“Actually I have. Since the pandemic customer service doesn't seem to be as good.”
“Exactly,” he replied.
I think customer service may get worse. One reason is that we are in the early stages of an AI revolution. Sure AI has impacted many areas in past years. I recall a 2019 convention of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology where it seemed that most of the exhibits were about AI products for human resources. In conference sessions presenters debated the pros and cons of AI. Some argued that AI was screening out job applicants who in previous times would have been hired and made good employees.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article headlined, “AI Comes to the Office. It’s Bossy, Efficient, & Dehumanizing,” Lisa Bannon wrote, “A new generation of artificial intelligence is rolling out across American workplaces and it is prompting a power struggle between humans and machines.” More jobs will be automated. More employees will be impacted by AI used for efficiencies. The pendulum that swings between a people-orientation in the workplace and one that is technology-oriented is swinging strongly away from people.
Customer value is often seen as a perceived tradeoff between the benefits and the sacrifices associated with a product or service. Many businesses fall short in understanding the benefits and sacrifices perceived by the customer. Unless you know your customers, talk with your customers, listen to your customers, you may not know. Just because you sell a product or service does not necessarily mean you really know it from a customer perspective.
I would argue that missing in this understanding of customer value for most businesses is one factor suggested in my favorite book on customer value, Know Your Customer by Robert Woodruff and Sarah Gardial. A better equation:
Customer Value = Benefits – Sacrifices x Relationships
Think about the people, the businesses with which you engage. It is the employees that make or break a business, all things being equal. As a customer I want personable, knowledgeable interactions. I have yet to have a chatbot who gets me, understands my question. Why do we often seek to do business with people we have done business with before? Business is about relationships. I have seen no evidence thus far that AI will build relationships.
- Understand the value of relationships in customer value.
- Get to know your customers.
- Deploy AI in the workplace carefully and with consideration for the people who are the backbone of your company.
Bannon, L. (2023, Feb 18-19). “AI comes to the office. It’s bossy, efficient, & dehumanizing. The Wall Street Journal.
Woodruff, R., and Gardial, S. (1996). Know your customer. Wiley.
Image, “Customer Service,” obtained from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/customer-service-care-call-support-4482159/
© John Ballard, PhD, 2023. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Now also available as an audiobook and paperback.