Can AI improve the customer experience?
AI will always remain artificial – and our aim is to make it so intelligent that it significantly improves the customer experience. But how can we achieve this? The magic word is empathy – which can also come in the form of artificial intelligence.
If artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is to significantly improve the customer experience, it is not enough for it to act like a “dumb” bot. An AI system must be experienced as an adequate conversational partner and not as superhuman – and always speak to the customer in the same voice. That's what we call “One Conversation”.
Psychologically, the relationship with machine intelligence follows a definable pattern: First, humans begin to gain trust in a machine that behaves more and more like a human. For example, the more similar a robot becomes to a human, the more people are willing to trust it. But this only works well if the machine is clearly recognizable as a robot. If we are initially led to believe we are communicating with a human and then realize it is a machine, our trust is broken.
How human should a machine become?
It all has to do with emotions. Specifically, with empathy. In psychology and brain science, there are two main types of empathy: affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Affective empathy is actively empathizing with another person, meaning empathizing with the emotions they are experiencing. Cognitive empathy only means recognizing and understanding the other person's feelings but does not involve being compassionate. And that is the key element: From a human point of view, a machine is “allowed” to have cognitive empathy, while active, affective empathy like compassion, for example, goes too far for a machine.
Of course, there are still differences in the international comparison. The positive attitude toward AI is dramatically higher in China than in Europe, for example, where personal data is handled far more critically.
What does that mean for the One Conversation program? First and foremost, we can say that communication between companies and customers can certainly be conducted with AI support. However, in addition to the opportunities, we must also see the limits. It will certainly improve the customer experience that we will always speak with one voice to the customer and be available 24/7 – after all, AI needs neither closing time nor holidays. But we also must make sure that humans and machines are always clearly identifiable as such. And while this is easy for humans, it involves more challenges when it comes to machines.