Is Siri A Glimpse Into The Future Of Customer Service?
Yes and No. So I see for simple requests for action a siri-like service agent could work. Things like ‘send me a new part,’ or to request a engineer visit, it seems like a nice extension to the current (annoying) automated call handling where you “press or say 1″ to do this and “press or say 2″ to do that.
For actual problems it is going to be tough for an algorithm to determine what is needed to be done, especially because people are upset and so will communicate in vastly different ways (from general moaning to personal abuse). In addition, even if the action would be determined often the request (e.g. refund) isn’t possible and computers are poor a gauging the mood of the call and providing an appropriate response – aka “Computer says NO”. Also computers are no good at understanding when to go “the extra mile” or offer workarounds to satisfy something that the customer might only have hinted about.
This is mostly obvious but I can see the following specific benefits of a decent automated customer service assistant:
- Speed of call handling. Mechanizing the process should reduce the waffle and get to the point and required action somewhat quicker. It might be a little abrupt for some people of course.
- Tracking. Automation should ensure all information is recorded and reusable for follow up – reducing the need to repeat the history of a long running issue because it wasn’t properly documented.
- Number of calls that can be handled. Clearly this isn’t dependent on the number of operators, so thousands of concurrent calls could be handled. No more queues!!
- Fail-over to real person if needed. Stops frustration which is pretty likely in the early days.
I would personally give a customer service Siri-like cyborg a try to get some immediate options, but only as long as I could press zero and talk to a human (who would probably get even more grief thanks to the cyborg!).