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The Hidden Risks of Letting AI Take the Wheel in Customer Service

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hidden risks of ai customer service BLOG

Many businesses are turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to manage their customer service experience. They’re drawn by promises of efficiency—24/7 availability, instant responses, and the ability to handle a high volume of queries.

However, this shift towards full automation might be costing more than it’s saving.

The appeal of AI in customer service is strong, but the risks of relying solely on technology can alienate your most valuable asset: your customers.

For starters, AI systems often lack the empathy and nuanced understanding required for complex customer needs, areas where human interaction excels.

Let’s look at some examples.

Bad Bot Behavior!

In my opinion, bots are great. IF they are used with oversight.

The below examples demonstrate the ongoing challenges and learning curves associated with integrating AI into customer service environments.

While chatbots can handle straightforward tasks efficiently, they often fall short in more complex or sensitive interactions, emphasizing the need for human oversight.

Microsoft

First, let’s talk about the chatbot “Tay” by Microsoft. It was intended to learn from interactions with Twitter (X) users.

However, it quickly started generating offensive content due to manipulation by users. Ultimately, this led to its shutdown within 24 hours of launch.

Screen Shot 2016 03 24 at 10.46.22 AM.0

[Source: One of Tay’s now deleted tweets.]

This highlights the vulnerability of AI systems to exploitation and the importance of robust safeguards against inappropriate outputs.

Meta

Another example involves a customer service chatbot used by Facebook. This AI, named “M”, was supposed to handle customer queries through Messenger.

Despite high expectations, it struggled significantly with complex queries and failed to resolve 70% of the issues it encountered, leading to its discontinuation.

This underlines the limitations of AI in understanding and processing human language in more nuanced interactions​.

Air Canada

Next, let’s talk about Air Canada. In 2023, Air Canada faced significant public scrutiny and customer dissatisfaction due to issues with their automated customer service system.

Their chatbot was intended to streamline customer service by handling routine inquiries and bookings, but it ended up creating frustration among customers.

There were reports of the bot providing irrelevant responses, struggling with more complex customer service issues, and failing to route customers to human agents when necessary.

The worst part? They ended up in court! And lost.

Using Caution

Finally, the potential pitfalls of relying too heavily on AI for customer service is vast. Without adequate oversight or the ability to smoothly transition to human assistance, you can ruin your reputation.

Let these BAD BOT BEHAVIOR stories serve as a cautionary tale about the importance of ensuring that AI systems are well-integrated and properly supervised to genuinely enhance customer service (rather than hinder it).

Embracing the Hybrid Approach: Practical Steps to Integrate AI Without Losing the Human Touch

So, how can you use chatbots for customer service successfully?

Understanding the limitations of AI in customer service is a start. To truly elevate your customer care, it’s essential to blend AI efficiencies with human insights.

Here are some actionable strategies that you can implement to achieve this balance:

1) Set Clear Boundaries for AI Use

Define which customer service tasks are suitable for AI and which require human intervention.

For starters, routine inquiries can take a ton of time of your plate. Things such as …

  • Offering locations or office hours
  • Availability of inventory
  • Tracking orders

Often times, your frequently asked questions, or FAQs, make a great case for being answered by chatbots.

For example, see how Hootsuite’s Heyday FAQ bot works below:

hootsuite FAQ chatbot customer service

[Source: Hootsuite]

More complex issues, like resolving disputes or handling sensitive customer feedback, should be directed to human agents.

2) Enhance AI with Human Oversight

Incorporate a system where AI-handled interactions are periodically reviewed by human customer service agents.

This ensures that the AI is performing as expected. It also allows for immediate human intervention if the situation escalates beyond the AI’s capabilities.

3) Train Your AI Using Real Customer Service Interactions

Use real customer interactions as training material for your AI systems! This one seems so obvious but it’s often missed.

Need ideas for how to do this? Check out our 15 AI-Powered Prompts to Supercharge Your Social Media Customer Service Game ebook.

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This approach helps the AI learn from the nuances of human communication, improving its ability to handle diverse customer needs more effectively.

4) Focus on Seamless Handoffs

Ensure that the transition from AI to human agents is smooth and invisible to the customer.

For example, ChatBot has great example on their blog of how it’s done right:

customer service chatbot human choice example

[Source]

Most of all, invest in technology that allows your agents to view the entire interaction history. This way, they can step in seamlessly and be fully informed.

5) Gather Customer Feedback on AI Interactions

Finally, regularly collect and analyze customer feedback specifically related to interactions handled by AI. This data is invaluable for understanding customer satisfaction and can guide further refinements to your AI strategies.

By taking these steps, you can ensure your use of AI in customer service not only boosts efficiency but also enhances customer satisfaction by maintaining the crucial human element.

And, for more detailed insights and case studies on how top companies are successfully navigating the challenges of digital customer service, [Download our Free State of Social Care Report Here].

