AI and the Human Element

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making headlines as the hottest technology on the market for

businesses. Many organizations are seeking ways to incorporate it into their operations.

However, one area that shouldn’t go full-throttle with AI is customer service. Why? People like

to interact with other people, so businesses need to create a blended model of AI and the

human element.


We used to have a milkman in England who delivered milk to our doorstep every day. Once a

week, he would call on us for his payment, and Lorraine, my wife, would engage in conversation

with him, laughing and getting to know one another. Every so often I suggested we should buy

milk from the shop since the prices were much lower. Lorraine would have none of it. She liked

the milkman and loved the personal service he provided. Therefore, we continued our

subscription with the delivery service and were loyal to the dairy. Moreover, we didn’t want to

cost the milkman his job.


Eventually our milkman left, and a new milkman took over his route. But our experience proved

to be very different. This milkman implemented a new, more efficient process for delivering

milk. Unlike his predecessor, he didn’t come around to talk and joke with Lorraine, so a

personal relationship was not developed and we did not feel the same loyalty. Eventually, since

there was no longer a human touch, we canceled the service and went to the shop like

everyone else.


People value human interactions and this is the danger of AI. Chances are you don’t have a

milkman, but maybe you like your FedEx driver or your favorite checkout person at the

supermarket. You enjoy your interactions with these people, and it is a pleasant part of your

experience with the brand. AI cannot duplicate those human connections.


Rob Siefker, Senior Director of Zappos Customer Loyalty Team, agrees that AI cannot produce genuine personal relationships like humans can.


“There’s no way to replicate the warmth and authenticity that a live customer service

representative can offer. Not to mention that no two calls are the same, so there is a lot of gray

area that AI systems simply can’t navigate,” he said in an article recently published on


AI doesn’t replace a human; it replaces a process. Specifically, AI works best with things you can

codify, like repetitive tasks, systems or calculations. It makes automatic procedures effortless,

which is beneficial for everyone involved. But AI does not have the data about emotions to

detect how the customer feels during the interaction. For now, most of our data is limited to

rational parts of an experience, and does not include the highly influential, but trickier-to- track

irrational parts. Until we remedy this gap, AI will have limited understanding of how a customer



That is why a calculated approach to deploying AI in customer service is needed. Implementing

AI without keeping the importance of human relationships in mind raises the risk of losing

connections with customers. What’s worse, poor AI deployment in customer service could be

detrimental to customer retention. So instead of replacing customer service with a fully

automated system, a better approach is to let AI do what it does best (like automating

repetitive tasks) and let humans continue interacting with customers in an empathetic and

effective way.


If businesses are clever with their AI implementation, they will save time on operational process

and human customer service agents can put all their focus on building genuine relationships

and trust with the customer. The implications of AI in business remain an exciting notion for

many areas of operations. However, exclusive AI implementation is not realistic or smart when

it comes to customer service. For this reason, we’ll see businesses take a careful approach to

how they use AI moving forward as it becomes a more common practice in general.


To learn more about how to improve the customer experience for your business anywhere/