Man vs. Machine: How to Strike the Perfect Balance Between Tech & Human

Posted by
Erin Kang
LivePerson Contributor
Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 12:17

Technological proliferation is accelerating at an unprecedented rate — and it will only continue to do so exponentially. Think about the innovations that have sprung up just over the past few years...Apple Watch, Nest Learning Thermostat, Oculus Rift, StickNFind Stickers, Google’s autonomous cars, etc. By 2020, Verizon research suggests there will be 5.4 billion Internet-connected devices.

The ascent of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile putting it all in our pocket are completely changing the way we communicate and function — in the office, at home, and on the go.

From one perspective, the automation and computerization of everything is terrifying. Some fear for their jobs, and (on an extreme level) some fear for the human race. Elon Musk — one of the great innovators of our generation — has even framed AI as “probably the biggest threat facing the world,” according to The Economist. On the other hand, paired with human and strategic guidance, the latest innovations have the potential to have a positive, powerful impact on the way we operate successful businesses and on society at large.  

Take the game of chess. Russian world champion Garry Kasparov studied the “interplay between people and computers around the game of chess” only to find that the best results came from a combination of the two: Human creativity, planning, and intuition paired with tech proved the smartest match.

Now, let’s tie it back to the way we consume products and information and connect brands with consumers. If used strategically and wisely, technology has the power to transform one-on-one brand communications, even in the sense that it brings the human touch back into intelligent, tech-powered connections. Amazon’s Mayday Button is a good example. The customer service channel offers face-to-face video assistance 24/7.  

But if overused (or underused), the presence of technology can be an obstruction to what should be a natural, seamless communication.

Enter the tech paradox. Most brands are on the brink of complete digital transformation and at a metaphorical fork in the road. If incorporated incorrectly, brands will go down a dark path, with overly robotic, automated communications. The other path, however, employs technology in a way that can enable a personalized, more meaningful experience online.

When tech takes over

Has tech completely overtaken business operations and interactions? Are communications dominated by the machine?

If you’re already thinking it…it probably means yes.

In the words of HubSpot: “[A]utomation is a shift in thinking, not just a change in technology.” If you’re deploying a new tool, reassess your marketing strategy. Along the customer journey, identify where automation is helping or hindering the experience.

Not sure where you stand? Below are three warning signs that consumers are eager to talk to a live person.

1. The 1-800 number is your primary support service. Consumers are sick of waiting on hold. Why should they wait 40 minutes just to speak to a recording or “press 1” for more options?  

Nodding in agreement? Check out our live demonstration in Tel Aviv as part of the Hold No More campaign.

2. Your idea of personalization is “Hi, [First Name].” Automated emails that don't speak to a niche audience are probably flagged as junk, never to be seen again. Before scheduling an email in your automation system, think about the end user. How have they qualified to receive this message? Is it relevant and valuable?    

3. Your contact page offers every digital channel, but not one has a live person behind it. Congrats — you’ve managed to integrate digital support. But digital support without human engagement is a disaster waiting to happen. AdWeek highlights a few brands that suffered after deploying the notorious auto-reply on Twitter (like Oreo, for example, which ended up tweeting some very offensive expletives).

How to humanize the experience

No one wants an i, ROBOT scenario on their hands. Ready to regain control?

Technology has empowered a new digital relationship for brand and consumer — one that has the potential to be more connected, mutually beneficial, and (finally) enjoyable.

The key is realizing those critical moments that demand a human connection. Consumers expect live support when they need it most. Consider scenarios for first-time shoppers with high cart values, returning customers with questions or complaints, and (especially) your VIP customers at checkout.

Yes, resources are precious. But when brands can introduce the human touch at critical points in the consumer journey, those resources pay dividends. Be smart about when and where you’re allocating personalized, value-added connections.

Below are a few ways to realize the beauty of human-to-human customer service.

  • Engage at the individual level with empathy. Don't let the digital divide stifle the experience. Robotic live service can be just as annoying as automated responses. Allocate sufficient resources to real-person messaging or social support, so engagements don't seem rushed or impersonal. Customer care professionals can show emotion via their language and, if all else fails, emoticons. :)
  • Relevance is key. Cater to interests and personalize the messaging based on previous interactions. We all like to feel understood, and we stick with brands that can relate on a one-on-one level.
  • Stay in-channel. Picture this: You’re chatting with a friend, and she stops you to ask if you two can continue the conversation over email. How rude! Maintain proper etiquette and engage consumers where they are already, whether it’s mobile, social, or desktop.
  • Go mobile. The mobile revolution has already happened. Consumers expect to be able to message and engage with friends and family whatever the circumstances — especially if they’re on the go. Integrate your brand into day-to-day communications by deploying mobile messaging on your website and in your app.

Another essential element to humanizing communications is real-time response. Fast Company says it perfectly: “If you want [to] improve digital messaging, think humans before apps and feelings before words. And remember, we were never meant to live online. Connection happens best when sharing in the precious moment of real life. The sacred gift aptly named: the present.”

Are your consumers happy? Or do you need a more humanized approach to the services you provide? Find out with sentiment analysis from LiveEngage.

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