Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fundamentally changing the way we work across several different industries. Customer Service has formed part of those sectors for many years, where it be in retail, finance, manufacturing or law. Experts believe that in the forthcoming years, we may reach a point where will be impossible to tell the difference between a human and AI agent.
AI-based solutions like CommBox are becoming a standard for contact centre management as businesses look to streamline operations. It allows humans to be supported by technology in a cost-effective way that promotes the best possible customer experience. The increased investment from the big tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook in the field has only accelerated the customer service revolution.
Early applications of AI in customer service has shown its ability to reduce costs, improve staff retention and loyalty, increase revenue and drive customer satisfaction. Given all of those amazing benefits, a full adoption of the technology industry-wide seems almost inevitable.
In this article, we will look at the ways in which AI is developing and supporting customer services and why business leaders must invest in the technology.
Augmenting Human Customer Service
Although the statistic from Gartner may sound scary, it is important to remember that many consumer requests are very simple. The vast majority could be handled by AI technologies without agent input, ensuring that businesses focus their effort on true experts or knowledge workers. In this way, AI will support and work alongside humans, removing the menial and boring jobs, allowing them to focus on the customers that truly require assistance.
Solutions like those offered by CommBox, realise that AI needs to augment conversations. The AI solution will nurture leads with a human-like bot that pops up at the right time to ask the right questions. For much of the time, the bot will be able to resolve the query but in situations where it cannot, customers are seamlessly passed to the agent best suited to help them.
The aim of this is to negate the frustration some people face when dealing with a bot only solution that hasn’t yet gained enough experience to solve the problem. Many companies will attempt to deploy generalised bots with the goal of solving everything but CommBox finds the right solution for each customer.
We are in an era where messaging is overtaking social networking or any other form of communication as the preferred choice for consumers. One of the key benefits of AI is that it never needs to sleep. If a customer has a query at 3am, AI can be there to help resolve it. This could be vital in companies that operate globally and are looking to provide better customer support.
At a more local level, food companies like Dominos, Pizza Hut and McDonalds can now provide a full online service. Customers who need to call them usually have a problem, outside of purely ordering food which doesn’t require human involvement. You can order a pizza 24/7 without ever speaking to a person.
AI platforms have unlimited memory capacity and can find answers quickly without the need for research or typing a response. For example, pre-set and machine learnt decisions ensure better customer satisfaction through shorter interaction lead times.
AI for the Call Centre
As a customer, whilst there is a recognition that data protection is important, it is incredibly frustrating when you call a customer service representative and they don’t know anything about you. Personalisation across every channel has become something of a customer expectation rather than simply something that is nice to have.
CommBox AI solutions enable businesses to identify customers immediately and unify their identities across all channels. The agent talking on the phone can tell how the customer behaves on the website, whether they have chatted to you before or what the content of their emails look likes. It can even integrate social media activity into the workflow.
Having all this information at their disposal means customer service representatives never have to go blind into a call.
We have all been in a situation where we desperately need to get through to a call centre but get stuck in a queue. “You are caller number 3 in the queue.” Many call centres are overlaying their traditional IVR platform with a digital one, designed to encourage customers to choose self-service rather than needing agent assistance.
Customers will see visual cues on their mobile and instead of holding on their phone, may be transferred to live digital agents or self-service options. This has been shown to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty whilst reducing mid-call dropout rates.
Real-time conversation analytics platforms within call centres are being deployed to assist with customer service. The AI listens to conversations, taking in both the content and tone. It will analyse changes in how the customers speak to gain insight into their potential emotional state. Service representatives are then provided with guidelines for how to deal with the customer. The insurance company Humana have reported a 28% improvement in net promoter scores having used voice analytics as agents are better equipped to handle calls.
AI for Efficiency
As a rule, call centres tend to have many manual and inefficient processes. These can be very time consuming for the business as well as costly. Platforms such as CommBox provide ways to improve or even eliminate many of the typical problems. Some of the most common efficiency barriers come from identification, knowledge and document sharing.
In some situations, such as loan provisions, call centres will ask to see the customer to verify their identity. Using a Smartphone, customers can send this straight to a customer service representative for instant validation of their identity. Services that might have previously been very time consuming can now happen in real-time.
If a customer asks an agent a question, they sometimes must review several process documents and manuals to work out how to resolve the query. In the same way AI tools can be used to provide customer self-service, agents can benefit from finding answers quickly. For example, an agent can use bot technology to find are answers matching a customer question, finding the information quicker than ever before.
Customers can be enabled to send photocopied documents straight from their smart phone through to the contact centre. As well as reducing internal paperwork, the data is immediately digitised allowing faster decisions and better auditing of information.
AI for Innovation
One of the most important reasons for using AI in the call centre is that it can help drive different behaviours. If humans can free up their time in answering and administrating simple queries, they have a greater opportunity to think smart. Businesses will then change their focus to resolving the root cause of why customers are having to call in to begin with, rather than simply handling the queries.
For example, agents will have time to ensure FAQ articles are up-to-date so that any bots and knowledge bases always remain relevant. They might be able to recommend improvements to customer experience based on what they have been told. Ultimately, freeing up time will enhance productivity of staff.
Predicting Customer Needs
AI and machine learning tools use big data platforms to predict the needs of the customer. A chatbot can proactively reach out to customers wo appear to be stuck on a specific website page for example. The bot will learn from every interaction and become more accurate with the predictions over time. Machine learning platforms like this mean that customers are handled before they realise, they need help!
Being on brand
AI that uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) such as Facebook Messenger and IBM Watson are ensuring that businesses stay on brand through their customer service. For example, you can book flights via Facebook Messenger and also proactively reach out to customers via the same channel, something which an agent generally doesn’t have the capacity to do. CommBox offers an omni-channel experience in the same vain. Even if the customers switch from phone to SMS or email, it is fully tracked whilst staying on brand throughout.
Arguably top of the list for most businesses is the huge resource saving potential of AI. Research by the analysis firm Juniper Research has said that chatbots on their own are expected to reduce business costs by over $8 billion per year by as soon as 2022 through operational and labour expenses. These savings can be reinvested back into technology and keep creating better solutions for the customer.
As we’ve already noted, this isn’t suggesting that AI will replace human agents but by augmenting them, it negates to need for employing more people as the business grows whilst ensuring the retention of those who are already there.
This is quite hard to quantify but with constant availability, fast response times and the ability to provide the right answers, AI should enhance the overall customer experience. There are arguments that suggest nothing beats traditional customer service but in a fast-paced online world, the consumer is starting to become more accepting of automated solutions as an overall experience.
Why doesn’t everyone invest in AI?
With all these amazing customer service benefits, it is strange that not every call centre has started investing in AI technology.
Right now, the biggest obstacle for businesses is the cost of AI solutions to ensure they get them right. However, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons. For example, a member of staff could cost $35,000 per year, need weeks of training, benefits like pension and health cover, holidays and so on. A $50,000 investment in an AI solution like CommBox can last a lifetime and continue to develop on its own over time.
Whilst the expense of AI might look like a huge risk initially and break your normal budgeting process, in the long run there are a huge number of benefits. There are also businesses who simply aren’t equipped with the knowledge to start deploying new technology at pace and it will take some time before they fully engage with AI. However, as digital preferences continue to edge towards messaging apps, even the smallest of businesses will have to review how they operate.
These are just some of the key benefits to using AI in customer service. In truth there are many more such as improved conversion, better retention, quality scores and precision. There are probably lots of things that we don’t even know AI is capable of yet.
Customer service is going through a period of change for the better all thanks to AI.
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