Conversational Services

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

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Key Points:

  • By 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent
  • 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

Learn how AI is shaping call centers

 

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.

From improvements in loyalty and brand reputation to new revenue streams, the pathway to real-time self-service 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. The Forrester report “2017 Customer Service Trends: Operations Become Smarter And More Strategic,” touches on the concept of pre-emptive customer service. The report highlights that “companies will continue to explore the power of intelligent agents to add conversational interfaces to static self-service content. They will anticipate needs by context, preferences, and prior queries and will deliver proactive alerts, relevant offers, or content. They will additionally become smarter over time via embedded artificial intelligence.

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. 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

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.

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. These types of solutions are hugely powerful in driving customer satisfaction in the face of an issue.

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

Of the thousands of gigabytes of data that each of us will generate in our lifetime, it is estimated that almost 33% is actually valuable, and only if analyzed. 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.

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.

Learn more about how Watson is already changing the way brands serve customers.

Sign up for our free Virtual Summit on Nov. 14 to learn how AI is shaping the future of call centers and customer service.

 

Content Manager, IBM Watson

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