Customer service is a subject close to the hearts of anybody who’s had to call a service provider due to faults, billing enquiries, or anything else for that matter. It is usually our first and sometimes only contact with a large company and, more often than not, it is a largely unpleasant experience.
A cursory look at the social media accounts of some familiar companies that provide essential services from power and broadband to finances and even parcel delivery, shows just how frustrating and unfulfilling a large number of people are finding the current crop of customer service solutions. The criticisms range from a seeming lack of technical knowledge, or basic geographical knowledge in the case of one parcel delivery service; to the use of international call centres, long call-holding times and even rudeness.
However, a far more thorough search through the various comments reveals not one incidence where a customer has complained that their point of contact was far too, well, real.
This doesn’t seem to have deterred 02 from announcing that they are soon to be introducing a customer service system based solely on the AI (Artificial Intelligence) voice recognition system, Aura. Aura is a state-of-the-art voice recognition system that not only recognises single words and commands but has also been developed to deal with customer’s issues regarding their equipment, accounts and complaints.
Aura has been developed by Telefonica, whose CEO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete said: “Cognitive intelligence will allow us to understand our customers better, so they can then relate to us in a more natural and easy way, and generate a new relationship of trust with them based on transparency and the control of their data.”
Whether or not this introduction by O2 is a sign of things to come will depend on how well the system works and, ultimately, how well it is received by customers. However, there’s already speculation that robots and computer systems could replace up to 250,000 public sector workers in the UK alone, over the next 15 years; with Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk going as far as warning that humans will have to merge with machines to avoid becoming irrelevant.