Machines are good at giving you what you don’t know you want. They’ve started to take over various aspects of our daily routines: tasks that would be otherwise tedious and repetitive have been streamlined and automated, yielding an impressive amount of high quality work. Purchase predictions send you offers, streaming services curate personal playlists, and a variety of algorithms tailor their products or placements according to what you don’t even know you want until it’s presented to you at 10% off. You part with some money and move on with your life, unaware that machines keep an eye on your tastes and habits, and inspire purchases with such accuracy and timeliness.
That, however, is an ideal scenario, and the purchase story doesn’t even end there. Customers like us can be fickle and awfully lazy. Mistakes, fraud, and oversights still happen in spite of tech. While we have machine learning and smart devices to assist us, the era where AI ubiquitously takes good care of the masses is still somewhat distant. This is where customer service comes in.
Customers don’t adapt quickly or willingly to cold tech. Take for example the restaurants that have attempted to cut the order-taking time by placing iPads on tables so the customers can order on their own. The iPads in the end sit ignored like paperweights while customers call on the waitstaff like usual, never mind the reward points you’ll get from tinkering with the tablet. At the very best, such innovations only seem to exist in ad campaigns and viral videos for agencies to bag breakthrough awards. Rarely were they experienced or applied in real life for the long term.
Another issue is jobs. Dense countries with a labor force heavily employed by the service industry may be hesitant to welcome that extent of technology with open arms. The Philippines, in particular, with its thriving BPO industry, may be hesitant to introduce AI to their organizations. A manual labor force is still more affordable from the get-go compared to expensive SAAS programs.
Slow computers and networks leave people impatient and walking away, and breakdowns and errors may bring an entire division (if not the entire company) to a complete standstill. In the end, businesses still call for a human being’s presence to take ownership of their problems. Humans are also intrinsically social beings and prefer to be accommodated by another person, albeit a competent one, over today’s best machines - machines which have yet to replicate the problem solving and improvisation of flesh and blood individuals.
Great customer service can do more than repair the relationship and retention of a client. Companies can always rely on well-trained people to tame the irate beasts on the other line/end of the screen. For the optimistic brand, dissatisfied customers are fantastic opportunities to create brand evangelists.
Beyond the discussion on the extensive reach of technology, the bottom line is that a business has to have an ever-increasing pool of loyal customers and a highly functional system that generates quality products and services. Machines certainly help, but it does not replace all the advantages that a human labor force provides. Here at FlySpaces we are in a constant balancing act between scaling up using technology, and providing that human touch with all of our customers. Leaning too far in one direction or the other can make or break a business, and has the ability to transform into a distinct competitive advantage. In the realm of customer service, humans accord empathy, creativity, and a good old friendly voice that digital platforms have yet to fully simulate.
What businesses can do is effectively incorporate both man and machine into operations. Go forth into cyberspace and win over new clientele with the data mining, behavioural analytics, among others. When problems arise, we humans are here with our first names, empathetic ears, and sense of humor, for handling problems ranging from taking you through complicated processes to asking you to "turn it off and on again".
The reality is, humans win. For now.