Thursday, August 9, 2012

Putting a (Robotic) Face on Customer Service?

Here in NYC, we've just learned that the Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports are getting a brand new customer service representative: an avatar. Watch the video below for a glimpse:

The Port Authority has reportedly spent $180,000 on this new development, but we have to wonder, do these avatars really deliver customer service value? Will they impact customer experiences in any significant way?

Putting a more "human" face on basic information such as the location of ground transport and bathrooms may make customers feel welcome, but as reported here "the avatar was not capable of processing or responding to human interaction...the technology currently plays a 90-second sound loop which reactivates anytime a person is within 30 feet of the apparatus."

It's a neat idea, and I'm sure management sees value in an "employee" that never needs a break or a vacation day, but with less interactivity then your average online "live chat" help representative, we can't see this avatar being the next big leap in customer service.

Michelle LeBlanc is a social media strategist at IIR USA and the voice of the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit on Twitter and on Facebook . She can be reached at

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