&Open Nov 18, 2019
Technology enables progress — the operative word here being ‘enables’. Technology is no panacea; it provides us with the powerful tools that we need to create the solution ourselves.
Delivering a coherent customer experience across all touchpoints requires finding patterns across an overwhelming number of ever-evolving interactions. It is in this context that AI will truly add value and excel. The possibilities are very exciting, yet at present it is hard to imagine getting to a point where people are removed altogether.
As we recently learned with the advent of the EU’s new GDPR rules, once you’re tracking someone’s cookies, you’ve to let them know. Which means every time these "cookie" pop-ups appear at the bottom of a page, and you click "OK" you’re invariably consenting to your electronic behaviour being collected and digested by a machine.
This purportedly helps banner ads become more knowledgeable to your spending habits and targeted to your personality. If, say, you’re a female in her twenties, chances are you aren’t in the market for men’s hair replenishing products, so in this regard, allowing the cookies to understand you're instead a fan of biodegradable hair glitter is undoubtedly more beneficial, albeit, minorly creepy.
But what if the female in her twenties clicks the banner ad for receding hair products by accident?
Without delving too far into the implication of this hybrid young-female-come-hair-thinning-male, ultimately the data collection for this particular woman is going to be skewed. When she eventually ends up as a statistic on a marketers desk, they’re going to have to decide what to do with her, not the AI, whose intelligence only goes so far.
Chatbots of course have limitations. Sure, they’re able to tell you how to restart your washing machine after a mid-wash catastrophe (we hope) but they reach a point in the customer conversation that requires escalation to a human.
In more nuanced tête-à-têtes, the chatbot has its pitfalls: it can’t appease the emotional human with pre-programmed platitudes, especially in sensitive cases nor can it satisfy a problem that needs innate attention.
In the digital age, we think of our world as computational... Projecting human qualities onto machines--like seeing a car grille as a face or talking to a smartphone AI like a person--is called anthromorphism... Seeing a human being as a machine or computer is called mechanomorphism. It’s not just treating machines as living humans; it’s treating humans as machines.
Douglas Rushkoff, Team Human
Customer service solutions will always need to be grounded in real humans with natural emotional intelligence. People appreciate a personal touch, a social exchange, a sense of community, belonging and care. Things are changing but, so far, machines have not been able to deliver on any of these aspects. Until it evolves to articulate the subtleties of emotional intelligence and can interact seamlessly with customers on a wide range of issues, one should make sure to apply AI with care. Technology will simplify and massively enhance processes, but when issues escalate, it is people who are best placed to help people.