In the Star Wars series, C-3PO is a protocol droid on the front lines of galactic warfare, demonstrating an advanced knowledge of cross-cultural etiquette and the ability to speak over seven million languages.
This depiction of a robotic assistant is fictional, but it’s no different than seeing robots assisting on a different type of frontline: customer service frontlines.robot like Hilton’s “Connie” and Softbank “Pepper” Although not very sophisticated, these robots’ language and navigational abilities are used to improve the guest experience in hotels, restaurants, and shops.
You might think you’ve never interacted with service robots, but you’ve probably used a version of them: self-service kiosks in grocery stores. Such technology has increased in recent years thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Interaction of services raises fears of virus infection, “Mask harassment”so self-service kiosks have been pushed to the center of customer service. Now that pandemic fears are waning, service kiosks are here to stay and robots are the future of service.
The advantages of service robots are clear. No spreading airborne viruses or burning out with harassment. It has the potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and automate tedious tasks. Aside from occasional glitches and software updates, the robot can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year without sick leave, holidays, or paid leave, so the front desks of hotels and rental cars are always on the lookout for customer convenience. is staffed.
But to see these benefits, Service robots must be designed and implemented the right wayOtherwise, your customers (and human colleagues) will avoid interacting with them. Emerging evidence highlights how robots work best in customer service.
Robots designed like humans – the bottom line
Customers expect relationships and “serving with a smile”. So can service robots keep customers happy?
Service robots that can be given human attributes (“So cute!”), including emotional qualities, are more likely to satisfy customers.a 2022 survey of International Journal of Hospitality Management It turns out that the more human-like the robot, the higher the customer satisfaction. that’s all Consistent with stereotypical expectations for interpersonal traits when perceived as female.
To be clear, “human-like” doesn’t mean that service robots need expressive faces or bodies. Consider how Star Wars robots R2D2, and more recently he BB-8, evoke laughter and empathy despite having no face, no limbs, no voice. Also, overly human-like robots can be creepy and uncomfortable. uncanny valley Effects (See: Movies Polar Express).
More important than designing robots look humans are for the customer Perception They as emotional beings.first use Japanese robot staff hotel For context, 2021 Survey was announced in Journal of Applied Psychology At checkout, we asked 194 guests how satisfied they were with their stay. At check-in, half of the guests were instructed to anthropomorphize the hotel’s robot. In other words, imagine a hotel robot as a being that can think and feel. The other half did not receive these instructions. Both groups interacted with the same service robot, but the group that humanized the robot was more satisfied because they recognized the capabilities of the service robot. emotions Than think. Hotel guests were also more tolerant of service failures when they ascribed emotions to robots than when they were not. After all, it is humans who make mistakes. As such, customers can view the failures of human-like robots more empathetically. In other words, if your service her robot is still in beta, make sure your customers look at it with the same empathy as a new employee who is still in training.
Therefore, simply replacing self-service kiosks with service robots is not enough to increase customer satisfaction. Customers want an emotional connection. You don’t need perfect performance or creepy human representation. All it takes is a robot name tag that says “Jennifer” and a placard telling them to be considerate of the customer’s feelings.
A robot designed for functionality, not just novelty
Robots are still on the rise in the United States, but they are more common in Asia.An analysis of online satisfaction ratings from hotel guests found that interactions with service robots evoke mostly positivity Such as the emotional reaction around a “cute” robot personified as a welcome agent, or the surprise and delight of a robot providing room service (especially for children).
Novelty plays a big role in customer perceptions of service robotsbut will having one at every cash register and front desk keep them happy? Beyond novelty, hotel guests surveyed also liked its functionality.
Functionality is the most important aspect of human-robot interaction and the biggest determinant of customer experience. Placing robots in service positions often gives people false hope for efficient, error-free performance, but like any technology, glitches and user errors can derail the experience. I have.
You can also learn from the self-checkout kiosk example. This, too, was originally intended to improve efficiency and reduce costs.big box stores like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Panera Bread It’s completely replacing the cashier.Unfortunately, as they become ubiquitous, self-checkout is slowing down. disliked by customersby Frustration with technology use and frustration with lack of service (e.g. grocery bagging).
