Will customer service be replaced by robots?

Ishita Bagchi

Ishita Bagchi

Published on

8 minute read

We are all familiar with the feeling of contentment when we receive that hand-written note with an order or see the emoji drawn by our barista. But can you imagine a bot doing the same for you? đŸ€”

A Business Insider study projects that the chatbot market will grow at a rate of 29.7% per year and reach $125 million by 2025.

However, another study suggests that more than 70% of Facebook users believe their interactions with chatbots were unsuccessful, demonstrating the continued demand for human interaction.

Despite the widespread use of chatbots, research indicates that their ability to understand user needs fully falls short of consumer expectations – yet. Additionally, consumer acceptance of chatbots has lagged behind industry expectations.

So, can and will customer service be really replaced by robots? Before we dive into the details, let us first understand what is AI-driven customer service delivery.

Defining AI-driven customer service

AI in customer service is the branch of technology that develops systems to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.

Most commonly, AI is useful in the large amounts of data generated through customer interactions. Customers asking questions and support teams answering those questions generate large amounts of data in customer service.

Machine Learning (ML) then enables a system to take in that data, comprehend it in some form, and train itself to respond to customer questions.

This also leads to the usage of additional technology, such as Natural Language Processing (NLP). This means that computers can recognize languages that humans use to communicate in customer service emails, phone calls, or chats. NLP then helps in making decisions using this understanding of languages. Annotated text data training also helps with making the machine learning more sophisticated.

But where exactly are these software used the most in customer service? The most common usage of AI in customer service is the chatbot.

Using software like machine learning, speech recognition, and language processing, companies install chatbots on their websites for 24x7 instant customer service without human intervention.

Using chatbots and similar AI driven softwares have their own pros and cons that we need to understand if we want to delve deeper into AI-driven customer service. So let us now take a look at the benefits and disadvantages that AI holds for customer service.

Pros of using AI for customer service

Let us look at some advantages AI brings to customer service.

AI makes it easier to handle large volumes of data

The collection of customer data increases with the volume of customer engagement. But without AI, gathering such vast volumes of data could be meaningless. The quantity of info that humans can process is limited. Because of this, AI is a useful tool.

AI data processing makes it possible to get insightful conclusions and predictions regarding consumer behavior. This, in turn, also helps in measuring crucial customer service KPIs. These KPIs help understand what are the gaps in the service delivery thereby helping you to improve customer service and support.

This enables the development of targeted marketing campaigns and the resolution of the trickiest problems pertaining to their questions and complaints. Excel sheets simply won't cut it for the data you are collecting, thus it's crucial to have a strong and reliable CRM for better customer service delivery.

AI reduces call handling times

Most organisations face challenges with handling large volumes of customer queries. It is important to handle all customer inquiries efficiently and effectively. Using a solution like chatbots can help you achieve this.

This is because people don't have to wait for an agent to solve their problems. They can simply request assistance from the chatbot. Chatbots can answer basic inquiries and requests immediately.

Another way that AI helps you is by using passive voice biometrics. Passive voice biometrics is a software using which calls are checked against a database of "voiceprints" from customers, agents, and fraudsters. This is done to determine whether or not the caller's voice matches the relevant record in the database.

This can significantly reduce the amount of time your agents spend on each interaction, as the caller can be identified within three seconds simply by analysing how they speak.

If your agents are required to verify each caller's identity on a regular basis, using voice biometrics instead of traditional verification methods will reduce the time spent on each call.

All this can be done while ensuring that all customer information is kept completely confidential.

AI enables your team to focus on complex issues

AI can handle basic tasks on its own, freeing up your employees' time for more important tasks. As a result, agents can focus on more complex support issues while still ensuring that all customers are taken care of.

After all, when you don't have to worry about dozens of small but time-consuming tasks and have instant access to all the data you might need, you can focus entirely on the people who are reaching out to you for assistance.

Of course, this does not mean AI can completely be left on its own. The chatbot software that you use or technology that you use may require some intervention from time to time to ensure that everything is fine.

Precision, for example, was acquired by Uber in 2016 and uses deep learning to assist warehouse workers in finding items in massive fulfilment facilities.

AI is cost-efficient

Artificial intelligence may appear to be expensive to have in your company. However, the initial costs can be quickly recovered.

AI-powered customer service benefits include automating some simpler tasks, freeing up your employees' time, and allowing them to handle more customers. As a result, you can get far more for your employees' time and money.

Almost every major tech company employs some form of artificial intelligence to provide customer service. Companies are already saving up to 80% on customer service costs by implementing a chatbot or an automated system.

For the customers too, AI is extremely beneficial. There are no human operators, no endless waiting, and, minimisation of errors.  Customers get real-time responses to their questions from a bot without waiting to interact with any real human being.

