Grab a cup of coffee, put me on speaker and relax.
We know what that stands for, right?
As companies continue to implement and refine their artificial intelligence capabilities, specifically the work done to create customer service bots and chats, they are neglecting one critical component of customer care—awareness.
The artificial intelligence protocols put in place are supposed to save companies resources and customers time; however, when it comes to a request for speaking to an actual person, artificial is anything but intelligent.
I recently had a 90-minute exchange with my cable provider’s customer service bot. My initial request was to talk with a person about scheduling a service call as I had completed the online troubleshooting and continued to have the same problems. But despite my best efforts to connect with a real person, first on the customer service line, then the website and eventually, again, through the automated service line (at the request of the ‘person’ I was chatting with), I was left without any way of talking to a real person.
“Okay, so no one's answering
Well, can't you just let it ring a little longer
Longer, longer oh, I'll just sit tight
Through shadows of the night
Let it ring forever more, oh”
-ELO, Telephone Line
Finally, after tricking the system into thinking I had an emergency service issue (I kind of did) I was connected with a REAL LIVE PERSON! This real live person greeted me by saying, “I need a minute to read your report,” to which I said, “Hey, I’ve waited 90 minutes … what’s a few minutes more.” This person, mistaking my sarcasm for rapport, said, “Well, just relax now … in fact, grab a cup of coffee, put me on speaker and relax while I get caught up.”
After cycling through some (mostly unacceptable) replies I said, “I’ve been guzzling coffee for the past 90 minutes … lucky you.”
Now, to the real live person’s credit … he worked quickly and did hook me up with a service technician (although it took him 30 minutes to get that approved).
Am I writing this to complain and vent? No, not at all. I embrace progress. I know where we are headed with automating response and trying to streamline resources. I get it.
I am writing this to remind all of us who have a part in—or will have a part in—advising companies on how to use AI, to not ignore the critical thinking that got us to this point in the first place. We, are the communicators. It is our responsibility to think of all the ways companies can communicate, real or otherwise, and ultimately connect with our public. Don’t think in absolutes. The beauty of AI is just like the beauty of any communications channel that preceded it—this is another way to connect. But don’t do it while sacrificing another.
P.S. If you’re curious, the service person who was sent to my house diagnosed the problem quickly—they had sent me the wrong type of cable boxes. They never would have worked. Kind of like the ol’ “is it plugged in?” question.
Real or artificial, it doesn’t matter whom you’re talking to if you don’t know the right questions to ask. But I’ll save that for another post.