Will AI fix the customer service user experience?

I’m curious what AI will do for bureaucratic nightmares of getting administrative tasks done. The answer is probably good and bad.

When I was 28, and trying to treat a mental illness I was wrongly diagnosed with, my biggest problem was dealing with my insurance company. I was burned out, ashamed, unemployed, overmedicated and getting charged through the nose. The insurance company kept denying claims and changing their policies. Everything had to be done on paper and via mail or fax, supposedly for HIPPA reasons. For my benefit.

When I did reach a human to ask for help, rarely was the help beneficial, but at least I could get them to use other terms to help me understand what the concepts I was stuck on means so I could engineer another solution to whatever the problem was.

The house always wins. Human labor is expensive and unreliable. Any company that can has already shifted customer service to bots. Bots can handle the very basic tasks. Once a human is taken out of a work context, and a budget shrinks, a company is very reluctant to ever put a human in that job because there are no negative ramifications when the deck is already stacked in their favor.

But it’s not like humans are the better option. Humans are human and they act very human at times.

So where do you go in the U.S. when you can’t figure out an answer? To even older traditions. Libraries. Advice columns in newspapers. Mutual aid societies. And lawyers.

For me, an autistic, dyslexic, ADHDer who burns energy on administrative tasks like a Bugatti, this is all daunting. The chances of me getting administrative tasks done is about 1/5. So I go to friends. I will ask questions and risk sounding stupid or lazy or intentionally obstinate or technologically ancient.

Especially the last one. Young people culture is at a point now where one now assumes someone older who asks a question that is googleable is aggressively incompetent. They take it as a personal affront.

So we’re at this point where people overempathize with trauma (trauma is everything. The word has lost its meaning and you can never tell if someone had actual trauma or if they got the wrong sized ice cubes in their drink). But less empathy when it comes to day to day behaviors. We are all expected to fix our own problems ourselves. We’re also at a point wherein the answers to most questions lie somewhere in the cloud. If you, like me, have trouble navigating this world, technology helps. Tech, however, is an overlay of human user experience over arbitrary databases.

And as for natural language searches that have revolutionized the way we access knowledge? It has implicit communication bias because it works based on how people talk. Autistic people have different communication abilities and a marked prosidic differences.

The chasms of what is knowable and what I can know with my limitations is vast. To ask help of a human seems even more daunting when they talk in coded gibberish and it is underlined with unconscious ableist bias.

AI can’t fix that. It will change it. Still I have hope.

I have two examples:

1. I needed help with my WordPress site. I couldn’t get a hyperlink to light up the right color. I messed with the HTML, but I was using a pre-formatted template and something was blocking my fixes. The first WordPress helper I spoke to over text assessed the problem and sent me some CSS blurb. When I asked where to insert it, I got a link to a beginner’s guide to CSS.

I tried ore and failed more.

So I went back to WordPress help. This helper stayed with me over many iterations until the problem was fixed. If I were to take a guess as to why, I’d say that they read the page text. I said I was autistic. And when they explained that the problem might take some time but they were dedicated to a solution and I said I admired their work ethic, they voluntarily divulged that they too were autistic. Human connection.

2. The other night I got called by Carnegie Hall to increase my donation. Maybe one day when I make a liveable wage but not today! I explained to the person on the other end of the phone how I wasn’t even taking advantage of the benefits I’d been told I had because I didn’t know what they were or how to find them, even after a series of emails and a telephone call. They just kept referring me to a newsletter I don’t remember ever receiving.

The site is not intuitive, at least not for a neurodivergent person like me.

He sat on the phone with me and gave me a tour of the website so I’d know from point A to point Z how to take advantage of the benefits I’m paying for.

Bots cannot replicate these acts of kindness to an atypical user but neither can most humans. So what do I do? I continue to use my words and explain the specific help I need, the specific reasons I have for conventional method failure, charm to get people to want to help me, and gratitude so that the next time this person encounters someone with my problems but maybe with less communication prowess, that courtesy will be extended again.

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