It is now a full one month since the playing, winning, and losing of Super Bowl LIII, and one thing is still haunting me about that game. No, it is not the utter lack of scoring. And it is not that the Rams seemed to have left their energy back in LA. And it’s not the Patriots winning their sixth Super Bowl title either. There was something else that was notable about last month’s NFL broadcast – the constant barrage of creepy robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that took center stage in the many commercials that aired during the game.

More than half a dozen of the commercials featured robots interacting in some shape or form with humans. From TurboTax’s “RoboChild” and Michelob’s robot humanoid to Pringle’s virtual assistant device, robots were outpacing and outperforming humans in a variety of tasks. But, in spite of all of their AI and automation superpowers, each of these robots was missing one crucial thing – empathy.

Empathy is defined as the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. Essentially, having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their feelings, emotions, and thoughts in a particular moment in time and across an entire relationship. That’s pretty difficult to possess if you are robot; and most people agree with this sentiment. TurboTax‘s ad even went as far as having a human explain to a robot that it will never be emotionally intelligent enough for the job of a live CPA agent.

However, with so many enterprises implementing AI technologies within their marketing, sales, and customer service functions, this idea of the emotionless robot brings up some major questions around how empathy can actually be built into AI and robotic processes. The short answer is that while empathy will always be a uniquely human quality, enterprises have the opportunity to use tools like AI-chatbots and intelligent virtual assistants in ways that enhance their employees’ levels of empathy for their customers. By using AI indicators that can sense language and sentiment in real-time, human relationships can be enhanced across the entire customer journey.

Take the frustration out of chatbots with more empathetic actions

Like this year’s Super Bowl robot ads, customers have shared similar skepticisms around using AI-powered chatbots. According to a recent Forrester report, Consumers Don’t Believe the Chatbot Hype,“54% of U.S. online consumers believe that interacting with a chatbot will have a negative impact on their quality of life.” This statistic isn’t surprising when thinking about a chatbot that responds to a frustrated customer in a non-empathetic way, such as, “I don’t understand your response” or “Please try again later.”

So, how can enterprises ensure that chatbots are reacting in ways where customers feel that they are being understood and heard in every interaction? It comes down to using conversational AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities to better understand a customer’s current emotional state and motivations. With NLP that can analyze text and customer sentiment, enterprises can use chatbots in ways where the chatbot suggests actions that are relevant, suitable, and timely. Reps and agents can take more empathetic approaches when they have a better understanding of context. For example, a chatbot could recognize the sentiment of an interaction (whether it was positive, negative, or neutral) and notify a rep or agent that it is important to reach out in that moment of time. With the help of AI and NLP, reps and agents are able to respond faster and provide accuracy in their follow-up actions. This can enhance empathy between both customers and reps and agents alike.

Helpful, not creepy

It can feel creepy and intrusive to think that robots could one day have the capability of human intelligence. The truth is that this type of robot world domination will likely never happen – or at minimum, is some time away. Instead, robots should be used in ways that better reinforce and support the social bonds that already exist between people. In a recent report around customer service and sales predictions for 2019, Forrester advises, “Don’t replace your human service and sales team – augment them.” As we move forward in a digital world that is permeated with AI and virtual intelligence, we can use these technologies to understand patterns that allow human workforces to be more successful and connect on a deeper level with their customers.

Empathy is key to deepening your customer relationships

In a one-to-one customer engagement, empathy can make the difference between a poor interaction and an exceptional one. While true empathy is cultivated only over a lifetime, we can utilize the groundbreaking advances of AI and robotics to deepen customer relationships by using predictive models that allow for better customer engagement across the entire customer journey.

Are the days of creepy robot and AI ads going away anytime soon? Probably not. And the robots featured in this year’s Super Bowl ads will never be viewed as empathetic. But today, robotics and AI do have the potential to make the human workforce more connected and empathetic in their everyday interactions – if used in the right capacity.

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