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Joseph's Blog

The Future of Customer Service: Human Intelligence (HI) or Artificial Intelligence (AI)

I have been slow to accept that, from a service perspective, humans will ever be replaced by computers.  I’ve suggested that customers will resist “robots” and I’ve based my thinking in part on the “uncanny valley” hypothesis which postulates that the more robots look like humans the less humans will feel comfortable with them.

I am starting to rethink my assumptions and my conclusion.  While humans may not be fully replaceable, I do believe artificial intelligence and robots will displace a lot of service providers.  Here are a couple harbingers of the future…

Cafex

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 6.19.56 PM

Café X is now open in Hong Kong and San Francisco.  It’s a robotic coffee shop where you can place your order on your phone or on an in-store tablet.  You can select your drink of choice and even your desired
locally roasted coffee beans.  Twenty-five to fifty-five seconds later you have your “robot-crafted” beverage in your hand, thanks to a code sent to your phone which allows you to collect your drink. (To see CafeX in
action click here)

Staying in the coffee category and bridging between humans and bots, this week Starbucks announced it is launching voice ordering capabilities within the Starbucks mobile iOS app from the Amazon Alexa platform

According to the press release “Select customers can now order coffee ‘on command’ using My Starbucks® barista as part of an initial feature rollout integrated seamlessly into the Starbucks mobile app for iOS. At the same time, the company is launching a Starbucks Reorder Skill on the popular Amazon Alexa platform. Both features allow customers to order from Starbucks simply by using their voice….Previously announced at Starbucks Investor Day, My Starbucks® barista, is powered by groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Starbucks® Mobile App. The integration of the feature within the mobile app allows customers to order and pay for their food and beverage items simply by using their voice. The messaging interface allows customers to speak or text just as if they were talking to a barista in-store, including modifying their beverage to meet their personal preference.”   To see the “My Starbucks®” barista in action click here)

Ok, so what can you do to maintain humanity in an increasingly robotic, automated, and artificially intelligent world?

In a word – CARE!

While many service functions can be automated to increase speed, efficiency, and consistency – I will stand firm that there will always be a need for people who add uniquely human value through compassionate listening and authentic caring.

I will use one last example from the world of coffee to demonstrate my point.  It involved a drive-thru interaction between a team of Dutch Bros baristas and a customer who was having a difficult day shortly after the loss of her husband.  That Vancouver-based team listened, focused their attention on the woman, and comforted her in ways I doubt robots will ever be able to fully emulate. One moment from that interaction was captured on a mobile phone by another customer and the picture went viral.  News stories about the compassionate service followed. (To see more on human service intelligence in action click here).

How are you maintaining the relevance of your human service? Will Artificial Intelligence prevail over Human (emotional) intelligence?

I may have to yield ground to robots but I won’t concede that which is uniquely human!

 

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