Human Touch vs Tech: People Power in CX Delivery

November 9, 20186min

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we work, from supporting faster data analysis to the use of virtual receptionists to greet guests.

However, when it comes to delivering a great experience in the workplace, the power of the human touch still wins out over tech.

The technology and AI revolution is rapidly transforming our world. From the emergence of staff-less grocery shops, to Alexa voice assistants in Marriott hotel rooms that provide concierge services, we’re already seeing major changes in our consumer lives – in how we eat, sleep and unwind, pay our bills and manage our daily routines.

Now, we need to be set for a transformation in our workplaces too. The world of business is recognising the need to offer the same level of experiences in the working environment as customers and employees have in their private lives. These changes hold huge opportunities for customer experience professionals and their partners – allowing us to use technology to reduce friction in the workplace experience and gather data to help us continually improve employee performance. 

At the same time, we mustn’t lose sight of the human touch amidst all the gadgetry and gimmicks. When it comes to delivering great service, people need to remain central to how we work, using new tech as an enabler for service delivery.

From the consumer world to the workplace

Across working environments, businesses are borrowing insights and technology from more consumer-facing industries to improve the workplace experience. Take the use of chatbots as an example. Chatbots have been the rage for retail and customer support for a while, but companies are making use of chatbots in their work spaces as well, whether to greet employees or visitors as they arrive or through the addition of bots in meeting rooms to attend to standard requests such as ordering drinks and altering room temperature.

While still in its early stages, we’re seeing a similar trend in voice devices. Amazon, for example, launched Alexa for Business in November last year. WeWork, the shared office space company, was an early adopter, conducting a pilot using a voice-powered reservation system for its conference rooms.

However, WeWork’s chief technology officer has since put the trial on hold, hinting that AI in the workplace is not the all-encompassing solution some might expect. Reflecting on the meeting room example, the idea of having a voice-enabled support or chatbot system works when the questions being posed are relatively straightforward.

However, when more complicated requests need to be processed, such as asking front of house teams for guidance on catering for international visitors, the ambiguities in language and heavy dependence on context in human conversation means there’s no substitute for personal interaction. In fact, an AI device that can’t understand what you’re asking often only becomes a drain on productivity rather than a booster, causing more frustration and delays.

Empowering people

This is not to say that businesses should ignore AI at work altogether, but it’s important to focus on instances where it can add value.

Whether working in front of house, facilities management, HR or IT, AI should empower business support teams responsible for smoothing the workplace experience and enable them to concentrate on complex, higher value tasks by removing more mundane activities from workloads.

It’s the difference between using AI in meeting rooms to work out how many people are on the invite and therefore how many cups will be needed for the tea and coffee order, and needing help with the IT to get a new business presentation on screen. The first is useful to smooth the Customer Experience, but the latter calls for the help and reassurance provided by a friendly face.

AI is not a replacement for good customer service. It allows us to use new tools to help people work better together while, importantly, not losing the power of the human touch.

Iain Shorthose

Iain Shorthose

Iain Shorthose is Customer Experience Director at Interserve.

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