Leveraging AI To Advance Customer Service

In recent years, customer service and customer experience have altered beyond recognition. Not that long ago, just at the turn of the millennium, the sole customer touchpoints a company had to feel concerned about were phone calls, periodic deliveries, and the things that happened on the shop floor.

However, in today’s interconnected, fast-paced world of convenience, the number of customer touchpoints is too significant and almost impossible to count. From eCommerce and social media platforms to busy call centers and online chat tools, consumer-facing companies in all industries now face a common challenge: delivering customer-centric, connected omnichannel experiences to their respected customers.    

Photo from Medium  

 This blog post will focus on how consumer behaviors and expectations have changed as we move into 2022 and how organizations can use technology, especially artificial intelligence and its subcategories, to provide outstanding customer service across channels. 

The Ever-Evolving Consumer Trends 

Advancements in technology have given modern-day consumers unprecedented leverage when selecting how to interact with a given company. For example, some might prefer to place a direct phone call to the customer service department or queue for a quick online chat with a customer representative. In contrast, others might tweet a brand to get their issue resolved. Moreover, can you envision how poorly a bank or any other financial service organization would be perceived in today’s age if they didn’t have a functional smartphone app? 

According to the “2021 State Of Customer Experience” report, over 80% of customers prefer to be able to switch between channels as they interact with their favorite brands and companies. This means that nowadays, customers choose to interact with customer service across channels on their own terms, which is also a good thing because it allows companies more opportunities to engage.        

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The ever-evolving consumer preferences have also given rise to a new consumer trend—self-service. In present-day’s convenience culture, it’s way easier for consumers to “serve themselves” to keep things fast and as efficient as possible. Ten years ago, customers didn’t mind waiting in line for the first available customer service agent to pick up the phone and help them solve their issue. 

However, now, not many customers would opt to wait in a queue or speak to a customer service agent unless they have an unresolvable issue on their hands. According to a survey by American Express, 60% of all US consumers prefer automated self-service for simple customer service tasks. This is precisely where AI in customer service enters the picture.

AI In Customer Service Across Channels 

An omnichannel or multichannel customer service experience connects the physical world and the digital experience. It provides the capability of every company to provide customer service across channels that centers on granting a seamless customer experience whether the customer decides to seek support via phone, email, submit a customer service request within your ticketing system, social media, or else. This customer service approach focuses on the entire customer experience and not the consumer's individual experience on different support channels.

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In this field, AI in customer service is already making a significant impact. Artificial intelligence and its subdivisions play a vital role in providing customer service across channels by providing insights into customers' ever-evolving preferences and needs and creating customer roadmaps that scale and deliver consistent, enjoyable experiences. Now more than ever, organizations turn to AI in customers service to close the gaps in creating thriving customer experiences by providing full support through pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase service. 

Artificial Intelligence: A Necessary Customer Service Tool 

By applying artificial intelligence—particularly deep learning, machine learning, and natural language processing—to a range of customer experience data like direct and indirect customer feedback, individual preferences, digital engagement data, shopping behavior, and more, companies can easily predict behavior, detect patterns, and anticipate the latest customer needs. This is because AI-powered software models can analyze and make sense of unstructured and structured data from fragmented customer service channels in a way that is unfeasible for humans. Moreover, such software can do this in real-time, allowing organizations to make live-time decisions on the resulting intelligence and provide better services to their clients. 

At this time of accelerated digital evolution, business leaders are finally realizing and acting up to the imperative of deploying AI in customer service to fine-tune and speed up day-to-day activities if they are interested in outperforming the contention. In that manner, a survey conducted by Wakefield Research of 500 C-level executives from multiple industries in the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Australia revealed that improving customer experience is the most significant benefit of deploying artificial intelligence in business operations, let alone AI in customer service.

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For example, deep learning can help companies promptly reveal rich customer insights with little to no human effort. Or, AI-powered automation models incorporated in text analytics can prudently categorize customer feedback, social media comments, reviews, and more, to efficiently analyze customer sentiment and uncover customer impact by topic. All this makes AI in customer service imperative to bring structure to unstructured, scattered data to help companies prioritize improvements in their service efforts that have the power to drive loyalty and effectively reduce churn.

AI Can Help Your Organization Deliver More Personal Experiences 

In the end, building an effective customer service strategy in the digital age is all about utilizing technology to provide a more personal experience to the people who spend their hard-earned money in your business. And although face-to-face interactions slowly but surely diminish, artificial intelligence solutions could be deployed both to look after every customer on a scale that would have been inconceivable before and humanize those customer-facing digital processes.    

Speaking of AI in customer service, let’s take the support contact center as an example. Combining human and artificial intelligence can transform and personalize the customer experience for the better. As one of the very few customer support channels where customers can interact with other human beings, a support center is ordinarily where more complex issues get solved since simple requests like password resets have already been moved to self-service. Therefore, any interaction with your company’s call center must go smoothly, and artificial intelligence can help. 

NLP and ML-equipped sophisticated virtual assistant solutions, for instance, can effectively filter out customer requests that can be solved promptly and effortlessly. More adaptable and more intelligent than FAQ sections, they can resolve issues with minimal fuss, and consumers will still feel that their request received the personal attention it deserved. This can free up your customer service representatives to deal with more urgent, complex issues requiring more significant human intervention. In this manner, AI in customer service can play a humanizing role in the ongoing digitization.

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Utilizing AI To Be More Empathetic  

Artificial intelligence’s capacity to analyze vast amounts of data to uncover trends and patterns is apparent, but its use in customer service extends far beyond this. For example, an individual customer will stumble upon a rare roadblock in their customer journey from time to time. While the issue may not indicate some more significant trend, this moment should undoubtedly be captured and analyzed to determine what went wrong along the way. 

AI in customer service can empower companies to listen to each client and predict their risk based on their particular pattern of interacting with the company. Whatever their problem is, effective experience management is all about ensuring that the customer’s problem is solved with the customer service strategies in place and that their experience is good. 

Artificial intelligence software integration can promote an empathetic outlook when dealing with possibly controversial issues where clients are more likely to have a negative experience with the company. Let’s take banks, for example. Banks massively utilize artificial intelligence technologies to analyze behavior and identify the best communication channels when trying to recover debt from clients. AI can help determine whether individual clients are most likely to respond when contacted by email, phone, or even social media. 

Photo from Cloud Talk

Moreover, and perhaps even more critical for the overall customer experience, thanks to AI, organizations can identify which clients may be considered vulnerable, based on their past account information, previous interactions with customer service across channels, demographics, and even the wording they used to ensure that communications sent out are empathetic to their specific situation.

The Importance Of Leveraging AI To Advance Customer Service Across Channels 

Everywhere around us, customers' preference to be served by human agents rather than intelligent machines is commonly cited. But what if AI in customer service can help to deliver more human experiences than what humans can do? AI has a unique power to humanize, and in the increasingly digitized world we live in, it's a way of continuing to deliver those all-important human experiences. 

Not that long ago, improving the customer service across channels used to be something that companies would focus on during periods of stability and was usually one of the first programs to be prioritized during budget reduction and crisis, while AI in customer service was considered a luxury. Nevertheless, we have witnessed these views turned on their heads within a very short space of time. 

Now, AI-enhanced customer service strategies are valuable when facing today's challenges and vital if companies are to remain close to their clients, bring empathy, and predict and respond to their needs in a culture of customer-centric decision-making.

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