Is AI dehumanizing customer support?

If adaptability is one of our greatest strengths, what proof is there that we won’t become desensitized to empathy, only really caring about the logical aspect of problem resolution and not so much about the human aspect of it?
Priyanshu Anand
May 9, 2024

Is AI dehumanizing customer support?

If adaptability is one of our greatest strengths, what proof is there that we won’t become desensitized to empathy, only really caring about the logical aspect of problem resolution and not so much about the human aspect of it?
Priyanshu Anand
May 9, 2024

Is AI dehumanizing customer support?

If adaptability is one of our greatest strengths, what proof is there that we won’t become desensitized to empathy, only really caring about the logical aspect of problem resolution and not so much about the human aspect of it?
Priyanshu Anand
May 9, 2024

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The computational metaphor

A paper published in 2012 talks about the two main objectives of AI research - the first is to make computers more useful to humans and the second is to explore the principle that makes intelligence possible. Researchers with a former goal tend to focus on making intelligent machines and the the latter tend to focus on making intelligent machines.

Since the digital awakening, an argument, a metaphor, has been presented that compares the computer to the brain; the brain is a computer, and a computer is a brain. How we’ve built computers has been at the expense of how we understand human intelligence. When it comes to logical reasoning, rationality has more value than emotionality. We’re afforded the privilege of believing that a computer, incapable of displaying any emotional construct, is given more power (or equal power as humans if not more) than it deserves.

This computational metaphor is the grounds on which we draw parallels between human cognition or the cognitive theory and what machines can do that are human-like. We can talk about certain advantages on the grounds that AI is justified as a cognitive machine capable of understanding logic and rationale. The mind is independent of the material body, hence displaying inherent similarities to how we perceive AI. The behavioral and computational similarities qualify AI to be just as cognitive as the human mind itself. Therefore, AI can be the tool for testing theories and developing ideas that mirror how humans do the same thing. If anything, AI might even be able to do it better.

But emotionality is what makes us human

AI is exceptional at handling logical problems. In fact, the constant rhetoric on “machine taking over the world” is fueled by the idea that AI can be consciously better at overthrowing human ingenuity and, to some extent, this debate is very much justified. But through the eras and industrial revolutions, we’ve never been able to replicate what might equate to our innate emotional capabilities. Even more so, now that our cognitive abilities have been challenged by AI, our emotional intelligence remains the core differentiator that makes us who we are.

The state of AI is still nascent, miles away from what we think it’s capable of becoming. World leaders have argued their position on what AI is capable of and people like Elon Musk have advocated for the use of regulated AI like the Generative AI wave we’re seeing. It’s safe to say that things haven’t been the same since its advent. Some people may even argue that it’s been more disruptive than complementary to tech and they’re right in their own sense. But it’s all in the perspective. Gen AI has, unequivocally, become a force multiplier as most SaaS companies have seen.

If emotional intelligence is scarce, and intelligent systems have the problem-solving aspect figured out, that makes our emotionality the most prized possession. It cannot be replicated nor manufactured; it’s innate. And that is what we need to realize when it comes to customer support.

Is AI challenging the narrative?

The customer support landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, thanks in part to the advent of smarter bots and AI-driven solutions. The narrative around AI often swings between utopian visions of technology solving all our problems and the dystopian fears of machines taking over. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.

Talking about customer support only - this is an aspect of business that requires more empathy than any other. Our argument about emotionality becomes realized when we talk about the significance of that human touch, separating average customer experiences from great customer experiences. AI bots are efficient but not always effective. Customers looking for support tend to get frustrated more quickly and an AI chatbot not being able to understand the gravity of their concerns while keeping them in the same loop, catalyzes a subpar experience that could’ve been avoided by something as simple as human empathy on the matter. It’s not always about resolutions but sometimes something as small as being heard or being acknowledged reinstates trust in the customer and prevents a domino effect that can lead to churn.

What also cannot be overlooked is the rising prevalence of AI in customer support. It’s undeniable, to say the least. Global factors like the pandemic as well as the recent recession have accelerated the need for it. As we’ve come to see, almost 50% of companies have already adopted AI for customer support into their systems in some form or another. 63% of customers expect a faster response and 57% of customers want faster resolutions. All this hints towards a probable future where AI might create a narrative that normalizes a dehumanized approach to customer support. If adaptability is one of our greatest strengths, what proof is there that we won’t become desensitized to empathy, only really caring about the logical aspect of problem resolution and not so much about the human aspect of it?

Is it too far-fetched to believe that AI can become the definitive foundation for all things customer support? If you can’t answer that with unwavering conviction, the answer is always no. Are we ready to have a conversation about AI being the only channel for customer support? Because it might as well be the case where we, as customers, become so used to the idea of instant support that emotionality becomes obsolete.

