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Artificial Intelligence: A Boon to Improve Customer Experience

January 17, 2017 Jim Iyoob

Artificial intelligence has been around for a while, and while some wholeheartedly embrace the idea, others are wary of using what is portrayed to be a “robot” in any customer experience. When many think of AI, they think of conversationalist robots, while the truth is that AI has evolved into software programs that can be seamlessly integrated into current programs and become a huge asset to their human colleagues.

AI is more than just a programmed bot that can answer the same questions that are included on a company’s FAQ page, and actually has many valuable applications in the business world and more specifically, in the form of customer support. Once companies understand the basics behind artificial intelligence and the benefits of speech analytics, the investment is more attractive and practical to improve customer service in all areas.

Why Is Customer Service Important?

All companies recognize that good customer service is essential to staying in business, building a brand and gaining the trust of consumers that love your products and services, but many fail to understand WHY customer service is so important. It’s just an assumed fact, but doing the research into why it is so important can help us better understand how artificial intelligence and quality monitoring with speech analytics can improve the experience.

  • Estimates suggest that poor customer service may cost companies in the United States up to 41 billion dollars in revenue each year. AI is intended as a solution to that problem and to give your business the cutting edge to stay ahead of the competition and to cut that revenue loss as much as possible.
  • Studies show that almost 90% of customers become frustrated when they have to repeat their problems and issues to more than one representative. This number highlights the fact that good customer service is more than a bonus for your business. It’s a necessity.
  • A poll completed in 2015 of over 2,000 adults in the United States showed that customers are willing to pay more for a product or service when the customer service experience is pleasant. Close to 86% of them said bad customer service encourages them to switch brands. This shows that good service is vital to consumers, and getting an edge on your competition with better service builds trust in your brand and products.

Companies often struggle to find the line between being more efficient at answering calls and resolving problems and keeping customers happy. Consumer issues can take up quite a bit of time for an agent even as the company is pushing for faster resolutions that encourage agents to get off the call as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, your customers need to feel as if their opinions are the most valued thing in your company, and artificial intelligence can help.

AI provides faster results and resolutions to issues that commonly plague customers. It can improve the efficiency of employees, create better outcomes customized to fit any client’s problem, reduce call center costs and perform large tasks that would be impossible for a human to complete in the same amount of time. AI is important for more than just chat, and can create a positive experience for every customer that works with your company.

To put it in perspective, realize that most Americans currently use some form of artificial intelligence in their everyday lives. With smartphones and tablets, most turn to assistants like Cortana and Siri to get directions, ask questions and resolve problems. As AI becomes more integrated into our day to day lives, experts expect that in a short five years, customers will only interact with a human from a company 15% of the time. The other 85% of the experience will be done with some form of artificial intelligence.

Recent Experiences With AI

Developers work tirelessly to create an AI system that works with every company in a convenient way, with the ultimate goal being to make life and work easier for everyone. Examples of using AI include Google, who improved their voice recognition technology from 84% to 98% in just two years. IBM’s Watson was released in 2011, and is now 2400% smarter than it was at its release date. Tens of millions of online searches are done each month through voice recognition systems. Every advancement brings AI closer to being profitable and applicable to businesses of all sizes. Some companies have already invested in the technology and reaping the rewards for doing so.

