What future for human interaction in the customer relationship?

The pandemics that we have just experienced have resolutely accelerated the digital transformation of companies. They revealed new uses both among consumers, who are more inclined to interact and order remotely, and within customer services who had to quickly – often thanks to SaaS – adapt their customer journeys. While voice remains the preferred channel for interaction with the contact center, consumers instinctively understood that technology was going to change the way they consume, even if they do not yet realize that AI is already impacting their daily lives.

The voice always acclaimed

In 2018, a multi-country PWC study told us that 75% of respondents (USA 82%) preferred to interact with a human rather than with a chatbot or other automated process. In 2020, a Ring Central study highlighted that when it comes to customer service, 79% of participants (Americans) preferred talking to a person rather than an automated system. The rate varies according to the age of the respondents (75% for 18-39 year olds, 82% for 40-55 year olds and over 56 year olds).
The distribution between the channels (chat, e-mail, text message, voice…) is however balanced in the case of communications before and after a purchase; with a preference for voice and email channels, for older populations. The only exception, the text media remains quite strong (49%) when it comes to confirming an appointment, medical for example. No doubt the search for tangible written proof. These are probably the same consumers who download their plane tickets, but print them out just in case… Chatting live with a human allows and promotes empathy, where the text will secure. However, more and more often, urgency prevails and self-service solutions, driven by artificial intelligence, provide an answer to this need for immediacy.

The irresistible rise of bots

The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze* remarked more than twenty years ago that “there are only inexact words to designate something exactly“. We thus measure the progress made by the work around artificial intelligence and automatic language processing (TALN), to offer fluid conversations between virtual agents and consumer users of the contact center. A callbot will thus offer a unique experience, even allowing a conversational memory (memory of customer interaction), letting the consumer express himself in a fluid way, to draw from the conversation (and from information systems) the necessary information. to a contextualized response.

In line with this technological progress, the new generations, who have grown up with technology, are more and more fond of solutions available around the clock. The Boston Consulting Group study confirms this trend. It shows us that some of the consumers of Generation Y and Generation Z, in search of autonomy and followers of the “do-it-yourself”, prefer the digital channel to the human, even if it takes them a little more time to complete a task, or resolve a question. When it comes to interacting with service providers, 70% of young shoppers said they try to use bots and self-service tools and avoid dealing with sales agents.

The BCG study also tells us that, for respondents aged 45 and under, self-service digital interactions are not only satisfying, but the preferred means of engagement in all but the most complex or challenging situations. more important ones which will require a human.

Augmented Agent: The Best of Both Worlds

The question is ultimately not to make the choice between human or machine, but to intelligently reconcile human and machine. The BCG study reveals that shoppers (regardless of their demographic) have made it clear that they value direct human interaction over digital interaction when a purchase or issue is urgent or complex. It is in this very specific context that artificial intelligence will accompany – or even augment – the agent in his conversation. The information, collected and qualified by the callbot, will provide the necessary context to the agent in the resolution of the customer problem. This assistance to the agent takes different forms: proposal of argument or preformatted response, developed from the intentions detected in previous conversations, access to a transcription (analyzed by AI) of the conversation, or even detection and analysis feelings. Technology remains at the service of the customer and the agent, far from replacing the latter, it accompanies him.

*Deleuze, G., Parnet, C., Dialogues, Flammarion, Paris, 1996, p. 9.

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