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AI vs Human in Customer Service: 50% Support Professionals Support AI-Human Collaboration

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AI vs Human in Customer Service: 50% Support Professionals Support AI-Human Collaboration

Jan 09, 2024
8 min read

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The debate between AI and human touch in customer service isn’t a new one. It’s been a hot topic for a while now, especially as technology keeps getting better and smarter. 

On one side, you have AI, which is great at handling things quickly and efficiently. It can answer questions 24/7, sort out simple queries, and help handle multiple customers simultaneously. This is super helpful for businesses because it saves time and money.

On the other side, there’s the human touch. This is all about the personal connection that support professionals can establish with customers, something AI can’t really do. Humans understand emotions, can think creatively, and offer more personalized service. 

So, here’s the big question: Is the human touch in customer support still valued? Or is AI taking over?

We surveyed 500+ customer service professionals in the U.S. to understand the impact of AI on their everyday jobs – how it’s changing the way they work, and their views on where the future is headed.

Let’s look at some key findings from our exclusive research report.

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Key Takeaways:

Here are some of the key takeaways from our report: 

  • Growing Investment in AI: About 43% of organizations are investing in AI for customer support, recognizing its efficiency in handling multiple tasks and offering 24/7 service, although 57% of professionals are unaware of these investments.
  • Preference for Human-First Strategy: 59% of support professionals believe in a human-led support strategy, valuing the empathy and personalized service humans provide, especially for complex issues.
  • Benefits of AI Tools Acknowledged: 60% of customer support experts see the advantages of AI, such as automating routine tasks, predictive capabilities, and providing auto-recommendations.
  • AI’s Accuracy is Valued: 44% of customer support professionals appreciate AI for its precise information processing and consistency, especially in data-driven responses.
  • Customers Favor Human Interaction: 52% of professionals observed that customers often prefer human support agents for their empathy and understanding, though 42% appreciate a combination of AI and human support.
  • Ethical Concerns and Transparency: 58% advocate for full transparency about AI use, and 40% raise ethical concerns about AI’s decision-making, emphasizing the need for human oversight and ethical data handling.

AI vs Human in Customer Service: Major Findings From Our Report

Here are some of the key insights that we collected from our comprehensive survey

1. 43% of Organizations are Investing in AI for Customer Support

Nearly half of the support professionals we surveyed suggest their companies are either evaluating or already investing in AI to improve customer service

ai vs human chart

We see some good reasons for this trend. 

See, AI can handle a lot of tasks much faster than humans. For example, AI can quickly sort through customer questions and direct them to the right agent, or even answer simple questions on its own. 

AI is also great for handling a large volume of interactions at the same time, something if done manually would require a lot more human resources. Plus, AI can work 24/7 which means that customers can get help even outside of regular business hours.

However, our survey also revealed that – around 57% of professionals – aren’t aware of their company’s AI investments. 

The gap highlights the importance of clear communication and transparency when implementing AI-based tools in organizations. Companies should involve their teams in these discussions, valuing their opinions on AI-powered tools and understanding how these might affect customer service roles.

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2. 59% of Support Professionals Emphasize on a Human-First Strategy

We found that more than half of the support professionals we surveyed believe that a human-led support strategy works better. There can be several reasons for this. 

Firstly, even though AI can handle a lot of tasks quickly, it can’t fully understand human emotions or provide empathetic responses that a human can. In situations where customers are frustrated or need a more personalized approach, human interaction is key.

Secondly, complex customer issues often require a level of problem-solving and creative thinking that AI currently can’t match. Humans can understand nuances and offer tailored solutions, something AI is still far from achieving.

So, while AI is a powerful tool for handling routine tasks and boosting efficiency, a human-first approach is crucial for dealing with more complex, sensitive, or emotional customer service issues. 

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3. 60% of Customer Support Experts Benefit from AI-Based Tools

The adoption of AI in customer service is growing, and customer support professionals are also seeing its benefits first-hand.

  • 26% of support professionals appreciate AI for simplifying daily work: AI tools can automate routine tasks such as sorting queries, answering common questions, or scheduling. This allows support professionals to focus on more complex issues. For example, a chatbot can answer frequently asked questions, reducing the number of basic inquiries that need human attention.
  • 22% of support agents value AI’s predictive capabilities: AI can analyze data and predict customer needs or issues before they escalate. For instance, AI might predict when a customer is likely to need support based on their usage patterns and prompt proactive outreach.
  • 12% see the benefit in AI’s auto-recommendation aspect: AI can suggest solutions and help articles to customers based on the type of their query. 

AI vs Human in Customer Service: Get More Detailed Insights

4. 44% of Customer Support Professionals Vouch for AI’s Accuracy

In our survey, we discovered that 44% of customer support professionals endorse AI for its accuracy in customer service. 

This preference stems from AI’s precise information processing, its ability to analyze customer data for tailored solutions, and some more compelling reasons: 

  • Precise Information Handling: AI systems are programmed to process and provide information with high accuracy, minimizing the chances of human error.
  • Consistency in Responses: AI maintains consistent responses for straightforward queries, ensuring uniformity in customer service.
  • Data-Driven Insights: AI tools analyze customer data and trends to offer precise, tailored responses or solutions.

For instance, consider an AI system used in an online retail setting. When a customer inquires about product availability, an AI chatbot can instantly check the inventory, providing real-time, accurate stock levels. This not only saves time but also reduces the potential for human error, such as misinforming a customer about product availability.

5. 52% Highlight That Their Customers Prefer Talking to Human Support Agents

Over half of the respondents in our survey observed that their customers prefer communicating with human support representatives – on their queries. This preference is largely because human interaction offers a level of empathy and understanding that AI currently can’t match. 

