• Home
  • /
  • CX
  • /
  • AI and chatbots: Useful CX tools or nuisance?

AI and chatbots: Useful CX tools or nuisance?

When implementing AI and chatbots to connect with customers, there must be a balance of machine intervention and human empathy.
Nathalie Schooling
By Nathalie Schooling, Founder and CEO of nlightencx, an Africa-based customer experience company.
Johannesburg, 12 Dec 2023
Nathalie Schooling, CEO of nlightencx.
Nathalie Schooling, CEO of nlightencx.

If you ask artificial intelligence (AI)-driven ChatGPT if artificial intelligence enhances the customer experience, it will be the first to admit its limitations in this regard.

While the sought-after technology does indeed have the potential to provide a good customer experience, there’s research that suggests support teams are worried about the possible negative impact of AI on the customer experience and services industry.

But why the worry, when there’s been a plethora of research that argues the case for AI in revolutionising the customer and client experience? In fact, a Forbes article this year stated that up to 80% of client queries can be addressed correctly with AI chatbots.

Further to this, AI-enhanced CX can return a 30% reduction in the cost of customer service provision. This sounds like good news, doesn’t it?

Well, it both is, and it isn’t. While AI is most certainly a critical enabler of customer support and CX delivery, it’s important to be able to discern the functionality from the hype – something I believe a lot of companies don’t always get right, and they end up just wasting a lot of money.

It’s important to be able to discern the functionality from the hype – something I believe a lot of companies don’t always get right.

A study nlightencx conducted in February revealed 85% of those surveyed found the best service from human interaction, 14% from self-help and FAQs, and only 1% enjoyed interacting with chatbots. These results are not surprising, given that customers are human beings who desire authentic human interaction.

To state the obvious, most reservations about AI and chatbots in CX come down to the fact that the machine cannot pick up on nuance. In the words of ChatGPT: “While AI can handle simple and routine tasks, many customer service interactions involve complex issues that require human empathy, intuition and problem-solving skills. AI also lacks the ability to understand the emotional context of a situation, which can be critical in resolving customer concerns.”

In a nutshell, sometimes a query just can’t be resolved by a machine, and you need to speak to a person. As a business, identifying this difference is where the rubber hits the road.

Leveraging AI to support front-facing CX

If the 2023Total Economic Impact Report is telling us that companies that automate with LivePerson (a global conversational AI software) can enjoy a net present value of almost $22 million over three years, it’s cause to pay attention.

So, how are those who are getting AI and CX right doing so? Firstly, they are not putting all their eggs in one basket. By this I mean they don’t focus on automating every aspect of the customer experience. Instead, they identify the key areas in which tools like chatbots and live chat can optimise process, not overtake it.

For example, if a customer needs to report a technical, but complex issue − perhaps they are having a problem with the software they are using − a chatbot could then be used to first assess the severity of the problem (call it triage). Thereafter, after following prompts, if the issue is still not resolved, human intervention will be needed.

Unfortunately, in a lot of instances, this human contact is not even an option, and/or the AI is not programmed to identify when human intervention may be necessary. This is where customer and client frustration sets in.

The entire purpose of implementing AI across customer experience channels should be guided by the question: how can we reduce customer effort, not add to it?

Insights, insights and more insights

To truly answer this question requires putting oneself in the customer's shoes. A great way to do this, while maximising the potential of AI in CX, is through intelligent data tracking. If companies can understand how AI is truly serving their customers, they can invest in these areas, rather than adopting a generic ‘do it all’ approach.

For example, gathering customer insights and tracking data in real-time could reveal that the client drops off at the point where the AI or chatbot queries specific issues in more detail. This could mean the language the chatbot is using is steeped in too much technical jargon, or the information is not laid out simply for the client, so they give up. Worse yet, they change service providers.

Don’t fall into the trap of implementing AI across all or most of the customer service channels, for the sake of the ‘omni-channel’ experience. It’s critical to consider the functionality, user experience and resources required to offer seamless service.

Otherwise, not only will the company waste an exorbitant amount of money, but it risks alienating its client base, rather than delighting them.

Today’s reality is that we don’t get the results we want by handing over to the machine; we get them from being in charge of it.

To achieve the best in customer experience, businesses need to remember it’s our humanity that will be remembered by customers. To make a real impact, companies need to harness the power of AI to free up their people, to do what no robot can do – empathise and connect with customers.