Will AI make human service a luxury feature?

AI technology can revolutionize a company's business and customer service by saving time and money and gaining trust. However, as many chatbots have been designed up to today, customers haven't been too happy with the help they've got. Can this lead to customers preferring more human-driven customer service going forward?

Organizations across industries are looking closely at the advancement of new technology to see what it can do for their business. E.g. within consumer banking, chatbots have long been used instead of human customer contact. According to a review by the American Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB, 2023), 10 of the largest commercial banks have utilized chatbots as part of their customer service. Banks are moving from simple, rule-based chatbots towards more advanced technologies such as large language models (“LLMs”), that have greater conversational skills (like ChatGPT and other AI solutions).1

Chatbots come with many benefits if they work as they should and effectively meet customers' needs. Yet, that's not always the case. In the banking sector, common complaints from customers have been about the technical limitations of what a chatbot can do in response to a query as well as receiving inaccurate information. Consequently, customers feel stuck, frustrated and like their time could be better spent.2

These disappointments with chatbots can make customers prefer interacting with human customer agents instead. According to a Gartner survey (2023), only 8% of customers used a chatbot during their most recent customer service experience. Of those, only 25% said they would use that chatbot again in the future.3

It's troublesome in several ways if chatbots fail in consumer financial products and services. Except for breaking customer trust in the bank, it can also risk creating more significant harm for the individual. Suppose a chatbot gives wrong information in response to a customer's query. In that case, it can lead to a customer not taking the necessary actions or that they look for another, better financial product.4

Within health care, it has also been flagged that chatbots often give verifiably wrong or inappropriate responses. Prof. Stephen Gilbert, Professor of Medical Device Regulatory Science at Else Kröner Fresenius Center for Digital Health at TU Dresden says, “Today there is no way to be certain about the quality, evidence level, or consistency of clinical information or supporting evidence for any response. These chatbots are unsafe tools when it comes to medical advice, and it is necessary to develop new frameworks that ensure patient safety".5

The importance of validation

Until it's reasonably proven that chatbots will meet customers' needs and give them valid help, companies should avoid using them as their primary channel for customer service. Chatbots can do the job for basic inquiries, but their effectiveness fades as issues become more complex. Customers may prefer using chatbots to get help with quick, simple tasks but human interaction for more complicated ones.

AI for good

AI is only in its infancy and will continue to develop and iterate in the years to come in all branches. One of them is the fashion industry, which causes vast impacts on the environment as it's operating today. One example is a newly released AI tool in collaboration between RISE Research Institutes of Sweden AB and Wargön Innovation AB. The tool will help the sustainable fashion sector accelerate AI advancements, specifically in optimizing the sorting process for second-hand clothing (based on unique annotations such as condition, damage, pilling, and more). The dataset will be an open resource and give researchers, fashion enthusiasts, and data scientists interested in better understanding the second-hand clothing market valuable data to analyze.6

Regarding customer service, it is yet to be seen what the changes will be due to the increased usage of AI tools. Whateverlands’ hypothesis is that human interactions will increasingly be seen as a luxury feature.

1 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2023). Chatbots in consumer finance. Retrieved from: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/chatbots-in-consumer-finance/chatbots-in-consumer-finance/#note2

2 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2023). Chatbots in consumer finance. Retrieved from: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/chatbots-in-consumer-finance/chatbots-in-consumer-finance/#note2

3 Gartner. (2023). Gartner Survey Reveals Only 8% of Customers Used a Chatbot During their Most Recent Customer Service Interaction. Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2023-06-15-gartner-survey-reveals-only-8-percent-of-customers-used-a-chatbot-during-their-most-recent-customer-service-interaction

4 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2023). Chatbots in consumer finance. Retrieved from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/chatbots-in-consumer-finance/chatbots-in-consumer-finance/#note2

5 Technische Universität Dresden. (2023). Dangerous chatbots: AI chatbots to be approved as medical devices?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/07/230703133029.htm

6 Farrukh, N. (2023). Clothing Dataset for Second-Hand Fashion. Zenodo. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.8386667