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AI: bots overtake people for quality in online assistance

"You are the weakest link. Goodbye!" - Who would have thought - a thirteen year TV run in the UK and broadcast in 47 countries, the popular TV show “The Weakest Link” would be the subject of a lead article in New Scientist magazine? The article promotes an optimum process for contestants to succeed in the show.

This is just one simple example of how activities can evolve from one-off to highly repetitious, and what happens as they do. In business we are all familiar with ‘research and development’ departments – experienced people with an exploratory mindset working out what works and what doesn’t through prototyping and then progressing through to production.

As technology has changed over the years, the traditional methods of sketches, drawings and model making have been overtaken by the impact of 3D printing technology – rapidly reducing the time and resources required to get a new product to market ahead of the competition.

In the sphere of digital sales and service, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also making similar waves. In short, it is making it easier and quicker to automate tasks that have historically been undertaken by a person.

The benefits of machines include increases in capacity and quality as well as cost reduction. The qualifiers for undertaking mechanisation of a process are the degree of repetition and the cost of implementation. Recent improvements in technology and processing power have progressively chipped away at how much training is required and how long it takes to do it and hence, these directly reduce the investment required.

Perhaps the remaining shelter for people could lie in customer preference, I hear you say?

Well, I have to say there is bad news there too, for my human colleagues. Over half of under 35’s are happy to be served exclusively by a machine or automaton. If you doubt the validity of this statistic, just look at the trend towards contact methods. Since 2015, online (web) contact has exceeded all other channels put together. That mitigates strongly towards a consumer that does not wish to have personal contact. And the millennial category positively prefers the immediate, fast and available features of being served by machine at any time of day (or night!)

The result is that forward looking business people are introducing highly trained automaton to handle all areas of digital business, including sales. Specifically in this latter case, the use of consistent process enables marketers (typically those with responsibility digital channels) to measure and refine the mechanism of interaction. They have been doing this with search for years.

Furthermore, where calculation or reference to large broad category products catalogues are concerned, great accuracy and speed ensures best service and therefore the greatest value add to customers.

So if you are tempted to invest in another method of connecting your people with your customers' people, and seeking to improve their performance with Agent Guidance, I suggest you take another look. In those almost immortal words – People - you are the weakest link. Goodbye.