Humanise the customer experience with AI
It’s easy to fear for the loss of the human touch when it comes to customer experience (CX) these days, writes Ryan Lester, the director of customer engagement technologies at LogMeIn.
To an ever-growing extent, CX has become more defined by systems, data, and yes, artificial intelligence. However, we are nowhere near the dystopian ‘computer says no’ future that many are worried about. While artificial intelligence (AI) can do amazing things today, the role of people in customer service is still critical – it just may be changing.
Rather than taking away the human touch, advances in technologies like AI, are actually making customer service more personalised and human. On one hand, AI is helping companies offload repetitive and simple tasks from the call centre, giving agents more time to spend with the customers that really need them. AI is also working actively in the backend, feeding agents with customer profile information to help them provide an experience tailored to the customer’s specific needs and history.
It’s true that automation hasn’t had the best reputation when it pertains to customer experience. It’s traditionally been used as a way to deflect customer conversations, rather than to make them better. Legacy interactive voice response (IVR) systems or even some of the voice assisted tools we use today are extremely scripted, inflexible, impersonal and glitchy – leaving most of us to request an agent immediately.
The new breed of AI is different. It uses natural language processing and machine learning, to understand and communicate in a contextual, conversational, relevant and more human way. By being able to understand the customer’s intent, AI can either answer the question immediately or route it to the best resource. It’s smart enough to know when it’s not smart enough. Regardless of the course the engagement takes, the entire customer service cycle is faster and provides a better outcome for the customer and business.
A level playing field
Because of these new capabilities of AI, we’re seeing new business opportunities open up. Companies like Amazon are taking on industry after industry with their disruptive business models and sustained growth – making it hard for almost everyone to compete with them. However, a concerted focus on improving customer experience and loyalty can be a better way to stay relevant and profitable in this new landscape.
AI is helping companies of all sizes level the playing field by opening up their ability to deliver the always-on, consistent experience that customers are looking for but have traditionally been cost prohibitive. AI-powered chatbots are available to help customers day or night and can also work to help onboard new human agents and/or make their jobs easier. What used to be defined as a budgetary line item is now becoming a vital business strategy and with the help of AI, companies can focus on creating a best in class customer experience rather than the cost of service.
The changing role of the agent
One of the most terrifying thought for those in the customer service industry is that machines will come in and steal jobs. However, today’s AI cannot – and should not – be about replacing human agents but more about arming them with everything they need to create the types of experiences that creates brand loyalty and advocacy.
Adding AI into the mix allows companies to leverage their most valuable resource – their employees – for the most high-value customer engagements and leaves the heavy, and less fulfilling, lifting of answering repeatable simple questions to those self-service channels. The human agent of the future will be able to focus time and effort on strategic business initiatives and less on answering the same question a thousand times a day.
As the marketplace becomes increasingly dominated by a society of people who are used to having everything at their fingertips, innovations like AI will be a critical way that companies can keep pace with customer expectation. Customer experience is already a key value driver with recent research suggesting that 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a brand following one bad experience.
While that is certainly a lot of pressure, AI is allowing businesses to provide a far superior customer journey than they ever thought possible without breaking the bank. In the end, though, the future of any business will likely depend on co-ordinated efforts of both man and machine. While the business benefits of AI and data analytics are potentially huge, like with any technology, it’s only as good as the people and processes that are supporting it.