10 reasons why AI-powered, automated customer service is the future

By | 8 minute read | October 16, 2017

Key Points:

  • By 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent
  • Currently, in a 6 minute customer service call, 75% of that time is devoted to agents doing manual research, with valued customer interaction at a dismal 25%
  • Resolving customer service issues before they arise could significantly lower customer abandonment rates
  • AI, chatbots and automated, self-service technologies free up call center employees from routine tier-1 support requests so they can focus on more complex tasks

Automation is everywhere these days enabling users to accomplish a wide range of tasks – from ordering pizza, checking luggage at the airport, booking a hotel room, right through to booking a doctor’s appointment. And the customer service industry is no exception.

Advancements in technology continue to transform customer service interactions. By 2020, experts project that more than 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without the need for a human agent.

And, with AI today, those complex queries that are passed to your human agents no longer are a burden. Build a virtual assistant that allows your employees to easily search internal databases to find the answers they are looking for, eliminating the need to dig through disparate sources.

Answer customer questions – faster, with accuracy. Help agents get the job done smarter, all while reducing support costs. Build a virtual assistant that answers your customer’s questions directly on the front end, and provides your agents with the information and resources that they need on the back end. Create a complete, end to end customer service with AI, from improvements in loyalty and brand reputation to new revenue streams. The pathway to real-time self-service and AI assistance in customer service brings huge opportunities to forward-thinking businesses. This post outlines the 10 reasons why AI-enhanced customer service is the future of call centers.

1. Pre-emptive action

Automation can deliver a level of responsiveness that isn’t humanly possible. In the future, virtual assistants will be able to predict what your customers are looking for by understanding how users are interacting with your brand. If your virtual assistant has an understanding of who your customers are, it will be able to deliver answers before your customers even know that they have questions.

Systems with AI embedded can monitor a nearly infinite amount of website and in-app activity for distress indicators, identifying customers experiencing issues and what those issues are. The system can respond in real-time offering support through FAQs or virtual service agents across platforms and devices.

The ability to resolve customer service issues before they arise has huge potential. It could significantly lower customer abandonment rates in the purchasing cycle, whilst simultaneously reducing customer complaints and improving consumer satisfaction.

2. The rise of messaging applications

In 2015, the number people using messaging apps overtook social media. Beyond communicating with friends and work colleagues, individuals are increasingly using messaging apps to interact with brands. Messaging services are a brand new space for organizations to connect with existing and future customers. Businesses now have the opportunity to create new revenue streams using real-time, customized customer service bots within messaging applications.

More than 34,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone is a reflection of this opportunity. The airline, clothing and tourism industries are already leveraging this space. Consumers are connecting with brands through messaging apps to purchase airline tickets, book hotel accommodations and receive fashion advice. It’s only a matter of time before the other industries catch up.

3. You only have to train them once

Hiring and training staff takes time and money. In fact, on average, it costs $4000 or more to hire a call center service agent, and an additional $4,800 or more to train them. These costs can quickly grow with an increase in staff attrition, a common problem at call centers. Automation platforms can offer huge time and cost savings in this space. AI allows you to provide your agents with the resources that they need to be successful, therefore decreasing turnover. A platform like Watson as it comes pre-programmed with industry and domain knowledge. Better yet, you only have to train it once.

This is an exceptionally powerful feature when it comes to company process changes. Rather than re-train an entire workforce, you need only re-configure the software and a lot of it can be automated. Better still, these customer service platforms help free up employees from routine tier-1 support requests they’re tired of working on, so they can focus on the more challenging and creative tasks that support their customers’ complex needs.

4. Customer service that’s always-on

Automated customer service is not constrained by time zones or public holidays. This gives organizations the ability to deliver always-on customer service to resolve issues as soon as they arise. This means customers can have their inquiries resolved 24 hours a day, and don’t have to wait hours or even days for a response. This can greatly influence customer satisfaction and churn. It also shows that a company that is committed to supporting customers – which is valuable for brand reputation and trust.

5. Reliable service, wherever customers need it

A recent Zendesk study showed that 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience, whilst 52% stopped buying after one bad customer service interaction.