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Selecting the Ideal AI Platform

When selecting the ideal AI platform for customer service, it’s crucial to choose a solution that not only aligns with your business objectives but also enhances your customer interactions.

Additionally, using a tool like G2 can help you get started.

G2-ai-chatbot-software-glance

[Source: G2]

Here’s how to approach this decision:

  1. Define Your Needs: Clearly outline what you need the AI to do. Are you looking to automate simple queries, or do you need advanced capabilities like sentiment analysis?
  2. Consider Integration Capabilities: Your AI should seamlessly integrate with your existing customer service software and CRM. This is vital for maintaining a holistic view of customer interactions across all channels.
  3. Evaluate AI’s Learning Capabilities: Opt for advanced machine learning algorithms that can learn from past interactions. The more the AI learns, the better it becomes at handling complex queries. Not to mention, improving over time!
  4. Check for Scalability: Your AI solution should be able to scale with you.
  5. Prioritize User-Friendliness: Choose AI that’s easy for your team to use and manage. This will reduce training time and help your staff adopt the tech more quickly.
  6. Assess Support and Development: What level of customer support provided? Choose a vendor that offers robust support and regular updates to keep the system efficient and secure.
  7. Review Security Features: Your tool must comply with data protection regulations and have solid security measures in place to protect against data breaches.
  8. Read Reviews and Case Studies: Learn from others who have implemented similar systems.

By carefully evaluating these aspects, you can choose an AI platform that meets your needs.

Lastly, check out my interview with Katie Robbert and her FOG approach to integrating AI into your company:

 

Building Your Hybrid Model: Essential Technologies and Partnerships

Next, you’re ready to build your program!

For context, a hybrid model in customer service refers to a system that combines both artificial intelligence (AI) and human elements to manage and enhance customer interactions.

Here’s a brief explanation of how it might look:

  1. AI Integration: You employ AI technologies, such as chatbots or virtual assistants, to handle routine queries and tasks. This allows for immediate responses to simple customer questions.
  2. Human Involvement: For more complex issues or when the AI is unable to resolve a query effectively, the system seamlessly transitions the interaction to a human customer service agent. This ensures customers receive the necessary personal touch and expertise when needed.
  3. Efficiency and Personalization: The hybrid model aims to maximize efficiency by leveraging AI for speed and scalability, while also ensuring personalized customer service with humans. This balance helps in improving overall customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.
  4. Continuous Improvement: Data gathered from both AI and human interactions is used to continuously improve the AI’s performance and to train customer service representatives more effectively. This iterative process helps in refining the customer experience over time.

A hybrid model is particularly beneficial in providing a flexible and scalable customer service solution, ensuring that technology and human resources are utilized in the most effective way possible to meet customer needs.

Training for Sync: Empowering Your Team

Finally, how does all of this sync up? Training your team effectively to use AI is essential for synchronizing your customer service operations.

Here’s how:

  1. Start with Comprehensive Onboarding: Create a structured onboarding process for all team members using the AI tool. Include detailed sessions on the functionality of the AI, its use cases, and how it integrates with your current systems.
  2. Continuous Learning: AI and customer needs evolve, so should your training. Implement ongoing training sessions that cover updates and evolving customer interaction techniques.
  3. Simulations and Role-Playing: Use simulations or role-playing scenarios that allow your team to practice with the AI in a controlled environment.
  4. Feedback Loops: Your feedback system should be used to tweak training processes and make adjustments to the AI to better serve both the team and your customers.
  5. Team Input: Involve your team in the decision-making process for AI tools. Their frontline experience provides valuable insights that help in selecting the right AI features that truly benefit your customer service process.
  6. Technical Support Training: Offer basic troubleshooting. Knowing how to handle minor technical issues can save time and prevent disruptions in customer service.
  7. Highlight the Benefits: Explain the benefits of AI integration, such as reduced workload, enhanced ability to solve customer problems, and opportunities for personal skill development.
  8. Monitor and Measure: Regularly monitor how effectively the team is using AI and measure against key performance indicators (KPIs). Use this data to identify areas for improvement and adapt training accordingly.

By focusing on these aspects of training, you can ensure that your team is not only prepared but also enthusiastic about leveraging AI to enhance customer service.

This preparation helps in achieving a smoother transition and greater overall effectiveness in your customer service efforts.

Marrying High-Tech with High-Touch

Today, balancing automated efficiency with human empathy is crucial. Adopt the above outlined hybrid approach to excel at routine tasks and maintain personal connections.

This balance is key to customer satisfaction!

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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Customer Experience, Customer Service
Tags: AI, artificial intelligence, automated customer service, B Squared Media, bad bot behavior, Brooke B. Sellas, Brooke Sellas, chatbot, chatbot strategy, chatbot tools, chatbots, customer experience, customer service, customer service chatbots, customer service management, digital customer experience,
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