The Apple Store has to be the most over-staffed retail environment I’ve ever seen. All these ‘Geniuses’ spend the majority of their day giving extremely basic tech support. The answers, the tutorials, everything you could possibly want to know about any of their products already exists all over the internet and is freely available.

If they wanted, Apple could take the combined knowledge of all its staff and build an artificial intelligence system to deal with all the questions customers have. And they’d probably do quite a good job with it.

So why do they persist with so many human beings? There are various reasons but one of the main ones, is that this is a business that wants to be SEEN to help. The help itself is merely part of the equation. The real power comes from being seen to help. The sight of that over-staffed shop. The knowledge that you could walk in, with no intention of buying anything, and still receive support. And be listened to.

All this represents a key element of the Apple brand. It protects their pricing, wins them fans, and gives them a point of difference in their market.

Being listened to is the big one. Steve Jobs used to say you couldn’t rely on the market because the market didn’t know what it wanted. It’s the same with questions. People don’t know what they don’t know. They ask the wrong thing. They think they have one problem but really it’s something else. Some just want their confidence boosted. To be listened to. To be understood. To be re-assured.

Suddenly, artificial intelligence and all the third party advice all over the internet isn’t so good when it comes to that. Information, yes. The other stuff? No.

And it’s not just questions and answers about computers and tech. It could be buying a car. Booking a holiday. Buying a painting. Choosing a meal. A wedding dress or kilt hire. Advice for your business. And a myriad of other situations.

Artificial Intelligence is here. You could use it now. It’s great for providing information and simple tasks. ‘What’s on at the cinema’ and then guiding us through the booking process. If I choose ‘fast track’ when picking up a hire car, I might appreciate it there too. But if I’m on a foreign country, haven’t driven that model before and I’m not sure if my 3 year old will fit the child safety seat…then I’d really value being able to speak to a human being…in my native tongue.

There’s an AI landgrab going on in many sectors right now. Organisations are capturing all the questions they receive and answers they give across a day. The data could be used to build powerful AI systems, giving information quicker, to increasing amounts of people, at a tremendous cost saving to the organisation.

But what if, just as in the Apple Store, it’s not the answers people want as much as to be understood and listened to? Surely if the last few years have taught us anything it’s that the world today values emotional intelligence above all else. And there’s nothing artificial about that.

At Comsteria, we enjoy answering questions and helping clients past, present and future. Get in touch anytime through our website and don’t miss our new Smartphone Video Show every Friday from 1pm where you can enjoy dedicated help and support on any aspect of video or communication for your business.