As much as consumers love technology, 70% of them still prefer human interaction during a customer service experience. But when many can’t tell the difference between a genuine human interaction and AI, where do companies draw the line?
According to the most recent Speedpay® Pulse, a quarterly consumer billing and payments trends and behaviors survey, the majority of consumers (56.6%) feel that AI-powered solutions will never be able to completely replace humans in managing customer service interactions—at least not within the next 5 to 10 years—because they don’t believe such technology can accurately replicate human empathy, they believe the technology creates a more frustrating experience for customers, and they think the technology lacks the ability to solve complex problems.
It’s a challenge, then, for companies to both invest in AI technology and automated services while simultaneously giving consumers the personalized service that they desire.
Jim Bandy is the director of sales at Speedpay, an ACI Worldwide company that provides payment strategies and solutions for businesses across a variety of industries, helping them address new payment trends and plan for customer payment success. He says that companies can select the right AI-powered solutions to aid in customer experiences without sacrificing the human touch. The balance between the two may seem difficult to find, he said, but really what consumers want is flexibility.
“They want the flexibility to choose an automated option or to interact with a mortgage professional. We believe the key for companies is to strategically utilize automated options when the task makes sense, and then choose a specific tool that is user friendly while maintaining customer choice,” he said.
For example, Speedpay received feedback from a company that found its call center costs had increased due to customers wanting to make a one-time payment but couldn’t remember their credentials for the company’s website or app. Even though the company offered plenty of automated reset options, the multi-step process was considered to be too time consuming for their customers. Rather than accessing an email with a link, creating a new password, navigating to the desired page, and then finally making a payment, those customers instead sought customer service powered by humans at the company’s call center, all at the company’s expense.
In that instance, Bandy said, they found that one of the best solutions is a patented mobile wallet solution that is easily integrated with mobile devices’ native applications, allowing customers the option to complete their payment in a few quick taps. If the customer still needs additional assistance, the solution also allows them to reach the call center directly with the press of one button, without any additional downloads.
“Our experience shows that customers are keen to adopt meaningful automation solutions that are easy to use, solve problems quickly and efficiently, and provide them a choice to connect with a human. Once companies find that solution, they should educate their employees and customers on the new option and its benefits. From loan origination to servicing, statements and emails, as well as website messaging and banners, it’s imperative to highlight the options that make customers’ lives easier.”
When it comes to determining the best use of AI in systems, Bandy advises mortgage professionals to consider all of their workstreams, because AI integrations can be used on both the front end of the transaction as well as the back end in order to save time and become more efficient.
“Depending on the organization both front- and back-end experiences can be step-intensive, all or parts of which don’t necessarily require human intelligence to expedite,” Bandy said.
Customer adoption was, and still is, significant and really helps to decrease expensive customer service calls for simple tasks, and realizing the best places for AI integration is a big driver for adoption from employees within a company as well.
It’s obvious that executives, employees, and the general public are intrigued by AI and that each group has a different perspective on the technology. First, from a company’s perspective, executives surveyed were more likely to be open to adopting AI. Employees surveyed were cautiously open, albeit concerned that AI might replace them. The other side of that, though, is that both executives and employees are also busy consumers. Typically, general consumers—comprised of executives, employees, and other subgroups—are open to adopting AI that provides an easy intuitive flow while, again, maintaining choice.
Consider the simple pre-populated messages available on email platforms or text messages, Bandy says. They are widely used to some degree, whether people choose to only use the prepopulated message or use it as a base while making slight variations to customize the reply. General consumers have proven their willingness to adopt more complex AI, such as avatars assisting with simple customer service options.
“The AI we encounter in our personal lives is very likely to affect our willingness to adopt and adapt professionally,” Bandy said.
Familiarity is important, and familiarity with AI is only going to increase in the months and years to come, paving the way for even more adoption.