Whenever technology improves or starts to take charge of some other aspect of our lives, the immediate assumption from the general public is that it’s another move towards the rise of the machines. Although images of post-apocalyptic destruction caused by human-hating robots might be taking things into the realm of science fiction, there’s any undeniable pessimism whenever a new piece of technology is launched.

For instance, when emails first became the norm there were those who cried out for a return to the good old days of handwritten letters. Similarly, when Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter became mainstream platforms, some in society were hailing them as the executioners of “real communication”. Put simply, despite the obvious benefits of technological innovation, there will always be people who are quick to criticize the way it makes something “less human”.

(CC BY-SA 2.0) by tobiasbischoff

However, we’re now at a turning point where technology is actually able to feel more human than ever before – whether that’s through the process of linking people in a unique way or it’s a piece of software that can interact intelligently. In fact, one area in which this humanization process has become evident in recent years is online customer service.

Whenever something goes wrong, the first thing customers look for is reassurance from a knowledgeable, friendly and sympathetic ear. In decades gone by, that helping hand would have typically been the manager of a company. However, as businesses have grown or moved online, the option of speaking to a real person has often been replaced by an FAQ section or an email. Although effective, these mediums fall into the “less human” trap we talked about before, which is why we’re now seeing companies promote different methods.

Connecting Real People Through Technology

(Public Domain) by cogdogblog

One example of this, interestingly, comes from the online bingo world. Despite previously being a game reserved for the older generation, bingo has recently become a major hit with online gamers thanks to the advent of desktop and mobile platforms. Naturally, as with all industries touched by technology, these platforms have introduced some interesting innovations. One of the latest that ties in with this re-humanization of customer care can currently be found at Sun Bingo.

Bingo chat rooms have become an integral part of the site as Sun Bingo has pushed forward the core social nature of the game. As well as offering players to interact, the chat widget is a place where moderators can keep in direct contact with users. In fact, the team doesn’t just provide a reactive service, they are also proactive in handing out advice, tips and even pointers to the latest promotions. By using chat technology in conjunction with human moderators (the site also contains profile videos for each moderator) players are getting a more personal and effective service.

Get Real Help in Real Time

(CC BY-SA 2.0) by Ben Brown

Beyond chat moderators, video chat technology is also being used by major companies to enhance their customer care. Instead of a live chat box or a generic walkthrough video, website owners can now use video chat technology from companies like agora.io. Using WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) technology, companies can connect technical support staff with users through desktop and mobile applications.

For example, if a customer is stuck at a certain point on a website, they can call up a video chat window and the agent will assess their problem and walk them through the solution.

Back in 2013 Amazon got ahead of the game with this technology by introducing a Mayday button which connected support agents with buyers in real time. Although the system had its problems, similar strategies have since been used by major retailers such as Schuh, which claims video is now its most used form of customer support.

Bots So Intelligent They Feel Real

“(CC BY-SA 2.0) by A Health Blog

The final area of innovation for customer care is chat bots. With artificial intelligence now at a point where computers can think like humans, companies are finding new ways to interact with online customers. Leading the way in this area of development is Facebook and its Messenger platform. By plugging into the messaging app through a Bot Engine tool developed by wit.ai, companies can create a bot that’s capable of “chatting” to any of the Facebook Messenger’s 900 million users.

So far Facebook has said that more than 11,000 bots have been added to Messenger with the best ones able to send videos, links, images and messages to users based on certain inputs. For example, if a user connected with a fashion label’s chat bot, they could ask to see what’s on “sale”. The bot would then be able to call up a selection of sale items and ask the user their thoughts. Depending on the response, the bot would then know to show more of the same or find something completely different.

Although most users will know they’re not talking to a real person, the process does have a human feel to it and that’s the point. When it comes to customer service, users want to feel as though they’re getting help or recommendations based on their own needs. With some forms of modern communication, this personal touch has been lost. However, as our examples have shown, companies are now making a conscious effort to address these issues through a more “humanized” form of technology.

Picture Credits – (CC BY 2.0) by Keoni Cabral
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