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Customer Service In 2017

Using Artificial Intelligence To Improve Customer Interactions And Engagement

Recent advances in the field of software intelligence paint a completely different picture on artificial intelligence systems. Contrary to apocalyptic visions of AI, IBM Watson helped save a Japanese woman’s life recently. When she wasn’t responding to treatment for leukemia, doctors sought the help of Watson. Within 10 minutes, it had scanned over 20 million clinical oncological studies and identified an exceedingly rare form of the disease.

Just pause for a second and have a think about that. 20 million clinical oncological studies (!). It’s not possible for a human to tackle this task, let alone ever completing it on time. A Japanese woman lives because of these technological advances in software, and the prospect of how AI is going to grow from this point, is really exciting.

Of course, what can be used to save lives can also be used to improve the standard of living like self-driving cars or customer service. Over $300 million in venture capital was invested in AI based startups in 2014 to help improve customer service experience.

The rise of chatbots and smart replies are the clearest indication of AI improving the standards of customer service. As we look forward to 2017, customers can and will expect higher levels of service, which AI will help businesses deliver. Here’s how:

Act on a preferred form of contact

Towards the end of 2015 there was a leap in the number of daily active users on messaging apps, which leapfrogged that of social apps. This pointed to the preference for real-time conversations and it’s potential in the business world. With messaging available as a form of contact, customers just have to open up an app or just click on that handy help button in your app. Where once a customer might have had to frame a lengthy email, or a tweet of frustration, they are now more likely to send you a message.

Chatbots can be the first touchpoint in a customer interaction and automate things like the collection of basic information, and triaging customers before diverting them to the appropriate department.

Buy some time with automation

When the concept of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was introduced, businesses saw issues being resolved even before they reached a live agent. If this is possible with a process as cumbersome as an IVR, imagine what could be on the horizon if we incorporated automation with chat.

Chatbots are also capable of a wide range of automations across any industry. For example, if a customer of an online retailer is complaining about a lost package, a bot can assess the situation and ask them if they’d prefer a refund or a replacement. Depending on what the shopper prefers, the bot can kickstart the appropriate process on its own. Using automated bots, businesses can solve frequently encountered problems, without ever requiring the intervention of a customer service representative.

Make support simple and easy

It is argued that the chemistry between chat and bots is better than that of the phone channel and IVRs. A large chunk of time spent listening to all the options in an IVR menu could actually be spent looking for answers. Using chat, customers can easily skim through all the options and actually end up knowing more than when they started.

Listening to long, complex menus can be pretty tiring. Many would rather press 0 and talk to an agent directly, than suffer through a cumbersome and confusing list of options. So, why not reduce the wait, and ultimately, anxiety, by offering customers the option to read their choices on a screen?

Build relationships with efficient practice

A crucial first step in top notch customer service is the ability to identify your customers. You don’t want to be asking your customers to repeat their name and contact details each and every time they interact with you for support. Support executives need enough context on customers to help them with what they need.

But what if a customer has called you five times in the past and each interaction averaged 15 minutes. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll listen to 75 minutes of past conversations in preparation of the next call. A way to make this process more efficient is using a chat log. With just a glance, you can access records of past interactions with bots or other agents and assess the customer’s relationship with your business.

Improve the quality of interaction

Chat functions have a number of advantages over other channels. Businesses can include attachments, screen grabs, pictures and still send and receive instant, personalised responses. This richness of interaction facilitates a lot of other use cases. Something as simple as pictures could enable the automation of resolving issues with a step by step guide.

Take for example, a customer who has purchased a new router and they need help getting it set up and running. They reach out for support and are connected to the company’s chatbot which helps them with every step of the process, even attaching picture instructions when appropriate. Game changing, right?

It’s safe to say that AI is quickly moving from an “exciting prospect” to an “eventual reality”. As systems get smarter, and algorithms evolve, modern software will challenge the boundaries of conventional customer support processes.