August 08, 2018

Businesses Look to AI to Be More 'Human'

It sounds counterintuitive, but there’s a conversation taking place today about how businesses can use artificial intelligence to bring more human emotion and connection to customer service.

Here’s the idea.

In the past, people had to actually go to a store to buy a book, some jeans, or a potato. That put them face-to-face with actual humans. Sometimes these human lifeforms even forged personal relationships.

But today, consumers frequently buy products and access other customer service through various online channels. That removes the human element – either completely (in the case of basic chatbots or other self-service mediums) or partially (because live agents are on script and remote).

In mentioning this, authors and pundits often harken back to the pioneer days when folks shopped at the General Store and had relationships with their friendly proprietors. That makes the conversation more dramatic, to be sure. But we really don’t need to trace humanity’s steps quite that far back.

As recently as 60-some years ago my mother-in-law worked in the layette department at Marshall Field’s. While expectant mothers sat in a nicely decorated room, my mother-in-law catered to them with personalized offerings for purchase.

This kind of thing is still going on in some circles today. For example, you can get a personal shopper at Nordstrom and other high-end department stores (and via online services). And kindly folk at my local bookstore (yes, local bookstores still exist) are happy to offer suggestions and assistance.

But enough about all that. This story is about how businesses can imbue chatbots with human characteristics to create stronger ties with their customers in much the same way personalized human service does.

Here’s how they can do that.

First, businesses need to think about what they stand for and what kind of experiences they want to provide their customers.

Are they all about fun and sun? If so, perhaps they could create chatbot with the persona of a surfer dude.

Do they sell macaroni and cheese, laundry detergent, or other packaged products targeted at Middle America? In that case, a chatbot with a name and manner of speaking of a mom or dad might work.

Selling fancy watches or travel gear? You might want your chatbot to have the persona of a jeweler or a knowledgeable tour guide.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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