How automated customer service robots are controlling conversations

If you've found yourself frustrated by less-and-less 'human interaction' when you shop, get used to it as more companies are turning to automated artificial intelligence services for their customer service. 

What started with self-checkout at the grocery has given way to automated ordering and delivery at restaurants, and fewer humans to help when you've got a question or complaint about a product. 

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Frontier Airlines was the latest company to make the switch, with a November announcement that it was getting rid of human customer service. 

On its website, there's no phone number to call and just an automated chatbot to, hopefully, solve any problems customers may have. In an investor presentation, the carrier said voice calls are, "inefficient and expensive" and leave an "avenue for customer negotiation." 


Houston digital marketing expert Beth Guide says email, text, and social media have weaned many from the actual conversation.

"We're training people not to pick the phone up," she said. 

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An industry study shows more than 70% of customer interactions are digital and growing. Guide's own business uses an artificial intelligence 'chatbot' to help customers looking for answers. She thinks it's useful and less aggravating than waiting on hold. 

"This gives an immediate answer and an immediate set of information," Guide said. "It can get you to a human who can help you much faster, rather than sitting on hold, waiting for someone to pick up the phone." 

University of Houston marketing expert Paul Galvani says companies have a narrow window to make customers happy. 

"The easier they make it, the more loyalty that company can gain," he said. 


Galvani adds that very few unhappy customers will contact a company, while the rest will just shop elsewhere. Though customer calls can cost a company $5 to $10 a piece, it may be an important investment. 

"Yes it's going to cost you money, but if you have a product that is causing a customer to call, then you better listen," he continued. 


While a Statista survey found two-thirds of customers prefer dealing with human customer service, those chatbots are still going to be used. To better navigate them, simple details and common-language terms are most likely to get an answer from an artificial intelligence service. 

More complicated conversations might leave you waiting for any humans who are still available to take your call.