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Agencies Brand Strategy AI & Web3 Deep Dive

Are you ‘fighting for the human in the machine’? It’s time to reassess your stance

By Damian Symons | Chief executive officer

M&C Saatchi Group


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March 30, 2023 | 8 min read

For The Drum’s deep dive into web3 and AI, Damian Symons of Clear M&C Saatchi argues that people don’t always want the human touch, and the future of CX will depend on finding the right human-AI balance.

Instead of worrying about whether AI is friend or foe, look at the data of where it can help you, says Clear M&C Saatchi

It’s getting tedious: the number of articles about how artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and bots are sucking the life out of customer experience. How the misuse of technology is driving us toward a nightmare scenario where every experience is identical and devoid of humanity. How all we want to do is ‘just speak to a human’.

The usual response to that hyperbole? ‘We need to fight harder for the human in the machine!’

I’m here to tell you that we don’t. Not like you think, anyway.

If you ask the humans – your customers – they’ll tell you something interesting. They don’t always want services delivered by humans. Sometimes, they want the efficiency and clarity that technology like AI brings.

You can’t please everyone, but you can come close by finding the right balance between AI-powered and human-enhanced. And you can do that by thoughtfully designing your CX to meet the needs of your customers in a way that’s unique to your brand.

With that in mind, here are three steps that every marketer should be taking.

1. Go back to your brand and business fundamentals

Looking at your customer journey, what should be done by humans, and what by technology?

This was on our minds when Clear M&C Saatchi conducted proprietary research asking 7,000+ early tech adopters whether different touchpoints across the customer journey were best delivered by AI or humans.

The results were a mixed bag. There’s a clear desire for human intervention across the customer journey – but consumers don’t need it to be the dominant mechanism at every touchpoint.

Fighting for the human in the machine is reductive at best. At worst, you’re pushing for a ruinous investment that your customers don’t desire.

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Striking the right balance for your brand and consumers rests on aligning with what your brand stands for. In the age of OpenAI, it’s easy to liberally deploy AI. But if your use of AI is misaligned with your brand, you could alienate consumers. In our research, 61% of consumers claimed they’d boycott a brand if they felt misled about the role of AI in their brand experience. You need to be clear on what your brand stands for in consumers’ eyes. If it's perceived as nurturing and empathetic, AI may be best used discerningly behind the scenes. But if you’re known for being transactional and precise? It makes sense to leverage AI across multiple, visible touchpoints.

It's also important to assess the business realities. It would be unrealistic to suggest that this equation is entirely customer-focused. First and foremost, it's commercial. If consumers prefer human intervention at a certain touchpoint but it would be cost-prohibitive, reassess how to deliver against expectations and needs. There must be a business case for investment every time.

2. Do your homework

Data is a tricky beast to manage. Many brands struggle to understand their performance across a fragmented landscape with billions of disparate data points across multiple channels we own and more we don’t. When we launched the Brand Desire Engine with Fluency M&C Saatchi, we leveraged eight trained AIs to aggregate and analyze this disparate data. Drawing on a diverse data stack including brand tracking, financial performance, the digital search ecosystem, social discourse and countless reviews brings a more complete understanding of CX. Your understanding of CX isn’t only based on what you’re measuring – it’s also based on what’s happening in real time.

Living insights can identify the exact points in the CX journey where an experience is behind competitors’ or consumers’ expectations, and pinpoint what levers to pull. AI gives brands a way to do their homework without guesswork.

3. Apply that homework to make smarter decisions

This ability to take high volumes of granular data and understand it through a human lens creates something quite magical: exceptional CX.

When you take AI’s operational rigor and layer the human mind’s creativity and instincts on top, that’s where CX comes to life. You’re not making the most of your data unless you apply it with an understanding of the shifting human experience and keep tweaking your CX to meet consumers’ emotional and functional needs.

AI makes it possible to manage your brand at scale with agility and actionability. But the most customer-centric solutions come from using best-in-class technology in conjunction with something critical and uniquely human: empathy.

Still fighting for the human in the machine?

You shouldn’t be. They're not at odds. They’re complementary tools to be deployed at distinct points across the CX journey. By embracing the best of both worlds, you can augment your intelligence to deliver enhanced CX that gives the consumers what they want, differentiates your brand and aligns with your values.

When that mindset shifts, brand growth will follow.

For more hot takes and cold hard looks at the emerging tech landscape, check out The Drum’s deep dive on AI to web3.

Agencies Brand Strategy AI & Web3 Deep Dive

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