Is AI the Future of Customer Service?

29th April 2020

Artificial Intelligence is the future. This is what everyone keeps saying. AI is becoming more prevalent in industries like banking and transportation, especially in the customer service arena. Companies believe that they can improve efficiency by automating their telephone lines.

This makes sense. Every business is always looking for ways to add efficiency to its processes. And a machine that operates as expected is always going to perform better than a human. But some companies are making the leap to AI systems without taking the opinions of their customers into account.

Admittedly, this train cannot be stopped. AI is advancing rapidly because the scientific minds behind the technology want to incorporate it into the daily lives of consumers. However, there is some resistance, particularly where phone services are concerned.

A study that polled 600 people to figure out what they think about AI made some startling discoveries regarding the perceptions of customers where automated phone systems are concerned.

First of all, it is worth noting businesses are pushing AI because they want to resolve customer complaints regarding the time they spend waiting to speak to an agent. This is the one source of concern that most people raise, and it makes sense.

Everyone hates being put on hold. But even though automated phone services were designed to resolve this issue, the individuals that were polled were not quite as receptive to the technology as businesses would like. This is what they had to say:

1. First of all, AI doesn’t eliminate queues. It merely automates them. When asked to identify their biggest source of frustration with regards to the use of automated systems, 37.5 percent said that they hated waiting in a queue before the system passed them on to a call agent.

A smaller number complained about the fact that they had to keep repeating themselves to make the automated system understand their situation. Clearly, AI doesn’t solve anything.

2. When asked about the frequency with which they were expected to repeat themselves, the majority said that they had to do so 1 to 2 times. A smaller but significant number also complained that they were sometimes expected to repeat themselves a whopping four times. The fact that customers have to repeat themselves whenever they are transferred to a call agent means that AI actually makes the situation worse.

3. It took 44 percent of respondents up to 6 minutes to complete the automated question and answer process. But 26 percent said that they spent more than 18 minutes here. In other words, automated systems increase delays rather than reducing them.

4. 74 percent of respondents added than automated services had never resolved their issues. They had to talk to a human advisor to make progress. This supports the belief that AI merely adds to the delays.

Some people will argue that automated systems bring order to phone interactions and that the delays they add are just a slight inconvenience. But at the end of the day, the efficacy of automated services doesn’t really matter.

What matters are the opinions of the customers that will use them. And 93 percent of all the people this poll encountered said that they would rather speak to a human than an AI. A business cannot succeed without giving its customers what they want. And the customers have spoken.

Even if you have chosen to integrate an automated phone service into your structure, you must maintain a human element. Otherwise, you will lose the trust and respect of your callers.


Corey is an all round tech guru who has worked at some major blue chip companies. He started Poweronemedia to share his views and knowledge with the rest of the blogging world.