Being human is the greatest currency of customer support

We’ve also come to learn that, still, 52% of the professionals observed that customers often prefer agent conversations because of their empathy and understanding, though 42% appreciate a combination of both human and AI. So far, customers favor human interaction. In between ‘providing faster support’ and ‘not losing the human touch’, the question is - how do you find the right balance?

AI-first customer support is now focusing on the construct of enabling your support agents to provide better support with AI rather than relying entirely on it for customer resolutions. In a way, this is our answer to desensitized AI bots - give AI into the hands of agents to make them more productive. The future of customer support is not an "either-or" scenario; it's a collaborative effort. AI won't replace humans; instead, humans with AI will replace humans without AI. This coexistence is where the real magic happens.

Consider the time taken for a customer issue to be resolved. An agent spends time first understanding the concern. Now, unless they have spent a considerable amount of time at the company, it’s not likely that they’d have the answer at their fingertips. Next is the searching phase where they look for answers either in the knowledge base or if that’s unsuccessful, they consult with their seniors or escalate the issue to another level of hierarchical sophistication. Not to mention the time it takes to write, personalize, and curate an answer once they’ve figured out the issue. This entire process is a task list of its own.

Rather, what if an AI solution could assist in this entire process? Threado AI, for instance, can be trained on multiple sources across lines, files, tabular data, and can be integrated with your favorite tools like Zendesk, Intercom, HubSpot, Confluence, etc., to be trained on past customer resolutions, help articles, and more. A smart AI is the stepping stone to higher accuracy and therefore better reliability. Your customer support team can save hours of work from having to manually take control of the entire resolution process.

This is the essence of AI that is truly advantageous for you and your team. What can be the norm with AI now is that -

  • It is capable of understanding your product or service through your knowledge base and helping your team answer queries faster. Agents can leverage AI to save hours from having to search, understand, and curate answers.
  • Can help you identify gaps in your knowledge base and improve it to further increase AI reliability. AI is only as good as your knowledge base.

AI - Augmented Intelligence

There are no definitive answers about the future. Regulated AI can bring unmatched revolution in tech and people are prepared for it. A year ago, who would’ve thought that GPT and LLM models would become the basis for the next generation of tools and startups? And now not just startups but also enterprise companies have revamped their products to be AI-first. Somehow, collectively, we’ve understood the implications of AI and have augmented it to serve humans rather than think of it as something independent. That’s really all it’s about. Being able to manipulate a technology as potent as AI and make it work for the benefit of humanity (in this case, customer support) is what reinforces its efficacy and predominance in the near future.

Still, the debate that AI alone can overthrow human ingenuity and increasingly make empathy less valuable is not invalid. We can go as far as to say that a lot of things have already dehumanized to some extent and what guarantee is there that AI in customer support isn’t susceptible to it? Maybe that’s what we should ask ourselves and the people around us - Is AI dehumanizing us?

The computational metaphor

A paper published in 2012 talks about the two main objectives of AI research - the first is to make computers more useful to humans and the second is to explore the principle that makes intelligence possible. Researchers with a former goal tend to focus on making intelligent machines and the the latter tend to focus on making intelligent machines.

Since the digital awakening, an argument, a metaphor, has been presented that compares the computer to the brain; the brain is a computer, and a computer is a brain. How we’ve built computers has been at the expense of how we understand human intelligence. When it comes to logical reasoning, rationality has more value than emotionality. We’re afforded the privilege of believing that a computer, incapable of displaying any emotional construct, is given more power (or equal power as humans if not more) than it deserves.

This computational metaphor is the grounds on which we draw parallels between human cognition or the cognitive theory and what machines can do that are human-like. We can talk about certain advantages on the grounds that AI is justified as a cognitive machine capable of understanding logic and rationale. The mind is independent of the material body, hence displaying inherent similarities to how we perceive AI. The behavioral and computational similarities qualify AI to be just as cognitive as the human mind itself. Therefore, AI can be the tool for testing theories and developing ideas that mirror how humans do the same thing. If anything, AI might even be able to do it better.

But emotionality is what makes us human

AI is exceptional at handling logical problems. In fact, the constant rhetoric on “machine taking over the world” is fueled by the idea that AI can be consciously better at overthrowing human ingenuity and, to some extent, this debate is very much justified. But through the eras and industrial revolutions, we’ve never been able to replicate what might equate to our innate emotional capabilities. Even more so, now that our cognitive abilities have been challenged by AI, our emotional intelligence remains the core differentiator that makes us who we are.

The state of AI is still nascent, miles away from what we think it’s capable of becoming. World leaders have argued their position on what AI is capable of and people like Elon Musk have advocated for the use of regulated AI like the Generative AI wave we’re seeing. It’s safe to say that things haven’t been the same since its advent. Some people may even argue that it’s been more disruptive than complementary to tech and they’re right in their own sense. But it’s all in the perspective. Gen AI has, unequivocally, become a force multiplier as most SaaS companies have seen.

