AI in Customer Service - Would It Work for Your Business?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), the creation of intelligent machines that emulate human thinking and decision making, has long been touted as one of the most disruptive technologies of this decade—and for good reason too. From healthcare to finance to manufacturing and even in our homes (think Alexa, Roomba, etc.), AI has permeated almost every aspect of daily living.
A common misconception among SMBs is that only an IT company or big corporations can leverage AI. But the truth is, many businesses are already using AI solutions, especially in customer service, where it is making a significant impact.
Every business needs customer service
Customer service is a very critical driver in the public’s perception of a company. Whether consumers decide to stay loyal to and/or spend more in a particular establishment is largely determined by their customer experience with that business. Here are some relevant figures which demonstrate why every business needs excellent customer support:
- As of 2018, 95% of consumers said that customer service is important to their choice and loyalty to a brand;
- About 50% of consumers expect a response to questions or complaints posted on social media within an hour;
- 66% of US online adults said that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with a good online customer experience.
We could dig up more statistics similar to these, but the emphasis is clear: business organisations should be ready to adjust their strategy to meet the increasing level of consumer expectations. The good thing is that AI-enabled solutions can be deployed to augment customer service teams that are hard-pressed in dealing with the demand. In fact:
- Gartner says that by 2021, 15% of all customer service interactions will be completely handled by AI; and
- More than 80% of customer interactions can be handled by chatbots.
This shows that AI solutions are fast becoming a vital component in the digital customer service mix.
How AI is transforming the customer experience
There are many ways in which artificial intelligence is revolutionising customer service, helping boost customer service and enhancing brand image of companies. Let’s look at some of the common use cases of AI that are applicable not only for IT companies, tech giants, and multinational corporations, but also for SME’s:
Personalised email content curation. Marketing teams often craft differently-worded emails to target various customer segments. But having slight content variations of the same sales letter is the best that marketing personnel can do to reasonably stay within budget.
With the aid of AI algorithms however, personalised marketing emails that are based on an individual’s preferences, buying habits, and website interaction can be sent to every subscriber on the company’s mailing list. This considerably increases the chances of the email being more effective than the usual ‘unpersonalised’ content.
Chatbots. AI-powered chatbots are at the forefront of the digital customer service experience. While it is unrealistic to expect chatbots to deal with all customer concerns, they can be relied upon to handle routine queries which often constitute a good part of service requests. They can be most effective in handling customer questions in specific areas with predictable solutions.
Beyond answering basic queries, chatbots can also be utilised to offer personalised content marketing. They can provide upselling opportunities, send email prompts and reminders to boost user retention, and guide customers through the purchasing process, among other services.
Virtual assistants or AI assistants. Virtual assistants are essentially chatbots that are created with a much more sophisticated interactive platform. They concentrate mainly on Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU), hence they are more user-oriented as opposed to chatbots that are largely server or company oriented.
A virtual assistant, such as Siri and Cortana, can perform a wider range of tasks, based on commands and questions which are often activated by voice. For instance, virtual assistants can perform internet searches, add tasks to a calendar, give reminders of scheduled appointments, and control and manage smart devices, among other tasks. They may not attend to the same high volume of simultaneous requests as chatbots, but AI digital assistants can help business executives and employees do their tasks efficiently and productively.
Regardless of the manner in which AI customer service solutions are deployed in a business organisation, the advantages are immediately evident, and the results long term. Artificial intelligence provides quick, accurate responses where needed, provides a personalised and interactive customer experience, streamlines the sales path, generates leads, enhances productivity, and offers customer-driven insight.
Is AI for your business?
Considering the many benefits of using AI-powered tools in customer service, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t leverage these too. Fortunately, even businesses that have limited resources for tech initiatives can incorporate machine learning and AI into their operations.
Start small scale, consult with an IT company or MSP, or use ready-made solutions to effectively harness the capabilities of AI without breaking the bank. With an AI-driven strategy, you will not only make your customers happy today, but you will also better position yourself for the future.