner projecting that one in 10 agent interactions will be automated by 2026, an increase from an estimated 1.6% of interactions today, it's critical to design chatbots and automated responses to make the experience feel more personal. Implementing features like sentiment analysis can help identify when a customer is frustrated, prompting a handover to a human agent when necessary.

3. Prioritize Human Interaction for Complex Issues

Reserve human agents for handling complex, sensitive, or high-stakes issues. When a customer faces a problem that requires empathy and understanding, ensure that they can easily reach a human representative. This approach not only addresses the issue more effectively but also shows customers that the business values their concerns and is committed to providing personalized support.

4. Train and Empower Agents

Invest in training programs to equip agents with the skills needed to handle a wide range of customer issues. Empower them with the authority to make decisions and resolve problems on the spot, enhancing their ability to provide exceptional service. Additionally, generative AI co-pilot tools, referring to AI capabilities embedded in workflow tools to assist in performing tasks, can greatly help contact center agents. By providing agents with the tools to access customer data and history, generative AI acts as a supportive assistant so agents resolve issues more efficiently and confidently. This synergy between human agents and AI enhances the overall quality of customer service, leading to better outcomes for both customers and businesses.

5. Continuously Monitor and Improve

Regularly evaluate the performance of both automated systems and human agents. Gather feedback from customers to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments. Utilize analytics to monitor the effectiveness of technology and the quality of human interactions, ensuring that both elements work harmoniously to deliver optimal customer service.

The Future of Customer Service

As technology continues to advance, the future of customer service will involve an even greater integration of AI and machine learning. However, whether the human element will remain crucial in delivering a truly exceptional customer experience in the next 5 to 10 years, remains to be seen. Businesses that successfully empower the humans working in their business to work with Generational AI to become more effective will be better positioned to meet the evolving needs of their customers and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

By using technology to improve efficiency and emphasizing personalized human interaction for complex issues, businesses can develop a customer service strategy that integrates the advantages of both approaches. Achieving the right equilibrium between technology and human involvement in customer service involves more than just adopting the latest tools; it requires creating a harmonious combination that maximizes the strengths of each. This balanced approach enables businesses to provide outstanding customer experiences and cultivate long-term relationships with their customers.

To this end, within Engage, our pre-built, intelligent contact center platform, AI is thoughtfully integrated, boosting agent productivity and assisting in delivering a best-in-class customer experience. Our Smart Tools powered by Generative AI simplify the daily tasks of contact center agents. These tools efficiently tackle repetitive and time-consuming tasks, significantly reducing Average Handle Times (AHT) and enhancing Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores. Learn more about what Smart Tools can do for your business.

May 31, 2024

Share icon
Copy link

Book a free demo

Join 2,500+ businesses who love Local Measure.