Customer service powered by AI technology provides a level of reliability that cannot be matched by its human counterparts. Chatbots are free from many afflictions and biases that can negatively impact a customer interaction. They do not turn up to work late with a hangover. They can be designed to not get angry and argue with a customer. They don’t take matters into their own hands, and they can be programed to escalate calls to a manager if they cannot solve a customer query. All this helps improve the customer service interactions, which can have a huge influence on repeat business.

A recent Zendesk study showed that 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience, whilst 52% stopped buying after one bad customer service interaction.

However, when queries are escalated to a human agent, they will be met with the same sentiment, as virtual assistance take the frustration out of their day-to-day roles. With AI, agents have the information that they need, at the tip of their fingertips, to find answers to customer queries. There is no need to become irritated by the siloed databases they typically deal with. Agents, along with a customer-service virtual assistant, can now provide reliable service, anytime, anywhere.

6. Innovation with cost savings

New and innovative technologies can deliver advanced levels of service over conventional customer service at a fraction of the cost. A perfect example of this is call computerization solutions, which combine machine learning and advanced speech recognition to improve conventional interactive voice response systems, whilst delivering a 60% – 80% cost saving over outsourced call centers powered by humans.

7. Need for speed

The same Zendesk research survey we mentioned earlier in this post also showed that customers who received a quick resolution of their issue equated it with a good customer service experience. Digitization of customer service has the power to speed up issue resolutions, thus improving service satisfaction levels. Online FAQ content has the power to immediately answer a common query, and chatbots are not limited by typing or research speeds. In fact, companies such as Autodesk have been able to speed their customer service by 99% by building a virtual assistant to handle customer service queries on the front line. These types of solutions are hugely powerful in driving customer satisfaction in the face of an issue.

Not only can AI help you to reach your customers faster with self-service, but your human agents will be quicker with a virtual assistant by their side. Agents today struggle to keep up with the high volume of queries coming in, and find that the majority of the time that they do have is spent answering common FAQs. Use automation and AI to provide your agents with the real-time data they need to serve customers quickly.

8. Demand for self-service options

The way in which customer service interactions are resolved is already evolving. The majority of Millennials now avoid situations, which typically require a human interaction and prefer to have self-service options instead. A recent customer service study revealed that 72% of Millennials believe a phone call is not the best way to resolve their customer service issue. These tech-savvy Millennials prefer to solve their own customer service issues, turning to self-service solutions including FAQs, forums and online chat or bot services. With the next generation expected to be even more self-reliant, automated customer service technologies will be crucial in responding to these human-free, digital-only interactions.

Businesses that do not to adapt risk a failure in communicating effectively with the next generation of consumers which can negatively impact the customer journey and ultimately the business’ bottom line.

9. Personalization is key

Organizations collecting customer data can combine big data, machine learning and AI to deliver an unrivaled level of personalization throughout the customer journey. This can range from simple product recommendations based on past purchases, to websites redesigned in real-time to tailor to an individual customer’s reading level and browsing habits.

Personalization can greatly improve the customer service interaction, promote consumer satisfaction, improve conversion to purchase, and drive repeat purchases. AI and automation can also allow your human agents to have context to understand who they are talking. Understand their order history, their search preferences, and what their experiences have been so far with your brand. With this information easily accessible, they will be well equipped to provide the best possible customer experience, tailored to your clients’ needs.

10. Scalability with speed

These new technologies give businesses the power to scale their customer service at an unprecedented speed, even with limited resources. Upon launching a new product, businesses can release interactive FAQs, which can resolve thousands of customer queries without the need for human interaction. Chatbots empower businesses to respond instantaneously to a surge in customer inquiries, simply by switching on another sever.

With the help of AI and chatbots that continuously learn from every interaction, brands can rapidly transition into new geographic markets free from the limitation of employing and training staff that speak the local language.

The era of AI-powered customer engagement

Watson offers brands a new way to provide automated services anytime, anywhere. It offers a conversational self-service experience that provides answers in real time. Companies can easily customize Watson to fit specific business needs, provide custom content and match their brand voice and tone. Additionally, deep analytics provide insights on customers’ engagement with chatbots and help brands understand their customers’ constantly changing needs.

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