What separates a customer from a brand loyalist? It’s customer service, primarily. CRM technology witnessed warm welcome (meaning multimillion dollar investments) by enterprises because it promised automation in customer service. Artificial intelligence takes things a few notches ahead, because it blends “intelligence” and “automation,” putting customer service on autopilot.
From ordering pizzas to booking appointments with doctors, customers are happy with automation, and so are the enterprises. Experts predict that almost 85 percent of customer service interactions could be automated by as early as 2020. That’s just the start. Let’s dig deeper and tell you more about how artificial intelligence could quickly transform customer service into its bigger and better version.
Preemptive problem solving makes customer service truly powerful
Unhappy customers often abandon sales without trying to engage customer service for a solution. Then, even automated customer service fails to understand context. The result — customer frustration, and low effectiveness of customer service.
AI-powered intelligence agents can add conversational interfaces to static content. These agents can chew down incessant data from dozens of information streams to make sense out of prior interactions, customer preferences, and context. This means that such agents can suggest highly relevant offers and content and can trigger proactive alerts to prevent customer frustration and attrition.
Proactive problem-solving makes customer service a major enabler of customer satisfaction, helps mitigate abandonment of purchase, and improves customer satisfaction. With time, AI gets smarter at intervening with solutions, before customers encounter problems in their self-service interactions with a company’s digital systems.
Configurable AI: An end to recurring CSR hiring costs
Customer service is an organizational function that suffers perennially from high attrition. It’s the cold hard truth that companies have to deal with.
Hiring a qualified customer service agent could translate into $3,000-4,000 as a onetime expense. Training means an additional expense, which could be anywhere close to $4,500. That’s not the problem. The problem is that because of high attrition rates, you keep on encountering the same expenses over and over.
Yes, AI is the solution. Consider AI-powered costumer service solutions such as ones powered by IBM Watson. These packages bring several TBs of industry and domain information off the counter. Then, you just configure it once and can forget associates hiring and training costs. A change in the business process? No problem, these AI tools are easy to reconfigure. Let software handle mundane and regular L1 tickets, while humans take care of more complex customer needs.
24/7 customer service without hefty expenses
It’s rare for professionally managed businesses to exist in only a single geography. Companies need to spend a lot to establish localized customer support, across geographies and time zones. The result — highly complex and expensive customer service departments.
AI quickly builds up from the existing warehouses of massive information within the company, being able to answer repetitive questions. The software can be deployed on web portals to deliver email, chat, as well as phone-based customer support across the world without human intervention. The kind of coverage and visibility this gives to your business is immense.
AI-infused contact centers
AI, of course, won’t always exist independently in customer service. It has an equally momentous role to play in empowering the capabilities of human customer service agents. AI-infused contact centers are the solution.
AI and natural language processing technology work together to “listen” to customer interactions in real time. The application can then offer valuable recommendations to the service agent on how to best solve the customer’s problem.
This will bring down average time to resolution. Also, service reps won’t have to build expertise in all processes and products, which makes it easy for businesses to shuffle workforce across teams where the need arises.
Chatbots: Personalizing customer care
It’s difficult to think of a technology that has captured as big a market as chatbots have, and that too within only 2-3 years. The “personal” vibe of instant messaging, the power of natural language processing, and the wisdom of AI come together in chatbots.
From answering customer queries 24/7 through an instant messaging interface to proactive bots that can initiate and sustain conversations — there’s a lot happening in the customer service domain. Banks, fashion stores, grocery stores, and multibrand retail stores have added chatbots for customer service in their websites and apps. Real-time and personalized conversations with customers enable bots to open up new revenue opportunities.
Near instantaneous responses drive customer satisfaction
No research times. No typing delays. Instantaneous responses. This is unprecedented in chat-based customer service. AI-fueled self-service portals offer such kind of near-real-time exchange of information. Quick resolution to issues and quick availability of information have been equated with great customer satisfaction in many customer service surveys.
AI tools can quickly search through several databases of information, can extract the needed information, and display it on a screen or speak it out (smart speakers). This speed is a major transformation in customer service quality.
AI: A magic bullet?
The short answer is NO. For a deeper and detailed answer, read on.
AI models work when they understand customer intent. It’s unrealistic to expect that a canned AI application can fit into your enterprise’s processes and take over customer service. Companies need to tune and train AI models to drive unique business cases only relevant to their business verticals.
Organizations need to start working today to build data repositories, processes, and mechanisms that can help AI models learn quickly. Equally crucial is to build workflows that let queries and complaints come to human service agents before the simulated interaction starts to frustrate customers. So, success with AI-powered customer service is much a function of technological sophistication as of an enterprise’s abilities to train AI models for specific tasks with massive reliable data.
Customer service is bigger and better than ever. Most of the transformation is a direct result of AI, and that’s the way forward for enterprises.
Featured image: Pxhere