How AI can be used to build the customer service departments of the future

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

illustration of a person chatting with a robot

For businesses, keeping existing customers is far easier and more affordable than constantly finding new ones. The best way to ensure complete customer retention is by building a good relationship with customers based on trust, loyalty and service quality. These principles couldn’t be more human, and so customer service agents rely on emotive means in order to create, maintain, and retain customers. With the shiny new blanket of AI covering almost every inch of global business practices these days, it is no wonder that AI is beginning to be used in customer service departments the world over. But what does this mean for a business practice which relies heavily on humanness?

Let’s face it: AI has the Midas touch in tech and makes everything simpler, better, faster and most importantly, more convenient. And when dealing personally with your customers these are precisely the adjectives you want to describe your customer service quality. So it’s a no brainer why AI is being introduced to this area of business. Keeping customers happy and willing to return means beefing up your bottom line.

Speed and convenience are top prize when it comes to customer service in today’s rapid rate of living and technological scale. Customers are becoming increasingly adaptive to new technologies and so expectations become more finessed. Basically, give them what they want quickly and conveniently, or else they will move on to another business which will meet their requirements. This should not be a deterrent for businesses, but rather an inspiration.

So, can AI do a better job as a customer service agent than a living, breathing, emotionally sensitive and responsive human being? Yes and no. Here’s how (and how not):

Improved customer satisfaction

The key to AI’s success is that it successfully blends intelligence with automation — a powerful combination. Better response times and higher quality of interaction is the result. AI is not only helping businesses improve their customer service, but it also plays a major role in improving customer loyalty and brand reputation. When AI is used to handle remedial and repetitive tasks previously done by humans, it enables employees to focus on higher-value tasks that provide greater returns for the business. And when customer service agents are not bogged down on administrative tasks they become more readily available and nimble to assist customers personally.

Chatbots are being used as the front-line of customer engagement, able to help identify consumer needs off the bat, identify the problem and ensure that the correct people are looking at them. This process already eliminates hours of work usually dedicated to long calls, incorrectly filled-out forms and admin-related holdups. Chatbots can proactively start conversations with customers and provide relevant information at each touchpoint throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Customers are now treated to information and answers they need, specific to their requirements, on-demand. When an issue is more complex, chatbots can link customers with human agents so their needs can be met.

Customising the user experience

AI is being used to analyse customer data in order to customise the user experience and products to each individual user. It is capable of analysing data sets and adapting in real-time to offer products or services that match specific needs rather than basic categories. AI can use machine learning to factor in various details about a user (location, weather, events and even personal information) and use it to display only the most relevant information. This isn’t exactly a new concept if you are familiar with any internet search engine or video streaming platform. The difference here is that businesses are now able to perform these tasks thanks to AI and can now get a much clearer idea of each customer and their needs.

As businesses generate more detailed customer profiles to better understand each individual customer, they are able to focus on specific customer needs and buying behaviours, including preferred channels of interaction. AI helps highly tailored content to be delivered to customers at the right time and through the most appropriate channels. This is a digitally enhanced ‘hands-on’ approach available to each customer which only a few years ago was considered an unattainable luxury for most businesses.

AI and humans working together

Although it may appear that AI technology is making a lot of humans in customer service departments redundant in favour of their binary counterparts, this isn’t entirely the case — yet. MIT Sloan Management Review insists that successful AI-powered customer service systems will depend on bots working with humans, not replacing them. AI won’t always exist independently in customer service. It has a powerful and incremental role to play in empowering the capabilities of human customer service agents.

AI-infused contact centres look to be the most viable and positive solution for new-age business customer service departments. Through natural language processing technology, AI is able to listen in to customer interactions in real-time. The chatbot is then in a position to offer valuable recommendations to the human service agent on how to best solve the customer’s problem.

As in most cases where the advent of AI has ushered in a new era of production and precision, customer service departments will benefit more if there is a combined approach, where humans and AI work together. More specifically, AI is meant to assist the human customer service agent and bolster their ability to provide hands-on, meaningful assistance to customers by focusing on high-level issues and let AI handle the rest.

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Samantha Wolhuter
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Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.
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