For example, when dealing with a complex billing issue or a sensitive complaint, customers generally prefer to explain their situation to a human representative who can understand their frustration, provide immediate and empathetic feedback, and offer solutions tailored to their unique circumstances. 

Human agents can also adjust their approach based on the emotional cues of the customer.

Interestingly, we also found that a significant portion of customers, around 42%, appreciate a combination of human and AI support. This highlights the need for a balanced approach – one that is human-led and AI-assisted! 

Here’s what companies can do: 

– Implement features like a “talk to a person” button in chatbot systems to help customers transition from AI to human support if they want to. 

– Conduct frequent evaluations of both AI and human agents’ effectiveness in resolving customer problems.

– Compare the average resolution time of AI with that of human support staff, and further dissect the insights to get to the bottom of what type of queries are taking long to resolve and who is resolving them – whether human or AI.

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6. 58% of Support Experts Advocate for Full Transparency and Disclosure

A majority of support professionals believe that customers should be informed when interacting with AI. 

This can be due to several reasons. 

Firstly, transparency builds trust. Customers are more likely to feel comfortable and continue the interaction if they know they’re dealing with AI. 

Secondly, it sets realistic expectations about the type of support and responses they can receive. If customers know they’re interacting with AI, they understand the limits of the assistance provided. 

Lastly, this transparency respects customer preferences, allowing them to choose to continue with AI assistance or seek human support if needed. 

7. 40% of Support Professionals Raise Ethical Concerns about AI’s Decision-Making Ability

Our survey also showcases concerns over ethical considerations surrounding AI:

  • 40% worry about AI’s autonomous decision-making: Customer support professionals express concerns over AI making decisions without human oversight, raising questions about accountability and ethical implications.
  • 28% are concerned about data collection: AI collecting customer data, such as the type and extent of data, without consent is another significant concern. This highlights the need for responsible data handling practices. 

Here’s what companies can do: 

– To mitigate these concerns, companies should establish protocols for human review of AI decisions, especially in sensitive cases.
– Regular audits and adherence to privacy laws are essential to maintain ethical standards in data collection and usage. 
– Always get explicit permission from customers before using their data, with a straightforward opt-in agreement.

8. 50% Believe AI and Humans Will Work Together in the Future

Half of the support representatives surveyed are in favor of AI-human collaboration in the future, viewing AI as a supportive tool rather than a replacement for human jobs. 

This perspective is rooted in the belief that AI can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of customer service. 

By automating routine tasks, AI allows human agents to dedicate more time and resources to complex issues that require human insight, empathy, and problem-solving skills. 

This synergy between AI and human capabilities can lead to companies providing quick, efficient yet personalized support experiences.

It’s not about AI taking over jobs; it’s about AI augmenting the abilities of human support agents.

Ways to cultivate a collaborative work culture:

Feedback Loops and Iterative Improvement: Establish a feedback mechanism where human agents can provide input on AI-generated responses for the continuous improvement of AI systems.

Training for Effective Collaboration: Offer comprehensive training on AI usage is essential for agents to confidently combine their expertise with AI technology while interacting with customers.

9. Despite AI Advancements, 60% Support Professionals Lack Formal Training in AI

It’s pretty amazing how AI is changing customer service. But here’s something surprising: A lot of support professionals, like 60% of them, still haven’t got formal training in using AI tools. 

Our survey highlights that despite AI’s significant role in customer support, a majority of representatives have not received formal training. So far, only 27% know to use it. 

Now, why does this matter? Well, when support teams know how to use AI, they can help customers better and faster. It’s all about making things smoother for everyone. Think about it – if you’re using a tool you’re not trained in, it’s tough to get the best out of it.

As AI becomes more integral to customer service, support teams need to know how to leverage AI-based tools and integrate them into their everyday workflows. That’s where training becomes crucial! 

Effective training strategies include hands-on workshops, where support staff can practice using AI tools in roleplay scenarios, and continuous learning programs that keep pace with evolving AI technologies. 

By investing in formal AI training, organizations can ensure their teams are well-equipped to harness the full potential of AI, enhancing both the employee and customer experience.

10. 55% Support Pros Independently Keep Up with AI Trends

A significant number of customer support professionals actively stay informed about the latest developments in AI for customer support, often through self-learning avenues.

This learning involves a mix of online courses, webinars, industry news, and hands-on experimentation with new tools.

Our survey additionally reveals that a notable 27% of support professionals are adopting a peer-learning approach to understand AI.

In contrast, a smaller segment, comprising 18% of support professionals, prefers structured learning through formal courses. This indicates a trend where experiential learning from fellow professionals is favored over traditional educational methods, to get up to speed with AI in customer support.

Closing Note

Our survey reveals a significant trend: AI is increasingly used in customer service, but human interaction remains essential. The future of customer service lies in merging AI’s speed with the personalized attention of human agents.

Businesses need to prioritize training their teams in effective AI usage, considering the ethical aspects and being transparent about AI use with customers.

In this context, Hiver is a valuable tool. Hiver, a Gmail-based support tool, offers multi-channel capabilities, enabling support agents to efficiently and seamlessly resolve customer queries. By integrating directly with Gmail, Hiver simplifies the management of customer interactions across various channels like email, live chat, and social media. This integration allows support agents to provide quicker, more personalized service.
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A passionate content marketer, Nidhi writes value-driven, actionable content for various teams such as customer service, finance, IT and HR. Her expertise lies in helping these teams engage, collaborate, and manage their workload better - by shedding insights on best practices and industry trends. When not working, you'll find her tuning in to marketing and support-related podcasts, while also planning her next vacation.

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