AI helps in improving personalisation

91% of consumers will shop with companies that offer personalised deals and recommendations. Moreover, 80% of frequent shoppers say they only shop with brands that personalise their shopping experience.

Personalisation helps us find products on Amazon or recommends series to watch on Netflix based on our previous behaviour. However, without the assistance of Artificial Intelligence, many brands would be unable to match each user with the products or services they might be interested in.

AI enables businesses to create unique profiles of individual users and then modify them based on their behaviour.

AI can recommend hyper-personalised products, services, and content for each user. It is tailored to their specific needs by using data such as location, browsing history, and purchasing decisions.

As a result, brands can provide tailored content and support to each user, resulting in an excellent customer experience.

Cons of using AI for customer service

So far we have seen the benefits that AI provides. But to have a better understanding, we also need to look at the disadvantages that the usage of AI has in customer service.

Risk of losing the human touch and creativity

A chatbot can mimic human speech quite well.

However, while an AI-powered chatbot can certainly replace (and even outperform) a human worker in terms of efficiency and problem-solving, it may not be able to replicate the human touch.

Customers want personalization but don't want to feel like they're talking to a robot. This is especially true for older customers who may be unfamiliar with technology and have always preferred to interact with humans, whether online or offline.

Many companies have begun to be more innovative in their use of technology to improve the customer experience. They're also getting more experimental with the customer experience.

While utilising AI is certainly innovative, AI cannot currently be as creative as a human being.

Despite all the potential that AI has it is still limited in what it can provide. And it cannot guarantee the same level of creativity.

Inability to improvise and emote

Although chatbots use a large database to provide appropriate answers, this is not always sufficient. They lack context awareness, which can be frustrating for customers and reduce their desire to communicate further.

If the customer and the chatbot have a misunderstanding, the conversation can be repeated cyclically, which will result in neither conversion nor increased sales.

There are only limited answers that chatbots can provide This can be an issue as customer service is meant to be reliable and have solutions to all customer problems. It is for these reasons that 86% of customers sometimes prefer human agents over chatbots, according to Forbes.

Is AI really taking away your customer service job?

Many in the customer service industry are concerned if AI will replace them. To answer this question directly, we would say no, at least not in the near future.

Even though AI driven customer service has become more advanced, we are yet to reach a stage where it can fulfil the emotional gap just like human agents can do.

The conversation about AI currently focuses mostly on how AI can replace human agents, which shouldn’t be the focus. AI cannot substitute the personalised customer experience that human customer service agents can provide.

Robots cannot and will not replace human customer service representatives, as the pandemic indicated. Customers continue to crave human interaction, as shown by the fact that call volume has increased significantly since the pandemic began. The call handle times have gone up as they look for a comforting voice in trying circumstances.

No robot can yet have a meaningful conversation about important health insurance or money matters with a distressed customer. Only a human is able to show the level of empathy required to handle these delicate matters.

There is no doubt that technology will play an important role in our future, but so will customer service employees. When clients require creativity and empathy, AI falls short, and human agents are required to sustain customer happiness.

When human and virtual agents work together to complement one another, the optimal customer experience is always attained. This new technology exists to help customer support staff, lessen their workload, and generate new opportunities.

Now imagine this. when a flight is cancelled, the airline uses AI to equip human agents to assist all passengers whose plans had been disrupted. The automatic telephoning or messaging service could contact affected customers to inform them of the cancellation, and it could even start suggesting replacement flight options to their destination.

However, these notifications do not satisfactorily respond to the customers' emotional urgency. When you want to understand the customer's frustrations and emotions regarding a situation, it is helpful to talk to a real person.

Customers who contact the airline directly in response to a high-stress situation should be treated with care.

When AI detects an incoming call, chat, or email from a customer that is likely to be about the cancellation, it can immediately escalate the interaction to a human agent.

The agent can respond immediately by suggesting new travel options. This saves the customer a lot of time and effort.

So, what should you do?

The goal of AI should not be to replace human interaction but to improve it.

Instead of removing humans from the support process, AI can be used to route calls to the appropriate person as soon as possible. In any competitive business environment, listening to customers and addressing their concerns is the only way for businesses to retain clients and establish loyalty.

While AI is capable of rapidly accumulating knowledge, it struggles to replace or duplicate genuine human interactions. The use of artificial intelligence to assist IT support services personnel allows them to be more strategic and operate more efficiently.

Chatbots and other AI-enabled technology can answer frequently asked questions, route calls, assist clients, and collect mountains of data in the background, allowing agents to focus on complex issues.

The customer journey from lead to customer acquisition and overall customer experience, will be improved only when AI and human customer service agents are employed simultaneously.

Recommended next read: The complete guide to providing live chat customer support