When Russian-born Vladimir Veselov and Ukranian Eugene Demchenko’s “supercomputer” duped computer users into thinking that it was a 13-year-old boy in June 2012, it became the first-ever computer to pass the Turing test.
The test was devised in 1950 by computer science pioneer Alan Turing, who said that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human, then it was “thinking”.
Veselov’s machine was one of five tested by the Royal Society in central London to see if they could fool people into thinking that they were human during a period of five-minute keyboard conversations.
About 33% of the judges were fooled.
No computer had ever previously passed the Turing test.
While this may seem far removed from the everyday world, the implications are significant, especially in the field of customer service.
We have become so accustomed to interacting with machines to complete many of our daily tasks, withdrawing money at the bank, paying bills, buying things online, paying fines, following the interactive voice responses of call centres, visiting live chat services for help online, and frequenting the self-service check-in at airports, to name a few.
These interactions come with some benefits, most notably speed and convenience.
However, from a customer experience perspective, they often lack the human touch or the ability to solve a customer query should it be slightly out of the ordinary.
But, with significant improvements in artificial intelligence (AI), it is possible this distinction may soon disappear, ushering in an era of (somewhat) human, yet extremely efficient customer service.
It is some way off before most small businesses start utilising AI services to look after customers, but it is worth considering a few customer service tips for making use of current technology.
Respond quickly to all email requests, complaints or enquiries as soon as possible. Customers expect a polite and detailed response without having to wait.
Customers will use social media channels to communicate with you and your business.
Make sure you are prepared to respond to their request in good time. Social media has set expectations of immediate feedback and should you leave a customer waiting for a response, it can lead to significant negative reputational loss online.
Many customers like to choose the channel with which they want to communicate with you, be it telephone, email or live chat.
If you provide live chat, make sure that someone with excellent communication skills and product knowledge is able to effectively answer all customers’ questions.
There are few things more frustrating than waiting in an endless telephone queue or being pushed from option to option on interactive voice responses on a telephone.
No matter how many times the voice tells you your call is important, the experience for the customer is poor.
Make the process of getting through to the right person as smooth and painless as possible.
The important thing to remember is regardless of the technology, humans want to be dealt with as individuals and given a professional and memorable experience of doing business with your company.
- Paul Hobden is head of small business at MWEB. Go to www.mweb.co.za for more information.