The Ethical Implications of AI in Customer Service

Without a doubt, the past few years have been massive for the artificial intelligence industry, which has advanced in leaps and bounds. With the click of a button, tasks that previously required hours or even days of work can be completed instantly. Hordes of information can be digested and translated within a matter of seconds. It's even possible to have in-depth, human-like conversations with a bot. It's undeniable that AI's abilities are revolutionary and will only continue to improve.

You have probably interacted with AI yourself, even if you weren't aware of it at the time. Many companies have chosen to integrate AI into their business models, including customer-facing operations. These new changes can absolutely improve a customer service strategy, but it's crucial to approach AI with care. AI is still very much an evolving technology, and so are the regulations that surround it. As businesses begin to navigate this new chapter in history, it's crucial to consider ethics when using AI.

Customer service can make or break businesses. Even if your company offers a wonderful product or service, if customer experience is consistently poor, you will likely lose business. After all, social media and review apps have made word-of-mouth marketing more popular than ever. It's normal for customers to share their experiences on review pages and social media, and people take these testimonials seriously.

One of the biggest trademarks of excellent customer service is efficiency. When consumers contact companies' support or call centers, they typically have pressing questions or concerns. It can be very frustrating when their queries are not understood or take a long time to resolve. This is where AI comes in.

Modern AI is efficient to a degree that humans cannot replicate. Even the most experienced human call center agents need time to consult files or resources to resolve more complex queries. Meanwhile, AI can scan an enormous amount of information almost instantaneously. AI can also recognize and understand spoken words, making it easier to communicate verbally, create customer files, take notes on small details, and even remove language barriers. Some companies are so impressed with the efficiency and productive nature of AI that they use it to replace their existing customer service teams or services.

How to Know How Far to Go

While fully using AI is a tempting idea, there are many practical and ethical implications to consider before jumping in. In terms of business, implementing a fully automated customer service strategy can actually be detrimental. Without humans on the team (or fewer), major issues can arise. After all, AI functions through machine learning, which means that it gets its information by analyzing pre-existing patterns on the internet, and its results are not always 100 percent accurate. AI, while efficient and comprehensive, still gets things wrong. If it's left to work without human mediation, it can easily provide customers with potentially dangerous misinformation.

Furthermore, while AI can comprehend human conversation and voices, it is not sentient and cannot experience real emotions or empathy. This can make it difficult for customers to communicate the nuances of their queries or issues. It can also lead to jarring or upsetting interactions for the customer, where a sensitive issue is not handled with the natural care or understanding that a human would employ.

The concept of replacing customer service teams with AI also poses ethical questions about our society. While ideally, AI can be used to make humans' lives and jobs easier, we certainly don't want the technology to replace us. This path could have devastating economic and psychological repercussions for individuals as well as overall society. In fact, many people believe that, without proper regulatory measures, humanity could be threatened with a concept called technological singularity, where AI's intelligence surpasses that of humans beyond our control. Though this concept is frightening, it is only a hypothetical idea, and, by approaching AI use with balance and care, hopefully, one that will never come true.

Forging A Balanced Future

So, what's the key to a harmonious and ethical future with AI? Striking a deliberate balance between human staff and automation. Many businesses have already begun finding their balance with AI in call centers. Rather than removing humans from the equation, companies use AI as a tool to assist and even work with their customer support teams. This approach allows experienced support agents to provide even more specialized customer care.

As a balanced tool, AI makes your call center agents' lives much easier and improves your overall customer service strategies. With tools like hyperfocus data analysis, agents can receive helpful information to provide better customer experiences on an individual level in real time. Teams can consult AI over decisions. Perhaps best of all, AI's ability to quickly search and digest information can help agents arrive at resolutions or make the appropriate escalations much faster than before. By saving this time and energy, call center agents can devote their attention to actual customer interactions. This allows for customer service experiences that have the efficiency of AI without risks of inaccurate information or miscommunication. It's better for your customers, your staff, and society as a whole.

The future of AI can be very bright, but its path will be written by humans. This is why considering the ethical implications of AI is crucial when implementing it into your customer service strategy. By approaching AI with care, your businesses can have a positive impact on what's to come.

Smitha Baliga is CEO and chief financial officer of TeleDirect.