Four reasons why artificial intelligence belongs in your customer service strategy
At its core, artificial intelligence (AI) is about simplifying, streamlining and organizing information. Machines take on duties that have traditionally fallen to humans, freeing them up for more important and nuanced tasks.
When you break it down like this, it’s no wonder AI is becoming such a big part of customer service. With tools like chatbots and intelligent analytics platforms applied to the customer experience, contact center agents now have more time to deliver the personalized attention customers crave.
But that’s only one of the benefits of integrating AI into your customer service strategy. Leveraging this evolving technology can also have a positive effect on your business operations, brand and bottom line.
1. AI builds brand loyalty and trust
According to a recent study conducted by retail management consulting firm Boston Retail Partners, 45 percent of retailers intend to use artificial intelligence to enhance their customer experience within the next three years. In the travel and hospitality industry, 58 percent of businesses are already automating areas that include customer service and AI is becoming increasingly prevalent among financial services companies.
Bob Hayes, data scientist, customer experience expert and president of consulting firm Business Over Broadway, believes the trend is being driven by AI’s ability to help organizations better serve their customers. “Machine learning is great for repetitive tasks,” he says. “It leaves more time for humans to dive deep, engage in the relationship and solve problems.”
With AI to help call center agents analyze behavioral data and anticipate customer defection, Hayes says, companies are able to be more proactive. “Instead of waiting to hear complaints,” he explains, “they can reach out to customers first.” In other words, AI gives businesses the foresight to address customer concerns before they become a problem. This attention goes a long way toward nurturing the consumer relationship.
Machine learning, which uses algorithms to detect and predict trends in data, also adds value by building consumer loyalty and trust. From identifying potential security breaches to providing a reliable service experience, it can produce a favorable impression of your overall brand.
To that end, companies are experimenting with tools like Amelia, a new AI platform from technology company IPSoft. Described as a “digital employee,” Amelia assesses the context of customer conversations and adapts her tone and actions to each consumer’s need.
2. AI reduces call center attrition rates
Despite what many sci-fi movies would have you believe, humans and cognitive systems can live in harmony. In fact, digital assistants like Amelia can support call center agents and, as a result, reduce churn rates.
For example, the Tel Aviv-based company, TechSee, leverages the cameras on consumers’ mobile devices so they can show agents their problematic products in real time allowing agents to troubleshoot more effectively. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the system learns from every customer interaction and adds to an ever growing knowledge base of common problems and resolutions, making it easier for the agent to identify the best possible solution.
This level of agent enablement and increased productivity can have a direct impact on employee retention, according to Liad Churchill, VP of product marketing with TechSee. He’s seen a dramatic improvement on major contact center key performance indicators (KPIs), such as call resolution and agent turnover rates. “With the virtual assistant to make recommendations, it shortens tasks for agents and suggests next steps, which reduces pressure,” says Churchill.
3. AI improves agent efficiency
The easier it is for an agent to do their job well, the better they’ll be at it. To achieve this, companies are working with customer-engagement solutions like Pypestream, a software company that designs intelligent chatbots for mobile messaging.
In Pypestream’s experience, 80 to 90 percent of customer queries are repetitive — so the company automates the answers to these queries for the benefit of both agents and customers. “The focus of any bot should be intelligent automation of existing business processes delivered in a conversational way. And it’s critical to keep the customer experience in mind,” wrote Pypestream Chief Customer Officer, Donna Peeples, in a blog post.
In a similar fashion, Conversocial, offers a messaging tool that uses AI to gather critical customer information before an interaction even begins. “A chatbot has to be pretty much perfect, otherwise it will quickly frustrate the customer and may be an awkward hand-off to a human agent,” says Joshua March, CEO and founder of Conversocial.
March explains that Conversocial’s Twitter and Facebook messaging tools automate 15 to 20 percent of the customer conversation before passing the consumer to an agent for more personalized help and the desired resolution. For instance, about 14 percent of Tesco’s Twitter DM replies had previously involved asking customers for additional information. Today, however, its agents begin the conversation with necessary and relevant customer information already on hand. According to March, this same approach has decreased some companies’ average handle time by upwards of 30 percent.
4. AI improves first call resolution rates
Just as AI can improve contact center effectiveness and the speed with which an agent resolves queries, it can also have a positive influence on first call resolution rates. Using services like TechSee can make for a more accurate tech-support diagnosis, but what about health insurance questions or product shipping delays? To solve these problems on the first try, maximizing customer data is key.
IT consulting and software services company Xavient Information Systems aggregates customer-interaction data from multiple platforms in an attempt to improve first call resolution. Xavient’s analytics platform, called AMPLIFY, couples AI with technology like voice recognition to identify customer frustration and make recommendations that are designed to expedite interactions. AMPLIFY can even identify patterns in customer behavior, so agents can take the necessary actions to satisfy customers right off the bat.
Using AI to support and enhance customer-agent interactions, rather than replacing humans with machines, is undoubtedly the future of customer experience. And with the help of cognitive technology, contact centers can offer a more effective and engaging interaction every time.