Artificial Intelligence is a broad umbrella which encompasses all the new age technologies including machine learning, robotics, expert systems, general intelligence and natural language processing (NLP).
Since early days, AI has raised a lot of curiosity as a tool to augment human capacities and as a result, bring in more growth, time efficiency, and differentiated customer service.
Companies in the customer service sector have been the early adapters of AI. In the words of Dan Miller, Founder, Opus Research — “The future of personalized customer experience is inevitably tied to ‘Intelligent Assistance’.” Several enterprises are investing millions in research and applications of AI as it is taking the center-stage across sectors, disrupting a multitude of traditional business processes.
Customer service can make or break a business. As per reports, US businesses are losing $62 billion annually through poor customer service. It is common to hear about the bad experiences customers have when interacting with call centers. Be it frontline executives or self-service IVR systems, the average handling time (AHT) and customer annoyance have been correspondingly high with lack of systematic touch-points. And this is where AI can streamline the customer service.
Companies are shifting approach from ‘mobile first’ to ‘AI first’. Reports suggest 8 out of 10 businesses have already integrated or are planning to integrate AI by 2020 for better customer service solutions. Forrester Research(PDF) reports suggest that investment in AI will increase more than 300% in 2018. “Geeks want machines that do things without asking. But what makes good AI, is good communication with the user,” said Fred Brown, Founder and CEO, Next IT.
AI allows for unobstructed call flow and customer self-service. They are operative 24×7 and are unaffected by limitations of geography or time-zones, thus ensuring an overall accessibility leading to more customer satisfaction. Here are few ways in which AI would benefit customer service processes:
The more connected a customer is to a business, the more personalized is their experience. Cognitive AI uses previously under-utilized data for segmentation, identification, and scoring of customers. This is the edge a data-driven customer experience has over others.
The Forrester Research report says that by 2020, insights-driven businesses will gain $1.2 trillion annually from their less-informed peers. AI, in the longer run, would be able to analyze and anticipate customer needs for better solutions.
Chatbots and virtual concierge
Chatbots are virtual intelligent conversational agents. In some companies, quality customer service is ensured by a mix of bot support and human interaction. A bot assistant is deployed to an agent for handling simplistic queries. When the concerns become too complicated, humans can take over.
Chatbots can even adapt to a caller’s demography, with enriched personalized conversation to deflect the least and improve self-service by engaging customers in natural conversations. Gartner predicts AI bots will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020. In a recent report published in Chatbots Magazine, 67% of people expect to see/use messaging apps when talking to a business.
Virtual assistants are turning into a common household name. Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Now, among others, are widely known. Using virtual assistants to support customer service ensures rich human-like interactions at a lower cost which not only increases productivity but also eases out overworked employees.
According to Forrester Research, one of the top 10 trends of 2017 was in sustaining automated customer conversations where conversational interfaces could anticipate needs by context, preferences and prior queries, and deliver proactive alerts, relevant offers, or content.
Cognitive computing is where a system can understand both structured and unstructured data related to a certain product or service. In doing so, the system can explore cognitive engagement solutions that use artificial intelligence to collect information, automatically build models of understanding and inference, and communicate in natural ways.
AI uses a broad set of methods, algorithms, and technologies that are smart and human-like. It is expected that an intelligent device should be prompt, smart, and conversational. To reach excellence and have an edge in customer experience is the art of eliciting empathy that leads to the best form of personalization with the user.
Being able to feel what the human is feeling is the highest form of intelligence a machine could acquire. With the introduction of additional features like Artificial Empathy (AE), an AI system will also be able to detect and respond to human emotions.
Amazon is reportedly training its digital assistant Alexa to exhibit empathy to deliver personalized user experience. As per analytics, Alexa wins points for having a more empathetic ‘personality’ than Siri.
Taking voice and body language cues, machines can learn and exhibit the same knowledge when interacting with users. Humanizing AI could further humanize us as the machines could help learn the forgotten human traits. Therefore, integrating human abilities in a machine can surely ensure the best customer service.