To Human or Not to Human…that is the question.

Customer service strategies in the year 2014…what a nightmare. As Comcast just learned, they’re just one bad customer interaction away from a viral social mega-storm of negative press. So, what’s the right approach? Should companies spend millions on representatives and call centers to assist customers with their issues or, in the year 2014, are we expecting to be able to self-serve and take care of our business via the multiple customer-facing channels of our choice?

Lately, I see companies advertising how customer-service friendly they are and how they have real people who will help you with your customer service issues. Is that what people are looking for? Are people that want to shop online or from their mobile device really looking for human interaction? Today’s users are technically savvy, more impatient and want to find their answers easily and move on to the next task. Calling or chatting with a call center agent (that may not be available for 10-20 minutes) is the last option for most people. Statistics show that the trend for self-service is increasing.

Obviously, Comcast will be reviewing its policies when it comes to customer service, but all the other companies that aren’t in “reaction” mode should be looking at their customer-service strategies and offering their customers options when it comes to service. Providing better tools online to allow customers to self-serve will actually save companies money and make for happier customers…what a novel idea.

For companies seeking to deliver the feel and functionality of live assistance, but without the wait or the risk of serious breaks from their brand’s tone, virtual-assistant solutions are a perfect fit. Unlike traditional self-service methods like search boxes, virtual assistants can integrate into customer accounts to provide highly-relevant information, and they deliver one right answer, rather than forcing customers to comb-through a list of possible results.

Virtual assistants can assist customers with tasks that range from customer service to sales and, in the case when human intervention is required, they can provide a seamless transition to a call center representative via click-to-call or chat solutions.

So, to all the executives who are breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn’t “them” this time…know that the answer is somewhere in the middle between search and human assistance. As Simon and Garfunkel would say, virtual assistants can be your bridge over your troubled customer-service waters.