AI in customer service: Four reasons it won’t replace humans

It’s finally happening. According to headlines at major news outlets, artificial intelligence (AI) is coming for our jobs, especially those in tech support or customer service. In fact, several well-known publications deem customer service to be one of the top jobs likely to be replaced by AI. But is that actually true?

So far, the data doesn’t agree. Research shows that despite automation, the role of humans in tech support is more important than ever. Below, we go over the reasons why using AI in customer service won’t replace people. 

What is AI?

To put it simply, artificial intelligence uses machines and data to solve problems. To put it less simply, AI refers to computers that analyze data from various inputs to reach conclusions and generate recommendations. 

However, despite the recent headlines around ChatGPT, the concept of AI isn’t new. Alan Turing, a British mathematician who broke the German ‘Enigma’ code, is considered the father of AI. He developed the Turing test, which is used to determine if computers are reasoning in a way similar to humans. His Turing test continues to influence AI development today. 

You also probably already use AI in many aspects of your life. You might use a spellchecker to look for grammatical errors before you send emails. Or maybe you see self-driving vehicles on your commute to work. All of these are examples of artificial intelligence. 

Four reasons AI won’t replace your contact center agents

The rollout of new AI technology has led to automating tasks once done by people. AI can now generate emails upon command. Or you can use chatbots to answer customers’ frequently asked questions. AI advancements have led to speculation that many jobs, particularly in customer service and tech support, will be replaced by robots.

However, that is far from the truth. Below are a few reasons why you still need a human team working in your contact centers. 

AI will help agents but not replace them

While AI can make our lives easier, it still has its limitations. If not used correctly, AI tools can have the potential to create a poor customer service experience

This isn’t to say that your company should never use AI. In fact, AI resources can improve customer service in many ways. Nevertheless, you should use them alongside humans, not as a total replacement for them. 

AI tools such as chatbots and virtual agents are great for handling customers’ frequently asked questions or other simple tasks. For example, a chatbot can confirm if there is an internet outage in a customer’s local area. Or, it can direct customers to the correct portal to pay their bills online.  

While AI tools may not be able to resolve every complex issue, they still have an important role to play in customer service. Implementing AI capabilities, such as chatbots or dedicated support workflows, alongside humans frees up contact center agents’ time to address more complex requests. AI tools can handle customers’ FAQs to allow agents to prioritize those high-need tech support cases. 

More broadly, the significance of these AI programs extends even beyond the realm of routine inquiries. To enhance the customer experience, it's crucial that these AI-driven solutions provide consistent, accurate and up-to-date answers, drawing from a reliable source of knowledge and domain expertise.

By doing so, they not only assist customers and agents in addressing frequently asked questions, but they also play a pivotal role in optimizing customer support operations. The integration of AI capabilities within customer service workflows, in tandem with human agents, liberates the latter to focus on resolving complex issues while AI tools adeptly manage FAQs, thus ensuring that both routine and intricate customer needs are met efficiently.

People prefer to speak to a human

To create a better customer service experience, you need to focus on customers’ wants. And the data shows that customers want to speak to a real person.

According to the 2023 National Customer Rage survey, one of the top frustrations for customers is the inability to speak to a human. And nearly three-fourths of U.S. customers prefer speaking to a contact center agent when it comes to service-related issues. 

Additionally, many customers feel that people better understand their issues and are more effective at resolving their problems. 54% of customers believe that talking to a person creates a better customer service experience. 

This is because contact center agents have one skill AI lacks: empathy. While AI can help your agents with their daily tasks, at the end of the day, it can’t replace the human connection your customers crave.

Human agents are key to customer retention

AI can automate repetitive tasks in customer service departments, but humans still play a critical role in the success of your business. Human contact center agents are vital to your customer retention efforts. 96% of customers say customer service is crucial in their decisions to stay with a brand. Additionally, two-thirds of customers have left a business due to poor-quality customer service. 

How do you keep customers loyal to your business? In short, people. 70% of customers still prefer to speak to a human. Additionally, according to HubSpot, 73% of customers stay loyal to a brand because of friendly customer service agents. This can have a tremendous impact on your business. Research shows that companies that increase retention rates by a mere five percent can boost profits by up to 95%

This means that in the future, a successful contact center will include a mix of AI and people. AI can help contact center agents perform their jobs more effectively, but your people still play a role in providing that human touch your customers crave. 

Learn how Verizon, awarded number one in customer satisfaction by JD Power, uses Ozmo for Agents to save over $1 million per call center annually. 

Contact center agents increase company profitability

Human agents also play a key role in boosting your company's bottom line. Over half of customers seek product recommendations from contact center agents during a customer service interaction. 

When it comes to increasing profitability, you can't underestimate the power of your human contact center agents. As they guide customers through tech support issues, they're uniquely positioned to seize upselling and cross-selling opportunities. It's estimated that upselling current customers is responsible for nearly a third of business revenue

Additionally, 93% of customers who have a positive customer service experience are likely to purchase again from your brand. And given that it costs up to seven times more to acquire new customers than retain existing ones, a trusted, human customer service agent plays a vital role in hitting company revenue goals. 

The future of tech support includes people

AI can certainly streamline contact center work processes by automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks. However, it can’t yet replace the role of people. In other words, while AI may be a helpful tool for onboarding new hires or coaching entry-level employees, relying solely on the technology for all customer support needs may not be a viable option for your business. AI may be able to help train new agents, but it can’t replace humans completely, especially your star talent. The majority of customers still overwhelmingly believe that talking with human agents is the best way to resolve a tech support issue. 

Despite the innovation, your contact center agents are still critical to your customer service strategy and improving the overall customer experience. To create the best customer support experience in the age of AI, make sure to also provide access to real people. 

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Are you looking to quickly improve your contact center’s performance? As a leader in omnichannel tech support, Ozmo is trusted by Verizon, TELUS, Google Fi and more. Learn more about how Ozmo can scale your tech support today!