The missing EI in AI: Future workforces will still need a human touch

At SugarCRM Tanmaya heads the Industry Solutions CoE. He is responsible for leading the solution strategy and go-to-market initiatives for key industry verticals like Financial Services, Global Markets, Business Services and Manufacturing.

AI (artificial intelligence) technology is advancing at an exponential rate, and some workers are feeling nervous about what it might mean for their job security. But while AI offers many advantages, there is one factor hampering its full-blown adoption – a lack of emotional intelligence. Robots won’t take over from humans until they become advanced in reacting to emotional cues – an inherent aspect of a human workforce which remains very much needed.

AI’s numerous benefits

AI can bring manifold advantages to a business and many are already heralding its transformative properties. No industry has been untouched by the AI revolution. Financial organisations now use it to help detect credit card payment fraud and to predict and improve the investment performance of funds; the automotive industry is pioneering driverless cars; and many retailers provide personalised recommendations based on shopper preferences and the potential within healthcare for AI to predict and prevent disease holds a lot of promise.

AI is also making a big difference within sales and marketing. Historically, marketers would segment and analyse customers as groups but targeting individuals was impossible – nobody would have the time or ability to review the actions of every person and determine the best way to reach that specific customer. Now thanks to AI, marketers can order and dissect huge rafts of data and touchpoints and personalise marketing based on past behaviour.

Few people would argue that a person could outperform an advanced technology system at ingesting and analysing data and so in areas such as this, AI is proving an invaluable tool which in no way threatens human employees, rather it enhances their work.

Automating the ordinary

Similarly, when it comes to customer experience, there are many tasks that AI is perfectly suited to, such as checking an order status. As much as 98% of all customer interactions are simple queries and bots can be immensely valuable for scaling and streamlining engagement. You don’t need to be delighted by the answer; you just want the answer. That’s the value of AI: the ability to learn and automate ordinary tasks.

Challenging the chatbots

While technology is making inroads, it has some significant limitations. For example, with current capabilities, a chatbot is not instinctively able to sense when a customer is frustrated and know how to interact with them in a way that appeases them. It cannot easily detect tone or tension in a conversation as a human customer service representative might, and this could have troubling consequences as frustrations could escalate.

Your customer’s emotions are one of the most powerful factors of a business relationship, and reading these signals is hugely important in tailoring customer experience for an individual. Where you might pay less for a fully-automated interaction, the justification for paying more for the human touchpoint is the real value in emotional intelligence.

In the future, chatbots may be able to work out a customer’s personality type or mood through the tone of voice or speed of typing. For example, IBM Watson’s Tone Analyser product can analyse emotions and tones in what people write online in their tweets or reviews. It can predict whether they are happy, sad, confident or angry and can flag up to teams so they can respond appropriately.

However, sentiment analysis is complicated because human interactions are complex and nuanced. While computers can be taught about the indicators of emotions – things like facial expressions, voice tonality and the use of language – they are only ever able to read a customer’s behaviour in that moment and of course emotions are fleeting, unpredictable and unique to each individual.

So even as technology advances, chatbots aren’t going to take over from human teams. Instead they will be the first touchpoint which then filters customers and ensures they get dealt with by the best team member for their personality and mood. In this way, excellent customer service will utilise the efficiencies of AI with the tact, sensitivity and interpersonal skills of human employees.

Getting the intel

Ultimately success in business is all about relationships, and chatbots won’t be able to build these vital connections anytime soon. However, AI could inform and guide employees as they seek to develop authentic business relationships. With thousands of contacts on a database, there’s no way a marketer or salesperson can remember what stage each relationship is at and build strong relationships with all of them. This is where relationship intelligence technology can step in – it uses AI to provide data points and insights into who your prospects are, which ones are most beneficial to pursue and when is the right time to ‘nudge’ them. It can instantly make available information and data from all over the internet about any potential prospect from just a name and email address.

Relationship intelligence tools can also drill down into social media profiles, providing new information that could enable employees to find common ground and create engaging conversation as they seek to build better business relationships. In this way, AI can help you get to know your customers better and discover insights that would take employees hours to retrieve on their own.

The salesforce of the future will need humans and robots to co-exist. Humans need not feel threatened – being able to read customers and deal with any frustrations is always going to be challenging for robots to replicate.

Instead, employees should embrace all that AI has to offer in terms of insight and being the “first port of call” in the customer experience. Incorporating technology into your business will mean teams can get on with the important work of building authentic relationships that deliver sales.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about the Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) international event series, arriving in Amsterdam from September 19-20 and New York from November 7-8.

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