AI vs. the Human Touch: Why Not the Best of Both?
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AI vs. the Human Touch: Why Not the Best of Both?

AI vs. the Human Touch: Why Not the Best of Both?

Helpful information and speedy service will endear a franchise brand to customers, but is it human or artificial intelligence behind those positive customer experiences? It could be both, if franchises and owner-operators can blend the human touch with AI to deliver customer experience excellence.

“Growth-driven enterprises are perpetually striving to find the sweet spot between automating the CX function to drive efficiencies, and ensuring that the interactions across mediums and ensuing experiences remain personalized,” said Neha Dutta, vice president of customer experience transformation at EXL, a global analytics and digital solutions company. “The uphill task here is to synthesize the two so organizations feel empowered to realize personalization at scale.”

However, as nimble as AI can be in gathering customer data and answering questions when customer-service call centers are closed, artificial intelligence can’t provide a warm smile.

“Human interactions are always going to remain important,” said customer service expert Dan Gingiss in an interview with Repertoire Magazine. “How does AI help supplement that and help the humans in the organization be better?”

Rise of the chatbots

There are some jobs that humans may not want and others that AI can do better. Here are a few advantages of using AI to enhance your customers’ experience.

24/7 service. Often AI-powered chatbots can answer frequently asked questions, even in the wee hours, on holidays, and on weekends. They also can be updated to include the latest information across all platforms.

Accurate orders. Ordering the right amounts of supplies and ingredients can make a franchisee more profitable by reducing inventory and ensuring that customers get what they came in for. AI can analyze earlier orders and predict amounts that will be needed in the future based on customers’ orders, season of the year, even the day’s weather reports.

Easier ordering. Artificial intelligence can make ordering in person, online, or in apps smoother, making customer service as seamless as possible.

Up close and personal. Artificial intelligence can crunch customer data to help businesses give customers personalized experiences. For example, fast-food franchise apps can suggest menu items to customers based on their previous orders.

Analyzing feedback. AI also shines in monitoring customer reviews and social media posts, giving franchise owner-operators an alert when their business is mentioned. Whether it’s a problem to be solved or a positive comment that deserves sincere thanks, AI can save managers and marketers hours of internet sleuthing.

Personal service profits

Using artificial intelligence to know customers better may seem like a contradiction, but the data that AI analyzes can make it possible to provide personalized service to a multitude of customers. Since 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions and 76% become frustrated when that doesn’t occur (according to McKinsey’s Next in Personalization research), franchises should work to provide personal service.

Dutta notes that faster-growing companies get 40% more of their revenue from personalization than their less-personalized counterparts do. And Gartner reports that 86% of B2B customers expect vendors to be well-informed about their personal information and preferences.

The disadvantages of AI

AI’s advent hasn’t been error-free as businesses begin to use it as an everyday tool. CIO magazine reported in April (10 Famous AI Disasters) that chatbot misinformation already has resulted in lawsuits,  as well as other problems. Other AI uses have failed when companies have been less than transparent when using computer-written content.

Some customers tend to be more comfortable with AI, while others want to converse with a real person. Being faced with an AI-powered chatbot is the last thing some customers want to see when they’re frustrated with a problem or have a question.

The best of both worlds

The many channels through which a customer can interact with a franchise system makes AI adoption imperative, especially as competitors begin to use it to improve their customer service. However, CX experts say companies should continue to offer customers the human touch of empathy, helpfulness, and friendliness, while using AI’s speed and convenience to reach a new level of excellence in consumer experience.

Personal service and speed are not mutually exclusive, so franchisees should make the most of both. Customers who place orders on a brand’s app should then be greeted with a smile and thanked by employees at the counter. Customer experience training for employees will go a long way toward making each customer’s interaction with a franchise special.

By using AI for efficiency and boosting the human skills of courtesy and empathy, franchise businesses can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Annie Oeth, a freelance writer and editor with degrees in journalism and project management, covers business and franchising topics including public relations, marketing, technology, and organization. An experienced feature writer and PR specialist, she tells the stories of franchisees and franchising. Share story ideas with her at annieoeth@gmail.com.

Published: May 20th, 2024

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