Why Humanizing Digital Customer Systems is Critical to Creating Loyal Customers

BrandPost By Aaron Goldberg
Feb 25, 2020
IT Leadership

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Credit: iStock

As the primary mode of customer interaction changes from human-to-human contact to interaction between humans and digital systems, there has been a corresponding rise in customer discontent driven by a feeling of dehumanization. It started with customers frustrated by inbound call routing deployments (“Why can’t I just talk to a human being?”) and increased as they were forced to interact more and more with digital systems lacking in any feeling of humanity. The takeaway: Businesses that change the nature of their customer interactions will gain a valuable competitive advantage. Humanizing digital systems may be the most important customer-facing project that businesses will undertake this year.

The most promising approach to humanizing digital systems, almost paradoxically, is not to bring in more humans. The best option is to better utilize artificial intelligence and intelligent systems to deliver a more human-like experience.

“When customer-facing systems are improved with AI and situational intelligence, the result is a more personalized, targeted and humanized experience,” says Scott Prevost, Vice President of Engineering for Adobe Sensei, the company’s AI and machine learning technology. “This may seem counterintuitive. However, dehumanization is actually a problem that is created by unintelligent digital systems.”

AI and intelligent systems can effectively personalize interactions. A big problem with legacy systems is that they know nothing about the customer, and so they can’t really do anything useful until the customer educates them. It’s dehumanizing to have to tell a machine your name or your account number or the nature of your problem. Voice recognition has reduced the number of buttons the customer has to press to do those things, but it hasn’t done much to humanize the interaction.

Getting to know you

But a system that uses AI already knows your past experiences—across all channels—and can start the interaction at a higher and more human-like level. The effect for customers is that they feel as if they are talking to an acquaintance, not a robot. From the customer’s perspective, the personalized system now “knows” them.

Personalization is essential to humanizing systems and making them appear more emotionally connected to the customer. To get there, many brands will have to change how they think about customer-facing systems. They must add a design focus on emotional engagement enabled by personalization and AI, in addition to focusing on functional capabilities of the systems. This new way of thinking about how technologies can enhance humanization brings improvements in interaction that are manifested for customers in four specific ways:

  • They understand me. Humanized customer-facing systems remember what matters and listen to the customer to raise the level of intimacy.
  • They take care of me. When a problem arises, intelligent systems can reach out proactively to lessen the pain or resolve the problem even before the customer notices or interacts with the brand.
  • They let me contribute. Humanized systems work in conjunction with the customer, just as real people do, allowing the customer to modify or impact interactions. They are not dogmatic and robotic.
  • They help me belong. Impersonal digital systems don’t create community, yet that’s something that humans desire. Next-generation customer-facing systems will make customers feel as if they are part of something larger.

Improving the “humanity” of digital systems is a critical corporate initiative for 2020. The starting point for change is to realize that dehumanization isn’t a necessary result of using technology; it’s a result of limited or poorly implemented digital technology.

As Prevost notes, “As new solutions for driving personalization are implemented that are more intelligent and empower data with AI, customer-facing programs and apps will become much more human-like and emotionally engaging. The brands that act first will not only win in the market, but they’ll create emotional connections that lead to stronger brand loyalty.”

For more information on how you can quickly humanize your customer facing apps, please go here for related content from Adobe.