Can AI and chatbots really deliver customer service excellence?

By our News Team | 2023

Organisations must harness the power of AI to free up their people to do what no robot can do – truly connect with customers. 

You would be hard-pressed to find a place today where you are sheltered from the discussion around the endless potential of artificial intelligence and the role it can play in shaping society. 


The world over, companies are beginning to feel the pressure to get AI-ready and be seen as innovative and tech-forward. But it’s important to be able to discern the functionality from the hype. 

Customer Experience

AI cannot empathise with what we, as customers, are experiencing. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

From a customer experience perspective, AI, chatbots and other tech advancements can be incredibly exciting. When it works well, it’s an advantageous enabler. The problem, however, is that it doesn’t always work well, believes Nathalie Schooling, founder and CEO of Nlightencx, an Africa-based customer experience company.


Writing in Issue 3 2023 of ‘Strategic Marketing for Africa’, the magazine of the African Marketing Confederation, she says that when looking at the current customer service options available, it can be narrowed down to four basics: human interaction; self-help; online forum; or chatbots. 


Best service came from human interaction


A study conducted by Nlightencx in February this year revealed that 85% of the people found the best service from human interaction, 14% from self-help and FAQs, and only 1% enjoyed interacting with chatbots. These results are not surprising, given that customers are human beings who desire authentic human interaction. 


While AI might be efficient and to the point, its biggest downfall is that it lacks an understanding of human emotion. AI cannot empathise with what we, as customers, are experiencing because it has no frame of reference. 


At best, it can simulate what it has learned through programming. And, while a bot may be able to use language that mimics compassion, the responses are not authentic and human beings are acutely aware of this. 


“There appears to be a resounding consensus that emotional intelligence is one of the main limitations of AI in delivering a great customer experience,” says Schooling.


“It’s for this reason that I believe customers are often left with feelings of frustration after dealing with automated services – because the AI just can’t contextualise understanding, enough to empathise with a customer.”


You can read more about customer experience on page 42 of the latest issue (Issue 3 2023) of Strategic Marketing for Africa, the magazine of the African Marketing Confederation. Read or download the digital edition here.

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.