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3 Ways AI Can Improve Your Customer Service

Diego Cepeda, Senior Product Marketing at UST SmartOps

AI has the potential to vastly improve your customer service and make life easier for your representatives at the same time. Yet many managers hesitate to incorporate AI solutions — after all, don't most customers want to talk to a real human?

Diego Cepeda, Senior Product Marketing at UST SmartOps

That doesn't mean you should give up on AI in customer service. It just means you need to find the right way to use AI to enhance your tried-and-true methods.

Customer Service is Ripe for AI

It's largely true that the majority of customers prefer to speak directly to a human. Forbes found that 55% of customers prefer speaking to a human customer service agent on the phone, and 73% will press 0 to reach a human agent when presented with a robotic phone tree.

Despite these findings, there is enormous opportunity for AI to optimize your customer service — just not necessarily in phone trees. The same research found that "customers will use the technology – and even embrace it – if it saves them time." For instance, over half of customers would choose a chatbot over a human if it would save 10 minutes.

That's not to mention the many ways that AI can improve internal operations and streamline the customer experience behind the scenes.

Here's the bottom line: Leaders that fail to take advantage of the efficiencies and automation enabled by AI will find customers less and less satisfied with the standard of service provided.

We've compiled three powerful use cases to demonstrate how you can most effectively use AI programs such as intelligent process automation to take your customer service to the next level.

1. Triaging helpdesk requests & capacity

Let's imagine a scenario.

A customer is at store 68, which is having trouble processing credit cards. It's a known issue, so your rep collects the customer's information and enters the ticket into the system — which goes into a queue with 2,000 other tickets.

The problem is, this is the third time it's happened this week, and store 68 is in your largest market. A simple helpdesk request reflects more than just one unhappy customer. It's a serial issue that is cutting into significant sales over time. And while it's happening, the customer service team has its hands full putting out fires.

Without intelligent software to categorize and analyze all these requests, you'll never get ahead of these issues or even capture all the data you need. The right AI program can do all that for you, enabling your reps to focus on the people they're serving.

A combination of cognitive computing and automation, for instance, can learn your entire workflow and optimize it by:

2. Analyzing phone calls

AI can also unlock and analyze data that's currently challenging to process, such as enormous, unstructured data sets that aren't easily searchable. Here's an example.

A customer that subscribes to your store's monthly delivery service calls the helpdesk. Your rep handles the customer's problem perfectly. Both sides leave the exchange happy, but you're missing out on revenue. Your service rep didn't have the data to see that this customer is a prime candidate for an upsell on grocery delivery service as well — plus, that rep isn't an expert on that business service offering.

Even when your service calls are recorded, by the time anyone hears that information, it's too late: The customer went with a competitor because they didn't know about what you could offer.

An AI program reads and analyzes that information instantly with natural language processing and in the same moment extracts the top sales leads. A cutting-edge program even recognizes the sentiment those leads expressed towards products discussed on the call. It could then invite those prospects to relevant events, enter them into email campaigns or send the data to the most qualified sales rep.

With AI, you can enhance your calls by:

3. Improving chatbots

Chatbots are a great way to automatically handle low-level service requests, and they give your customers a way to get answers instantly. But, chatbot responses can seem impersonal and feel too computer-generated, even when supposedly powered by AI.

A chatbot backed by intelligent process automation solves that problem. IPA-based chatbots incorporate humanlike capabilities, such as natural language processing, sentiment analysis and document scanning, to deliver a friendly, personalized experience to every customer. It can even detect which customer requests are a high enough priority to transfer to a human service rep.

The key here is training the software correctly so that it can truly understand what a customer is looking for. It's more than just understanding the literal words the customer is using — it's interpreting the nature and cause of the ask, then finding the right answer. Here's how that breaks down:

With the right capabilities and the ability to learn quickly, an IPA-based chatbot can deliver a humanlike experience consistently.

This type of software is also on all the time, so it can perform top-level service 24/7. AI filters out requests that are easy to handle so that your customer service team delivers a better experience, faster for your customers. That way, your team can focus on areas that drive the highest business impact, like experience, loyalty, personalization, upsells and more.

These examples are the tip of the iceberg.

AI is already revolutionizing customer service across a myriad of industries, from retail to health insurance. It also makes it possible to deliver a new standard of service across multiple channels — in fact, anywhere people interact — including phone calls, personal devices, smart home devices, social media and more.

A future state where every business deploys its own version of Google Assistant to help its customers simply isn't that far out of reach. You just have to ensure you're deploying the right type of software on the right task.

Some people may always prefer interacting with other humans, but as software gets better at mimicking human thought, more and more customers will embrace the efficiency and accuracy of AI tools. And your business will benefit from the process optimization and revenue gains that come with AI. It's the best of both worlds.