Buyers before bots: Customers need the human touch

9 May 2023

Image: David Russell

Elio Network’s David Russell discusses his decision not to use chatbots in favour of people in the company’s customer service interactions.

With Geoffrey Hinton, the godfather of AI, resigning from Google to highlight his concerns about artificial intelligence, the spotlight is once again on the rapid rise of this technology, but one issue is being missed amidst the discussions.

For all the talk of the potential threats from AI if it’s not developed wisely and ethically, we are missing an opportunity to talk about the importance of people in any and all tech processes.

Businesses would be wise not to lose sight of the human touch when introducing chatbots and other tools to their organisations. The rush to embrace chatbots following an explosion in interest in AI technologies such as ChatGPT is leading to many understandably excited business leaders neglecting the benefits that come from human interaction.

At Elio Networks, we have made the decision not to use chatbots in our customer service operations, ensuring all customers interact with a person whenever they have a query.

It’s important not to get so preoccupied with what you could do that you lose focus on what you should do. When a customer has a question that is nuanced, no matter how advanced a chatbot is, it can’t answer with the same quality or authenticity as a person.

At this stage, AI can’t deliver that. We have to make sure customers are fully informed and feel that somebody is taking responsibility. Where Elio Networks are rolling out AI is in our internal processes, to remove bottlenecks and bureaucracy, so that when we have that first conversation with the customer, we have all the data to be able to serve the customer efficiently.

The recent decision by the Government to task the National Cyber Security Centre with providing guidelines to protect the public due to malicious actors using chatbots shows the growing concern among policy-makers about the rise of unchecked AI technologies.

Ossian Smyth, TD, the Minister of State responsible for cybersecurity, recognises the huge potential for scammers due to increased sophistication of these tools and wants guidance for the general public to minimise the risks. This means that now, more than ever, customers need to be able to trust that who they are talking to is a real person.

The chatbot is a tool to aid the support agent meet the customer’s needs. Garry Kasparov, the great chess champion, always said that while a computer will beat a human at chess, a human working with a computer will always beat a computer on its own.

Our decision at Elio Networks is about recognising the importance of human interaction in the customer service process. Our support team are highly trained engineers. When you call, you will speak to the person that will provision your circuit and work with you.

If maximising the customer experience is at the heart of your business plan, that should start with the first person, not bot, your customers meet.

By David Russell

David Russell is CEO of Elio Networks, a company that provides resilient and rapid connectivity solutions for businesses. He is dedicated to helping businesses leverage connectivity to achieve their goals and drive growth.

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