Can AI help mental health in customer service?

6 Jun 2024

4 min read

Almost everything that you read about AI and its impact on customer service comes with a healthy dose of fear that it is going to lead to job losses. There are press releases about how a particular AI deployment is doing the work of 10s, 100s, or 1000s of people, which brings about a sense of doom.

Despite this feeling of existential threat hanging over people in customer service, we actually think that AI is actually going to be used to make customer service agents’ lives better, and actually help their mental health. Plus the companies that will survive and thrive are the ones who embrace AI but understand its inherent balance with people. Here are some reasons why AI is something that can help customer service agents’ mental health

AI takes away the repetitive work from customer service agents

This point is simple: AI and automation is best positioned to take on low-value, repetitive, and boring work, and free up agents to use their skills best. Add to that the fact that boring work is not fulfilling and is mentally grinding, and you can see the impact AI can have.

In fact, one of our newest customers ME+EM explained this best. Here is Head of Customer Service, Rosie Duffy: 

"I am using AI to basically free up the time of my advisors. The ME + EM customer care team, the girls, they're bright, they're passionate, they're knowledgeable. And at the moment, their time is spent kind of firefighting problems, answering monotonous, repetitive queries.

"But I just keep thinking: They're too bright, they're too clever. They're going to get bored, they're going to get too demotivated, I'm potentially going to lose them if they're constantly doing this."

You can watch Rosie talking to us here. 

By removing the repetitive work, you make the quality of work better, and keep people more engaged at work, improving their mental health. 

AI helps prevent some of the worst issues that agents have to deal with

We surveyed over 500 customer service agents working in retail, and the things that stood out as being negative impacts on their mental health were: 

  • Customers waiting too long to speak to an agent 

  • Seeing a high volume of tickets to deal with on a particular day

  • Peak periods

In one fell swoop, AI can mitigate the effects of all of these factors. AI that can respond to and even resolve customer questions around the clock will naturally cut waiting time for customers. Customers who can be dealt with quickly are out of the queue, and those with more complex issues get to an agent faster. 

Likewise, if AI is solving a portion of issues round the clock and overnight, it means that when agents clock on they will naturally see much fewer tickets to handle.

On top of that, peak periods are when AI comes into its own. During peak in retail the number of questions about where an order is (WISMO or Where is my Order) increases disproportionately as the delivery systems take on the extra strain. These simple and repetitive tickets are perfect fodder for AI to get stuck into. 

AI will change the way customer service is done, for the better

Plenty of technological breakthroughs come to shape the world of work and what jobs are available. You don’t see many stagecoach drivers or typing pools these days.

As a side note, the alarm clock killed off a great job from the past: the knocker-upper. In early industrial times, factory workers would need to be woken for their shift, and so a knocker-upper was employed to tap at their bedroom windows at the right time. And who woke the knocker-upper? The knocker-upper’s knocker-upper of course. 

While AI may not be automating jobs fully, it can automate plenty of tasks, and especially the low-value tasks. This means that agents’ skills will focus much more on their social and problem solving skills than it would on simply following a script. 

Having a human do robotic work isn’t great for any party. Humans make mistakes, and the work is dull. Having humans doing work that is fit for our uniquely human skills, such as communication and empathy brings the best of both worlds. 

Conclusion: embrace AI for happier customer service teams

Our research clearly showed that there were a number of factors that, if they could be minimised, would help agents’ mental health. AI can tackle and mitigate most of them.

The key is to use AI in a way that actually tries to solve customer problems, rather than deflecting them away from speaking to a human. Building AI into a human-centric workflows and giving customers the option to speak to a human is essential.

To find out how DigitalGenius can help you strike the perfect balance between AI and humans, speak to our team today.