Artificial intelligence, according to a byliner I read this week, presents "an opportunity for brands to automate countless micro-experiences along the customer journey and in fact has already enabled seismic shifts in the way customers are attracted, served and managed." But the same guy warns: "For all its cost reduction benefits, AI has yet to replicate what makes us human or our experiences so emotionally rewarding."
I will buy the first brand to eliminate a phone tree — especially one that claims it is putting me through this agony "to serve you better" or that doesn't immediately skip right to a human when you bellow at top volume "REPRESENTATIVE!!!"
There is a special place in hell for companies that give you nine options, none of which include access to a real person. Of course, if you want the final reason to throw yourself off the nearest bridge, call the federal government, where your "wait time" is often over an hour.
Not that FINALLY getting to a person results in an “interaction with a human (that) is emotionally rewarding." If you have any doubts, talk to a Microsoft or Dell customer service representative — or try to get a mortgage.
You would think most companies realize that by the time you call them on the phone, you have already been on their website and found no satisfaction. Which is a great reason NOT TO REMIND ME YOU HAVE A WEBSITE when the call first connects.
I suspect that most calls to brands are because the buyer has a problem. I don't recall phoning P&G to excitedly tell someone there how pleased my butt is with their Charmin. (Although this sounds like a great bar game, so I might have done it once or twice under the influence.)
So you have to ask your brand-self "If I were pissed off with a product or service — enough to pick up the phone — what kind of reception would make me feel like you give two shits about me now that I am a buyer?"
Call yourself and see how your temper goes from slow simmer to rapid boil as you push eight or 10 buttons under the delusion that at journey's end there is either help — or at the very least, a sympathetic call center lady who lives with her sister in Cleveland and reports on the local weather. The longer the chain, the more annoying — especially if there is no hitting zero to escape to the nearest receptionist or young adult in Mumbai trying to sound as Western as humanly possible.
Let's also kill the "updates" that start out with "If you are calling about XX, we are aware of it and are working on it." To my local electrical or cable company, "working on it" can mean anything from 45 minutes to eight days from now. BTW, trying to outflank the call center with a tweet on my experience results in a boilerplate response anywhere from five hours to three days later.
So will AI make all of this better? Will it process a refund any faster? Will it look up a solution that actually works?
"Sorry I didn't understand your response, if you meant yes, please touch 2...."