Here Is Why Customer Service Can Never Be Fully Automated

Automation technologies such as machine learning, AI and robotics play an increasingly important role in our everyday lives.  The potential effect on the workplace has become a major focus of research and public concern.  People have been wondering which jobs will or will not be replaced by machines in the near future.

While Automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the next decade, depending on the type of work they entail, it will affect almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree. It is estimated that currently demonstrated technologies could automate 45% of the activities people are paid to perform and that 60% of all occupations could see 30% or more of their activities automated with technologies available today.

However in the field of customer service, full automation of the services is far more nuanced and many people want an emotional as well as logical engagement with a customer service agent. As much as digital platforms could automate routine tasks and free up agents with the time to assist customers, a recent Accenture study found that of the 33,000 customers interviewed, 16% are willing to use computer generated advice for buying insurance ,citing speed and convenience  while the same percentage  prefer human interaction.

The following are some of the reason why the deck is stacked against automation in some parts of customer service.

  • Technology can never understand empathy

Many people experience a state of anxiety when faced with personal problems such as health issues. They feel compelled to seek advice from people with more information about  the problem. Even if technology might have the answers we seek and can read the tone in our voice and facial expression, most people find the experience of dealing with a machine unnerving and unsettling. No matter how cheap it is to automate empathy, the tradeoff can come across as disingenuous and is likely to be unsustainable.

  • Less work for the customer service agents translates to more work for the customers

Many at times, automation of services may give the impression that a business is expending less effort on behalf of the customers making them wonder what exactly they are paying for. While advances in technology like the Amazon Go make the customers role objectively easier, many customers still  find it harder to purchase products on their own, at the same time trying to circumventing fraud prevention measures than when having a trained employee around to help them do their shopping.

  • Customers still prefer having real people solve their problems

In very many ways, now more than ever, the capacity and computational power of technology far outstrips our own. The most successful tech company in the world, Google has become our go-to-guy when looking for answers to a broad range of queries.  Machine learning helps determine which ads are shown to us in our online platforms, where to find our shipped Amazon orders or recommendations on what movies to watch on Netflix are all examples of how people are perfectly happy engaging through digital channels to find information.

However, no matter how many times we engage through digital channels to get creative solutions to our daily problems, people still seek out opinions from other human beings. Sometimes you may be bombarded with too much information and end up getting stuck or experience choice paralysis, sometimes the information provided maybe too ambiguous to understand and sometimes we may need help making  purchasing decisions. In such scenarios, people still opt to talk to another person.



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