Call centers with high volume or recurring requests have long used chat boxes and automated systems to assess the emotional tone of their customers’ voices. As reviewed in HBR in 2018, Aida is a virtual assistant for a Swedish bank that can help with simple transactions without leaving the menial tasks to humans. Aida can also determine if a customer is unhappy and, if service issues cannot be resolved effectively, can be referred to a representative.
However, Human Services employees should not be invited to interact exclusively with abusive customers. Ideally, a service robot’s function could be a protector (a “bouncer”, so to speak) that blocks abusive or defamatory customers from human agents. The ability to distinguish technically dissatisfied or fearful customers from abusive customers helps human employees welcome robots to their teams.
Over time, the novelty wears off as service robot technology becomes more prevalent and integrated into everyday life. To ensure the long-term success of robots in customer service, it is important to strike a balance between leveraging their advantages and maintaining human touch.
Robots that match customer segments and tasks
Even with anthropomorphic and highly functional robots, the customer base must be receptive to robot service interactions, and this requires psychological and technical preparation. Humanoid robots have been around in Asia for a long time, but customer acceptance remains a major stumbling block in the United States.
Are robots right for your company? Industries that provide highly personalized client service that require rapport, trust, and problem-solving are probably not the best place for service robots. A more standardized and automated service would be better suited for cashier transactions, hotel check-ins and errands.
But the nature of the customer base is also important.for having Successful interaction with robot, the customer must have both the confidence and the desire to interact with the robot. The hotel has enjoyed many successes, concierge robota high-end client might invite a robot into a hotel room with extra towels and refuse to prefer a human voice or face. The most confident and robot-ready demographic It has a predominantly young male consumer base. Other customers may doubt their ability to interact or may not believe that a robot can functionally assist them. , we must also consider that the technology can become more cumbersome than useless.
Human employees are essential to manage customer-robot service interactions. They need to be present to guide the customer through interactions with the robot as needed. To avoid being like the grocery store self-checkout lane, don’t just let the customer do the work and remove the human service option entirely. is.
Robot introduced as a colleague – not a replacement
Peace of mind with the introduction of robots at customer service sites and Threatening human employees. Placing the robot in the center of the front reduces monotonous work, customer abusebut human colleagues may be skeptical of the robot’s capabilities.
Make it clear that human employees are an integral part of the successful integration of new technology into your business. They help anthropomorphize the robot for the customer (e.g. “Have you met Jennifer, my new robot colleague?”) Ensure the functionality of the robot and fail to meet expectations If so, I will take over. Otherwise skeptical.
To increase comfort with robot teammates, managers need to communicate that the goal is not to replace humans, but to successfully integrate robot and human labor for optimal customer experience. there is. Managers can help by effectively communicating robotic technology (its capabilities and limitations) and offering reward programs for technology training and expertise. Additionally, managers need to communicate how new technology can protect employees from overly tedious tasks and obnoxious customers, and even make interactions fun and enjoyable.
Robots may take over some of the standardized and routine frontline jobs, such as grocery cashiers and hotel front desk clerks, but the diversity and complexity of human nature make it difficult for these jobs to take over. may also require human involvement. form of service. If employees find that having a robot handle monotonous tasks or abusive customers makes their tasks more interesting, they might want to include it in their next happy hour invite. not.
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Service robots are a new technology, and service robots may have unexpected benefits beyond customer service interactions.Business Professor pok man tanone of the above authors Research in 2021 of Journal of Applied Psychologyfound early evidence that interaction with anthropomorphic service robots increases customer openness to diversity.
Ultimately, whether people will continue to use robots in customer service will depend on interpersonal skills and humanity (not too little, not too much), technology functionality, and human acceptance (customers and colleagues). Robotic technology must be carefully integrated to deliver value to customers and support employees, maintaining a balance between automation and human interaction, rather than simply adding as a novelty.