Great Customer Service Smoothes Out Bad Self-Service

Success at switching to a truly bundled Disney+ and Hulu experience (both with no ads) from the janky status quo where both services were billed separately and Hulu had ads but Disney+ didn’t required the great customer service experience I had earlier today. In prior months, I’d made the mistake of following the instructions provided as the self-service approach to accomplishing this, and failed miserably. I switched from annual billing to monthly on Disney+ and tried to switch to the Premium Duo multiple times over multiple months, only to be redirected to Hulu and be blocked from signing up for what I wanted.

Today I tried the chat option (with a live human being) and finally got the bundle I wanted–and a refund for the price differential between the new bundle and what I’d been paying. It ultimately took being manually unsubscribed from both Disney+ and Hulu, which the customer service rep accomplished by reaching out to whatever department and systems she needed to, in the span of about 20 minutes. Definitely a 5-star customer service experience–unfortunately made necessary by terrible self-service options.

Plenty of companies almost certainly believe that they will be able to use ChatGPT (or something like it) to replace the people that do this work. But at least initially (and probably for quite awhile after that) the fully-automated customer service experience is likely to be worse (if not much worse) than the experience of customer service from people. I’m very skeptical of the idea that an AI chatbot would have driven the same outcome from a customer service interaction as a person did in this case. And this is in a low-stakes situation like streaming services (some number of which will very likely end up on my budget chopping block in 2024). High-stakes customer service situations will not have the same tolerance for mistakes, as shown in the FTC’s 5-year ban on Rite-Aid using facial recognition for surveillance. These are the sorts of mistakes warned about in the documentary Coded Bias years ago, but I have no doubt that other companies will make the same mistakes Rite-Aid did.

In an episode of Hanselminutes I listened to recently, the host (Scott Hanselman) used a comparison of how AI could be used between the Iron Man suit and Ultron. I hope using AI to augment human capabilities (like the Iron Man suit) is the destination we get back to, after the current pursuit of replacing humans entirely (like Ultron) fails. Customer service experiences that led by people but augmented by technology will be better for people on both sides of the customer service equation and better for brands.