Speak to me! How digital virtual assistants could open the door to AI for CSPs
The use of basic artificial intelligence (AI) in serving customers is already prevalent among communication service providers (CSPs). Typically, the technology is deployed in chatbots and automated digital workflows to help customers complete straightforward tasks, such as registering a change of address, write Luke Mills, managing director, and Stein Hanstveit, senior manager, at Accenture.
However, recent Accenture research tells us that consumers remain sceptical about engaging with AI. Why? Because they say the experience is too rigid and does not adapt to their requirements as effectively as human operators can. In fact, less than a quarter of the people surveyed felt comfortable interacting with AI solutions.
But the overall negative perception doesn’t paint the full picture. The research suggests that consumers who have access to a digital virtual assistant (DVA) are much more open to letting AI take care of their customer service needs. In fact, they expect it.
As you might expect, young people are particularly amenable to these new technologies. The research found that 74% of people aged 16-23 have access to Alexa or Siri and are much more comfortable than the general population about using AI for customer service. But that doesn’t mean you can write this off as a gimmick for youngsters – this generation is already shaping current expectations of customer service, and in a few years’ time they will represent a sizeable segment of your customer base.
So, what can we learn from the correlation between DVA access and uptake of AI?
- DVAs opens the door to AI, helping users become accustomed to being served by automated solutions. Once they are hooked, they will never look back, because the technology is becoming ever more effective.
- The next generation of consumers expects to be able to interact via voice to make most requests.
- The general population’s reluctance towards interacting with AI and automated solutions will swiftly vanish with the rapid uptake of DVAs.
What are the implications for CSPs, and specifically their approach to customer care?
- DVAs will become a customer-service channel. As uptake of DVAs continues to grow, customers will want to interact with CSPs via these devices that are already in their homes. CSPs need to pay attention to customers’ preferred means of communication and work to facilitate it. Establishing a DVA service channel will meet evolving customer expectations and deliver major cost savings.
- It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. DVAs and other AI-based solutions are well-suited to handling straightforward, repetitive tasks to ease the burden on the call centre. But don’t try to automate all interactions – for complex requests, most customers will still want to speak to a representative.
- Focus on experience. Treat the shift towards AI and voice-driven transactions as an opportunity to radically rethink the customer-service experience. Many CSPs still view AI as a cost-reduction tool, but failure to focus on user experience will impact the uptake and success of AI and DVAs as a channel.
The future is already here. To avoid falling behind the competition, CSPs must seize the opportunity to embrace and develop AI and DVA channels. To achieve strong uptake of the new channels, CSPs need to decide how to include DVAs and advanced AI in their customer-service strategies. Our advice is:
- Understand how you serve customers today across your entire service catalogue.
- Identify the kind of customer requests that lend themselves to DVA solutions.
- Start experimenting with interactions and create high-quality, seamless experiences for your customers.
- Keep a keen eye on the customer segments that are using DVA. Understand how they would like to use a DVA solution, then build those experiences.