If emotional intelligence is scarce, and intelligent systems have the problem-solving aspect figured out, that makes our emotionality the most prized possession. It cannot be replicated nor manufactured; it’s innate. And that is what we need to realize when it comes to customer support.

Is AI challenging the narrative?

The customer support landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, thanks in part to the advent of smarter bots and AI-driven solutions. The narrative around AI often swings between utopian visions of technology solving all our problems and the dystopian fears of machines taking over. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.

Talking about customer support only - this is an aspect of business that requires more empathy than any other. Our argument about emotionality becomes realized when we talk about the significance of that human touch, separating average customer experiences from great customer experiences. AI bots are efficient but not always effective. Customers looking for support tend to get frustrated more quickly and an AI chatbot not being able to understand the gravity of their concerns while keeping them in the same loop, catalyzes a subpar experience that could’ve been avoided by something as simple as human empathy on the matter. It’s not always about resolutions but sometimes something as small as being heard or being acknowledged reinstates trust in the customer and prevents a domino effect that can lead to churn.

What also cannot be overlooked is the rising prevalence of AI in customer support. It’s undeniable, to say the least. Global factors like the pandemic as well as the recent recession have accelerated the need for it. As we’ve come to see, almost 50% of companies have already adopted AI for customer support into their systems in some form or another. 63% of customers expect a faster response and 57% of customers want faster resolutions. All this hints towards a probable future where AI might create a narrative that normalizes a dehumanized approach to customer support. If adaptability is one of our greatest strengths, what proof is there that we won’t become desensitized to empathy, only really caring about the logical aspect of problem resolution and not so much about the human aspect of it?

Is it too far-fetched to believe that AI can become the definitive foundation for all things customer support? If you can’t answer that with unwavering conviction, the answer is always no. Are we ready to have a conversation about AI being the only channel for customer support? Because it might as well be the case where we, as customers, become so used to the idea of instant support that emotionality becomes obsolete.

Being human is the greatest currency of customer support

We’ve also come to learn that, still, 52% of the professionals observed that customers often prefer agent conversations because of their empathy and understanding, though 42% appreciate a combination of both human and AI. So far, customers favor human interaction. In between ‘providing faster support’ and ‘not losing the human touch’, the question is - how do you find the right balance?

AI-first customer support is now focusing on the construct of enabling your support agents to provide better support with AI rather than relying entirely on it for customer resolutions. In a way, this is our answer to desensitized AI bots - give AI into the hands of agents to make them more productive. The future of customer support is not an "either-or" scenario; it's a collaborative effort. AI won't replace humans; instead, humans with AI will replace humans without AI. This coexistence is where the real magic happens.

Consider the time taken for a customer issue to be resolved. An agent spends time first understanding the concern. Now, unless they have spent a considerable amount of time at the company, it’s not likely that they’d have the answer at their fingertips. Next is the searching phase where they look for answers either in the knowledge base or if that’s unsuccessful, they consult with their seniors or escalate the issue to another level of hierarchical sophistication. Not to mention the time it takes to write, personalize, and curate an answer once they’ve figured out the issue. This entire process is a task list of its own.

Rather, what if an AI solution could assist in this entire process? Threado AI, for instance, can be trained on multiple sources across lines, files, tabular data, and can be integrated with your favorite tools like Zendesk, Intercom, HubSpot, Confluence, etc., to be trained on past customer resolutions, help articles, and more. A smart AI is the stepping stone to higher accuracy and therefore better reliability. Your customer support team can save hours of work from having to manually take control of the entire resolution process.

This is the essence of AI that is truly advantageous for you and your team. What can be the norm with AI now is that -

  • It is capable of understanding your product or service through your knowledge base and helping your team answer queries faster. Agents can leverage AI to save hours from having to search, understand, and curate answers.
  • Can help you identify gaps in your knowledge base and improve it to further increase AI reliability. AI is only as good as your knowledge base.

AI - Augmented Intelligence

There are no definitive answers about the future. Regulated AI can bring unmatched revolution in tech and people are prepared for it. A year ago, who would’ve thought that GPT and LLM models would become the basis for the next generation of tools and startups? And now not just startups but also enterprise companies have revamped their products to be AI-first. Somehow, collectively, we’ve understood the implications of AI and have augmented it to serve humans rather than think of it as something independent. That’s really all it’s about. Being able to manipulate a technology as potent as AI and make it work for the benefit of humanity (in this case, customer support) is what reinforces its efficacy and predominance in the near future.

Still, the debate that AI alone can overthrow human ingenuity and increasingly make empathy less valuable is not invalid. We can go as far as to say that a lot of things have already dehumanized to some extent and what guarantee is there that AI in customer support isn’t susceptible to it? Maybe that’s what we should ask ourselves and the people around us - Is AI dehumanizing us?

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