It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, I would tweak it to ‘necessity is the father of adoption’, and we witnessed it during COVID-19 when digital transformation became the norm. From grocery shopping to banking, from ordering a pizza to checking the weather, we ultimately accepted that we live in an increasingly automated world where technology reigns supreme. One industry that had been undergoing transformation even before the pandemic was that of customer service, with a gradual introduction of new technology to do many of the tasks traditionally done by humans.

With the 4th industrial evolution, more and more businesses are turning to AI to improve their customer journey, signalling a shift in customer experience.

Haven’t you been tired of pressing ‘one for service, two for booking, and three for complaints’? You aren’t alone! Customer service representatives are just as tired of repeating the same answers again and again. For those mundane issues, if a virtual assistant can interpret your request using an automated script response, it’s more efficient than chatting with a human. Agents aren’t spending time responding to frequently asked queries. Instead, they are able to deal with more complex requests and critical interactions that require a human touch.

Understanding what your customers want and need is the holy grail of successful customer service. By collecting data from previous interactions, new technologies are able to predict next steps, both from the customer and the service provider’s perspective. This personalisation not only speeds up the customer journey but also revs up the customer experience.

No wonder service automation comes with great advantages, it can literally streamline processes and provide a better insight into customers’ expectations. However, striking this balance between human interaction and automation can feel like a minefield. Too little human interaction and your customers are becoming frustrated, too much and you’re simply wasting everyone’s time.

In principal, great businesses are built on relationships, and without human interaction, these relationships cannot exist.

Automation can inevitably be gold dust for the time-poor business as it can catapult efficiency, but nothing can beat human interaction. A chatbot can send people in the right direction if the question is simple, but it might not be able to comprehend all issues. Empathy is a vital part of memorable customer service, along with being able to form an emotional connection, and this doesn’t exist when communicating with a chatbot. If we’re complaining about a product or service, as humans we often need a person on the other side of the table to validate our feelings, and this bond helps the customers to stick.

Businesses need to be selective about the areas where automation works best, namely those tasks that are repetitive or simple. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeat your query over and over again, as not only will this put customers off, but important information might get lost in limbo, so businesses require consistency across all their channels to deliver an experience that matters.

Perfecting the customer service system isn’t a cake walk, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For companies, it’s all about achieving equilibrium by a measured human-AI collaboration. While customer service continues to evolve, businesses need to bear in mind that AI was designed to simplify the job for humans, not eliminate them.