AI v/s the human-touch: What do customers prefer?
AI v/s the human-touch: What do customers prefer?

By BOD Team
July 21, 2021 3 min read

Artificial intelligence and bots have reduced business costs by massive percentages. They have hyper-personalised a brand’s experience and are helping them understand their customers better. While AI and bots have made the task of solving problems more efficient and cost-effective, brands might want to step back and gain perspective on what they lose when they depend heavily on just AI. For example, a bot can answer a customer’s question efficiently and quickly. However, many times, a vulnerable customer is looking for assurance and not the current answer. This can be in the form of a heartfelt apology from a telecommunicator or a detailed vernacular explanation. 

AI is a great way to learn about people and collect data to curate a tailored experience. AI has proved its mettle across a diversity of applications like weather forecasting, medical assistance, and safer banking. However, it still lacks a crucial aspect of human behaviour - emotional intelligence. In simpler words, while the bot might know exactly what to tell you, it might not know how to, and that is what makes all the difference. Human responses are as rich as human actions and AI? Well, not so much. At least for now.

AI and emotional intelligence

In March 2016, Tay, Microsoft’s AI-powered chatbot, was corrupted by Twitter conversations within 24 hours of its launch. Designed to mimic and converse with users in real-time, it was shut down within a day due to concerns with its inability to recognise when it was making offensive or racist statements. This brought to light the repercussions of absolute human absence. 

This is not an isolated event of a bot absorbing inappropriate and racist data to project offensive results. In lighter instances, the AI has mistaken a man’s head for a ball in a football game. In more serious cases, a mistake by the facial recognition bot has led to false accusations and wrongful arrests. 

According to Forbes, 86% of consumers prefer to interact with a human agent even in the digital age. Studies also suggest that bots that impersonate human emotions and values tend to perform better in the market than those with mechanical undertones. This only suggests the importance of the need for a human filter on these interactions. The pandemic era has also increased our natural need to interact and socialise, however, this does not mean there is a complete overthrow of technology.

Do we give up on AI?

It would be a business and a fiscal blunder to not rely on AI for business - in a fast-paced world, a fast-paced response and collection apparatus is essential. The main purpose of many of these bots is to benefit the customers. What needs to be worked upon would be aligning the benefits and interests of the customers.

Brands like Mercedes-Benz have used AI to help their workers realise their full potential while improving their production. Here, AI became an extension of human potential and not a competition or replacement.

Similarly, SEB, a major Swedish bank, uses a virtual assistant called Aida, a perfect example of a bot adopting human behaviours. Aida can understand the tone of the caller, for example, frustrated, angry, or calm, and adapt the basis of its response to that. In 30% of the cases when she cannot solve a customer’s query, she passes it on to a customer care representative while monitoring the interaction to learn and handle similar problems in the future. 

In Conclusion

The future should be focused on using technology to facilitate human interactions, not to substitute them. In human communication, emotional intelligence is a key element. Right now, bots cannot completely replicate natural human conversation. And, we need to bridge this gap. The efficiency and speed of artificial intelligence are only a partial solution to a customer’s needs. Brands need emotional connection, holistic experience, quality products, and insightful interactions. 

AI has come a long way and will continue to revolutionize how we consume and use data but it is not a complete substitute for human instincts and judgments. Yet. So, the only solution looks like combining the bot’s acquired intelligence with our instincts. 

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