By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO
Running a company automating customer service processes, I’m always thinking of new ways we can help organisations to make life easier for their customers. CX Day – the annual international celebration of all things customer experience – is always a good time to reflect on how far things have come (or not!) in the industry overall. I’m always considering my own customer experiences in this regard, and three recent experiences standout:
Experience 1: the (more than usual) expensive trip to the dentist
A trip to the dental hygienist reminded me that no matter how good the technology, it’s people who write the software and design the user interface. I sat in the chair as the hygienist cursed about the new software that she was required to use. This is a case whereby bad design was impacting both the internal user and the customer’s experience. As the frustrated and cursing dental hygienist was banging away on the keyboard, the customer (me!) wasn’t being served (and paying for the privilege!).
The lesson here is that no matter how smart technology can be, there is no substitute for proper real-world consultation and testing. It reminds me of the days of locking coders in a room for long hours and sliding pizzas under the door every eight hours. Don’t put your customer experience at the mercy of coders who are cut off from or out-of-touch with the needs of your end users.
Experience 2: the computer says “NO”
A recent flight from Amsterdam to London transcended into the ridiculous. As I arrived at the departure gate there was an immediate feeling of foreboding as I could see a large group of people talking to the airline departure staff. I was quickly briefed by a fellow passenger who was incredulous as he explained that our aircraft was just about to depart with ONE passenger onboard. The airline staff at the gate were explaining that a human error had been made whereby the incorrect flight on the computer system had been cancelled and the system was now only allowing the check-in of one passenger. None of us could quite believe it. The computer wasn’t allowing the staff to re-check-in the passengers and for about half an hour it looked like the staff were really going to allow the aircraft to depart with just the one passenger on-board. This was the most ridiculous case of ‘the computer says “NO”’ I think I’ve ever encountered!
There’s much debate about computers and artificial intelligence one day taking over the world, but this experience made me realise that in some ways computers already have. There was seemingly no way for humans to override the computer’s ‘decision’, and it was only after many frantic conversations with the airline’s IT team that they were able to slowly start to re-check-in passengers for the flight. There was no human override, no option for human discretion (computers don’t do discretion!) to save a failing customer experience.
Experience 3: stupid AI
Listening to the media, one could be forgiven for believing that our smartphones have become synonymous to a lifelong partner who finishes the other’s sentence before they’ve even thought about what to say. The reality is far removed from this though. A recent experience of receiving a phone number within an email which contained a space between the country code and the phone number proved how far we haven’t come. I tried to copy and paste the number to make a call, and the smartphone couldn’t deal with the missing leading zero. Something so obvious to a person was not at all clear to the “smart” phone. I had to open the notes app and edit the phone number before I could copy and paste it into the phone app. I’m sure many of us have experienced something similar.
While this issue sounds like a minor inconvenience, it’s these small things that can often make-or-break your customer experience. It’s important to keep our expectations of the capability of computers and AI based in reality. We need to be calling out these basic shortcomings to stop us stumbling down a route that leads to a worse customer experience.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a proper, best practice way of applying the technological/ artificial intelligence revolution to greatly improve our experiences without the risks I’ve outlined here. And it’s a simple solution: combining humans with technology to work together in harmony.
Within the conversational AI field that Creative Virtual operates in, it’s about having a solution that enables organisations to turn a dial to decide between the machine learning and human elements of customer service, whilst at the same time making this seamless from the customer perspective. This has always been our vision at Creative Virtual, even when this method was unpopular with the research analysts. And as we approach our twenty-year anniversary, it’s what gives me confidence in Creative Virtual’s continued success.
Humans should control the training of machines, not algorithms alone. Humans should drive the design of digital tools, not technology specs alone. Humans should determine when a technology override is needed, not computer software alone. Humans should always be at the heart of a customer experience strategy, not technology alone.
That’s why today, on CX Day and the second day of Customer Service Week, we celebrate the humans that make great experiences possible. I’m proud to lead a team of experts that do this every day. It is our human collaboration with our customers and partners that enable our conversational AI solutions to play a key role in better CX.