The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and has brought industry-shaking tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI) within reach of everyone. Research performed by Gartner suggests that 25% of customer service operations will use some version of virtual customer service in 2020 — that’s over a 23% increase since 2017. Since AI moved center stage, people have naturally begun to worry about its impact on people and jobs. 

Will it enhance jobs, or will it downright replace them? 

It’s safe to argue both as likely scenarios. It’s doubtful, though, that human interaction will completely fade away. Some jobs simply demand a human touch. Successful AI-driven customer service systems will rely on bots working alongside humans, not replacing them. 

Resources like virtual assistants, chatbots, and language processing tools are widely adopted across the globe at an astounding rate. And this trend isn’t at all surprising — customers are demanding that businesses adopt an ‘always online’ approach to customer service. They want immediate results, and they want assistance on their own terms. 

Naturally, you’re wondering where this path will take us. What does the future of customer service look like paired with AI?

 

It all starts with knowing your options

AI isn’t some super-futuristic human-like robot (yet). It encompasses things like chatbots, virtual assistants, and language processing, all of which are already widely used by companies to improve their customer service. Let’s take a closer look at some popular options:

Chatbots

There’s a good chance you’ve already interacted with a chatbot at one point or another. Amazon, for instance, relies heavily on them for customer returns. In essence, a chatbot is a piece of software that carries a conversation via textual or auditory methods. 

Some chatbots utilise language processing and are sophisticated enough to fool us into believing they’re human conversational partners, even going as far as adding a delay in responses to simulate a human’s natural pause between thoughts. Other chatbots simply scan keywords they receive and pull a relevant reply with matching keywords or similar word patterns from a specified database.

AI Virtual Assistants

There are the broad-reaching virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, which are accessible via mobile devices and can review your schedule, provide news and weather updates, and get you directions to your next meeting. 

Then there are more narrowly-focused virtual assistant tools that are task-oriented and utilised by businesses. Some examples of their uses are creating lists, scheduling reminders or appointments, opening up software, or activating smart devices. 

 

Enhance the customer experience 

An astonishing 82% of customers have left a company after having a bad customer experience. That’s hard-fought time, money, and resources down the drain over something likely preventable. Luckily, with AI, you can provide quick and personalised service around the clock, so your staff and your clients get the support they need.

According to research performed by McKinsey, 75% of online customers expect help within 5 minutes. Especially with critical items like forgotten passwords, bugs, and refunds. These items require quick answers and, if left hanging for too long, can lead to customers considering a switch to a provider that offers faster and better customer support. 

If your service staff are stretched thin and struggling to keep a consistent response time, there’s an AI solution for that. There are AI programs that scale your existing support team and improve support efficiency by leveraging chatbots that answer frequently asked questions, collect customer information, and can even take actions like editing orders or canceling a subscription. 

Higher-end virtual assistants can automate your workflow and directly engage with customers. Some can respond via text message to customer inquires, automatically book appointments, and follow-up later to make certain issues were resolved.

 

 

Give customers a personal touch

Data shows that the top 1% of a given retailer’s customers are worth 18x more than an average customer. The most effective tool for reaching those high-value customers is through personalisation. Personalisation with AI can be tricky, but it definitely has advantages over human touch.

The human brain has a limited capacity to store data. On average, people can store between five and nine items in short term memory. With AI-enhanced support, you can leverage a limitless storage capacity that can use its data mine to transform the customer experience and make it as personalised as possible. 

Software companies can cater to different audiences by asking customers if they’re new to the industry or experienced and tailor technical language accordingly based on their response. Based on collected data points and user behavior, AI tools can offer up more personalised support articles and can upsell customers on the right products at the right time. 

 

Provide proactive support and anticipate problems

A sizeable 62% of consumers and business buyers now expect companies to anticipate their needs. That same study also found that 63% said customer service isn’t as straightforward or as fast as they’d prefer. Staying on top of customer demands is tough enough, but anticipating their future needs is on another level. 

Again, with the right AI tool in place, you can identify issues before the customer does and possibly even address them from behind the scenes. That means your AI-enhanced support team can be the best at preventing fires instead of being the best at putting them out. 

Machine learning tools are fascinating because they get smarter with time. With every customer interaction, they offer up solutions, and if the client isn’t satisfied and still needs to chat with a human, then it will take note and offer up different solutions next time around. Plus, they can escalate situations they’re incapable of handling, so nothing important ever gets missed.

 

Offer limitless reliability

When configured correctly, AI as a customer service aid yields a magnitude of reliability that would be difficult for human counterparts to replicate. AI assistants and chatbots eliminate all barriers and biases, which create a consistent customer experience. There’s no negative human emotion to overcome from a frustrated or overworked support rep. Just flawless and frictionless communication that is infinitely scalable. 

Ultimately, virtual assistants and chatbots are tools designed to help people – not replace people. They exist to remove or streamline the mundane or difficult daily tasks of our support teams, so they have breathing room to provide top-notch support and focus on more essential job functions. 

While AI is a long way off from completely replacing customer support, it’s still an incredible tool that any size business can leverage right away. Ignoring its potential in customer service could give your competitors an inside edge that might be hard to win back. 

 

How do you see AI disrupting your industry or your support structure in the coming years? Share your thoughts or connect with us if you need an experienced partner to help you leverage AI’s tremendous power to scale up your support team.

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