  • Digital Genius: Mikhail Naumov, the chief strategy officer of Digital Genius, says that the company better automates their chat software with a deep learning algorithm. This has been done in two different ways.
    • Historical chats – AI systems are better trained with the help of historical chat logs. Benefits include more accurate responses and more time for customer service agents to handle complex issues that an AI is unable to solve. Naumov believes that because customer service is so repetitive, historical transcripts hold goldmines that are underused.
    • Fact data – The nature of the industry Digital Genius functions in has solid parameters regarding the amount of solutions for a set amount of problems. This makes AI programs much easier for this type of business, rather than business development or marketing, where there are many paths and possibilities that lead to solutions.
  • Inbenta – Inbenta approached AI from the direction that customer service questions come when customers can’t find answers to important questions on a website. Search engines can be mildly misleading and send the customer to a page with no valid information for them. This turns into a phone call to a customer service representative that takes up time and valuable resources.  
    • Natural language – To deal with this issue, the company developed “Natural Language Processing” that is a form of AI that focuses more on what the customers means in a query rather than exactly what they type.
    • Bulk email response – Inbenta has also solved the problem of excessive emails that ask the same questions from different customers. With their form of AI, emails are answered in bulk in order to save both the customer and the agent valuable time. This technology also has the ability to interpret abbreviations, misspellings and certain terms that search engines not powered by AI might overlook.
  • IPSoft – Known as Amelia, IPSoft’s AI system may be closest to what the average consumer expects it to be. Amelia is “digital employee” that answers questions within a chat. What the company believes sets her apart from other programs is her ability to act almost human rather than sounding like a robot like many other AI programs.
    • Customer’s language and tone – Amelia is touted as being able to detect the tone of a customer and to engage them in a way that makes them feel valued and listened to. Customers need to feel as if their input and feedback are important to the company, and Amelia has the ability to do that in order to keep customers happy. Amelia also watches how her human colleagues resolve issues and searches through databanks of previous information to form responses to questions. By giving her a name and a face, IPSoft has made AI technology into something that customers feel they can connect with on an emotional level.
    • Emotional Intelligence – AI is often focused on how much information can be given to an unhappy customer, while IPSoft realized that service comes at a time when a customer is already upset or frustrated. Customers want to be understood and empathized with and Amelia has the ability to use emotional intelligence to keep track of all client interactions. She can also adapt any response in a way that it is personally delivered to the specific customer, making every client feel as if their opinions and needs are valued. Even more than satisfaction with the product, the crux of good service is that customers want to feel understood and important to the company.

These are just three examples of companies that have a vision of what AI can do to improve the customer service experience. In call centers, wasted time is wasted money, and the more you can simplify the problems your agents face, the better the experience for all. Rather than wasting valuable call time on the same monotonous questions that constantly arise, AI makes it easy to address those and let your agents handle more complicated matters that can’t be solved with AI.

How Can You Use AI to Improve Your Customer Service Experience?

While all this information is important, the key is how you can practically apply these valuable tools to your own customer service issues. AI can be a valuable tool to every company, but finding the right program means addressing your companies unique needs and issues. We have a few reasons you should integrate AI into your business and make the experience more pleasant and profitable for your employees and your customers.

1. Put the Human in Your Automated Response

One of the biggest hang-ups and criticisms of service channels powered by artificial intelligence is the lack of ability of the computer to show human emotion or emotional intelligence. When an already frustrated customer deals with an email response that doesn’t directly resolve the issue, or a voice recognition or speech analytics systems that fails or a text message for a product recall that the customer doesn’t have, the problem is confounded. These are basic failings of an AI systems, but the problem becomes even more complex when an issue that is complicated enough to be handled by a human is thrown to an AI system that can’t apply workflow and logic.

One of the highest reasons for call center agent burnout, stress and turnover is the emotionally charged situations they face with a frustrated or angry customer. With the help of AI, that pain is alleviated and situations that are volatile are referred to an agent to handle. As you invest in AI technology, start small with resolution of common customer problems before turning highly emotional situations over to a program incapable of feeling human emotion.

2. Service Is Important to Every Department

Think about a world where technology allows for a part to be re-ordered for a broken appliance before the customer even knows it’s broken, or an airline automatically re-booking a connecting flight or a home disaster that automatically contacts the appropriate service to help. Before the customer even realizes there is an issue, it is in the middle of a resolution. When the AI service can be built into the product itself, it makes it easier for companies to stay ahead of customer service issues before they even occur.

AI allows for in-the-moment information to be relayed to customers, allowing products to differentiate themselves from the competition and keep consumers paying for monthly subscriptions.

3. Intelligent Self-Service Channels

Customers quickly get frustrated with self-service channels that seem to lead them on an endless trail of confusion that make for a negative service experience. AI uses a range of relevant criteria to personalize service to high value customers instead of providing them with the typical, generic responses that come from an automated phone channel.

AI bots also have the ability to handle web chat, and to determine when the customers require a more personal touch that should come from a human agent. These high value interactions help agents close sales without dealing with mundane questions about return policies or store hours. The AI bot can handle the basic questions while sending the live chat to an agent when it’s revealed that the customer is of high value. The customer then leaves the interaction with a positive experience that was customized to their specific needs.

The Future for Customer Service

No matter how you look at it, AI is the future of customer service. Integrating AI into an existing support channel can create happy customers, free up employee time and offer better solutions for common problems your business faces. Artificial intelligence may be a long way from perfect, but the current technology offers a wide variety of benefits for your employees and your customers.