Why Customer Service Technology Can't Replace Humans

by Jeannie Walters

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Remember when self-checkout and mobile e-commerce were considered “futuristic” technology? How about when only the brand-spanking-new gas stations had pay-at-the pump? That wasn’t very long ago. And today, we stand once again at the threshold of a new era in customer service technology.

What does that mean for the overall experience? Technology is indeed making transactions faster and more accurate. But in the process, our chances to make truly human connections are beginning to disappear.

Some companies are getting ready to take the next step towards an experience created completely by machines.

Here are a couple of examples:

1. Attack of the drones!

It’s no secret that Amazon has been testing drones for the Amazon Prime Air delivery service. But a possible shift in FAA regulations combined with Amazon’s determination to get the new delivery system “off the ground” might mean we are closer to seeing these little buggers whizzing around our skies sooner than we think. Tim Parry tells us more about it on Multichannel Merchant.

2. Customer service robots take to the terminals.

Edmonton International Airport is testing mobile, interactive and multilingual customer service robots to help travelers with just about everything from finding their way around the airport to checking on flight statuses. They still need lots of “training” so they are not ready to go to work full-time yet. Read the full story or take a look at the short video below.

Better service is subjective.

It’s great that companies are innovating around the needs of their customers. But will it go too far for some people?

I work at home and spend most of my hours alone. So I actually look forward to running to my local 7-Eleven and engaging in some light conversation with their employees. It would be nice, however, if they had technology to help me avoid waiting behind the gentleman with a mile-long list of lottery numbers to play.

But I would still like to have someone there to say hello to. I still want to be thanked by a real person who remembers me because I made an impression, and not because they have stored my data and have been programmed to do so. Who’s with me?

Customer service, or task execution?

There is a huge difference here. Machines execute tasks, but only a human can truly provide service. A machine or string of code performing the same function may do it faster and more accurately than a human, but cannot show true appreciation or understand your feelings.

Customer Service Technology Can't Replace Humans

Move forward, but not out!

There is so much exciting customer service technology available these days to help automate, organize, and make our companies better. By all means, take advantage! But your customers are human and need to interact with other humans. They need to know there is a real person in there who appreciates their business. So please, as you take advantage of the new technology that emerges in the coming years, don’t let things like self-checkout check YOU out of the customer experience.

Is it worth waiting a little longer sometimes to interact with real people? Would you really feel appreciated if every “thank you” and compliment you received after a transaction was generated by an artificial intelligence?

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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