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A “human in the loop” in customer service

Written by Tim Morris on Wednesday, 10 February 2021. Posted in People, Sales & Marketing

Ensuring your business provides exceptional customer service remains a sure-fire way for you to retain customers and enhance your reputation for survival and even growth during these challenging times.

A “human in the loop” in customer service

Ensuring your business provides exceptional customer service remains a sure-fire way for you to retain customers and enhance your reputation for survival and even growth during these challenging times. In fact, a recent study showed that out of 1,920 business professionals, 45.9% said that the top priority for their business in the next five years was to improve their customer service1. Yet, with a staggering 85% of customer interaction expected to be handled without human agents by 20212, businesses must have something in place to ensure customers feel a personal connection to your brand.

That’s where the term “human in the loop” comes into play. It’s a common phrase used in technological developments such as AI and computing where human intelligence is required to leverage the power of machines. At Cymphony, we see ‘The Power of Personal’ as a great differentiator for businesses and so, as customer service becomes more technologically advanced, we have our three top reasons why you should think about keeping a human in the loop when it comes to dealing with your customers. 

1. Being personal makes your customer feel valued

Regardless of what industry you’re in or what kinds of products and services you sell, your customer should always be the most important part of your business. Because of this, committing to providing customers with a level of service that exceeds their expectations is an excellent place to start. With 78% of UK consumers saying they would want to interact with a real person in customer service as technology improves3, the significance of delivering a personalised customer service experience is obvious. 

Having a friendly, well trained, approachable and, most importantly, human customer service team, creates an experience that cannot be duplicated by any automation or online services. Global statistics from PwC show that 59% of all consumers felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experiences3. This suggests that ensuring you have a human in the loop will create an experience that makes your customers feel valued when they get in touch with your business. Every touchpoint you have with your customers should be checked and tested to make sure you’re delivering the best possible experiences. So, whether that’s a chat function on your website or your automated out-of-hours phone system, objectively consider whether they meet your customers’ expectations and once you feel you’ve achieved that, consider how you can exceed them.

The benefits of this? Well, 86% of buyers said they would pay more for a better customer experience3. Therefore, if you’re looking to satisfy your customers, increase sales and boost the chances of repeat business and referrals, all of which are vital to help businesses succeed, it's clear that you need a human in the loop. 

2. A human operator can reduce customer frustrations

When an existing or prospective customer interacts with your business, the likelihood is that they're looking to get their query, complaint or issues addressed. They are looking for a solution and often feel frustrated if that isn’t forthcoming. We all know that impersonal automated responses can be incredibly irritating. In fact, when customers answered CGS's survey questions on what they thought about AI in customer service, the top response was that it was 'maddening', closely followed by 'impersonal' and 'superficial'4. Not the terms any business wants to be associated with. 

Unlike an AI-operated system, human operators can reassure frustrated customers by showing that they are being listened to and that your business cares about their query. Even if you can't give the customer exactly what they want, the operator will reassure them that their message is getting across. A human operator can also show empathy to a customer’s issue and choose their response wisely having read the customer’s tone. 

 An extract from The Journal of Communication states, "Individuals know that another person has the capability of truly understanding them in a way a chatbot cannot, especially who they are and how they experience the world. This may increase perceived understanding, resulting in more positive outcomes for disclosure with a human partner5.” When you combine this with the fact that 71% of consumers would be less likely to use a brand if they knew that brand didn't have human agents available4, it's clear that pure technology-driven customer service will not earn your business the best reputation. Technology undeniably brings many benefits to businesses and their customers but harnessing it in tandem with a human-in-the-loop process is where you can set your brand apart from the competition.

3. Humans operators are more reliable than AI 

Humans are fallible of course – we get things wrong if we’re not given the knowledge we need or the experience to deal with certain situations. So, why do we say that human operators are more reliable than AI? Well, have you ever used an automated phone line where you’re asked to say a few words to reach a relevant menu of options? If the system doesn’t recognise your keywords or your accent, you’re often left without a solution, frustrated and wishing you could just talk to a real person. 

Businesses can provide reliable services by being available across the channels of communication which are relevant to their customers. Some customers may prefer to call to get their issues resolved, others might like to chat over email or web chat as it allows them to do it at work or in a noisy environment. Therefore, make it convenient for your customers to reach you through the channels that best suit the way they live their lives and using the options you’re best positioned to offer a great experience. You can use automation in the mix but use that human-in-the-loop process to see where the parameters lie between convenience and reliability in the eyes of your customers.

Providing a reliable service means that you should aim to never miss a call - within reason. If your business has set operating hours where a customer has never needed you from 6pm to 8am then it’s reasonable to continue to deliver customer service responses during your open hours. But many businesses now run on a 24-hour cycle and a lost customer interaction can be costly. In fact, a survey of 1,600 businesses from BT found that, on average, a missed call loses a UK business a massive £1,2006. AI-backed technology can answer that call but it’s still a lost call if the customer doesn’t have their query dealt with effectively.

Although technology has progressed so much over the last decade, it’s still not 100% reliable. There can be unplanned downtime, technical difficulties and challenges with the queries being asked of chatbots and automated systems. Having a professional customer service agent in the mix offers an extra layer of reliability to AI solutions.

1SuperOffice, 2021, 37 customer experience statistics you need to know for 2021

2Invesp, 2020, Chatbots in customer service – statistics and trends

3 PwC, 2018, Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right.

4 CGS. 2019. CGS Survey Reveals Consumers Prefer A Hybrid AI/Human Approach To Customer Service. Is There Chatbot Fatigue?. 

5Journal of Communication, 2018, Psychological, Relational, and Emotional Effects of Self-Disclosure After Conversations with a Chatbot

6BT Business Survey, 2014

About the Author

Tim Morris

Tim Morris

Tim Morris is the MD of Cymphony, a premium communications provider helping to build customer relationships from the first interaction. Cymphony’s vision is to provide an exceptional inbound customer experience for all businesses in the UK.

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