GlobalData Plc

Robots should complement humans in customer service

Robots are being used across multiple sectors to provide customer service. While they bring numerous benefits in terms of costs, accuracy, and efficiency, they should enhance rather than replace human interaction in order to succeed.

MasterCard has launched a commerce app for SoftBank’s humanoid robot POS terminal Pepper. The app is powered by MasterPass and will be piloted across Pizza Hut Restaurants Asia by the end of 2016. This is the first commercial use of a humanoid robot that connects merchants with consumers for taking orders and accepting payments. It provides personalized ordering, reduced waiting times for carryout, and assistance in paying. Pepper is intentionally designed to convey emotion, speaks 19 languages, and can provide recommendations based on past purchases, making it a superior alternative to current interactive POS terminals.

Interactive robots are currently used across multiple sectors to handle customer service enquiries. They can turn data into customer insights and enhance service provision, bringing the digital experience closer to human interaction for consumers. Hitachi launched humanoid robot EMIEW3, which can identify and help customers who need assistance. Meanwhile Lowe’s Orchard Supply Hardware launched robot OSHbot at a San Jose-area store to assist customers in finding items. Its multilingual customer service capabilities are enhanced by its touchscreen menu, which can scan the item and then lead the customer to the place that stores it.

With the rapid development in speech recognition technology, robots can identify similar products if the desired ones are out of stock and help drive sales opportunities. Data-based management decisions could benefit from robots sending reports on customer enquiries.

Companies will need to collaborate closer with innovation startups to identify and develop concepts that can process and predict customer requirements to enable more effective customer-facing solutions. It would be desirable for next-generation robots to get a better understanding of customers’ decision about why they bought specific items and how they felt about the transactions in order to fully optimize the customer experience.

Robots are programmed to deliver precise, efficient customer service and are less expensive than human labor costs. However, robots are still not as good as humans in creating a customer relationship and delivering real-world service outside controlled environments. While AI can definitely improve the customer experience it will not replace human interaction entirely. Many consumers will still want to speak with a human for more complex queries, or will prefer to build a relationship with an actual person, rather than a robot.

By Nicolae Bacila, Consumer Payments Analyst

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