How AI Helps Address Customer Service Challenges

A few years ago, less than a quarter of customer interactions relied on artificial intelligence (AI). Human agents handled most interactions, which resulted in overworked staff and attendant labor issues. But times are changing and changing quickly.

In 2022, more than 70 percent of customer interactions used AI-enabled tools, like chatbots, automated emails, and virtual agents. According to IBM, business use of intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) grew by 75 percent in the past two years.

Why are so many organizations relying on AI to address customer service needs? The answer might surprise you. Today's AI goes beyond simple automation. It not only streamlines customer interactions; AI transforms how organizations interact with customers, which can positively affect employee hiring and retention.

Across sectors and industries, organizations face two significant challenges: First, the tight labor market continues to make hiring, training, and retaining talent difficult. Second, basic assumptions about how customers interact with companies have also changed.

A lot is riding on meeting customer expectations. A recent Salesforce survey reported that 83 percent of customers expected to resolve complex problems by speaking to a single person, but only 13 percent had those expectations met. Another study found nine out of 10 customers will stop doing business with a company because of a bad customer service experience.

AI Helps Businesses Stay Competitive in Today's Labor Market

Today's labor market has sped up the processes for finding and training new hires. Often, candidates will have multiple offers. Companies not only have to find the ideal candidate from ever-shrinking labor pools, but they must move quickly from offer to acceptance to onboarding, and often do it all in a remote environment.

After being hired, organizations must train and retain new customer service employees. A study reported that 86 percent of respondents said that a newly hired employee decides to stay with a company long-term in the first six months. To create a welcoming environment and good relationships with new hires, 83 percent of top-performing organizations begin onboarding remotely with video messages, automated emails, information packets, and welcome kits. All this extra effort ensures that new employees are the right fit for the company and that leaders don't waste their investment in employee training.

AI plays an integral role in making new hires count. A quarter of companies are already using AI to support their recruiting, hiring, training, and performance management operations. AI ensures that companies find top customer service candidates by sifting through applications and identifying profiles that best meet position criteria. AI uses machine learning to reduce wasted time and labor to find the right person for the role.

AI also streamlines essential training, getting new employees trained faster to help customers. More specifically, AI can help personalize employee training based on individual learning needs and preferences. For example, by analyzing an employee's performance data, AI can identify areas where the employee needs more training and create a customized training program to address those specific areas. And, of course, AI-enabled tools such as intelligent virtual assistants are built to ease customer service workloads and streamline operational tasks to help prevent worker burnout and ensure employee retention. Customer service staff equipped with innovative tools that add value to their job responsibilities are essential for customer satisfaction.

Turn Customer Needs into Customer Satisfaction with AI

Just as the labor market has shifted customer service, so have changing expectations of those customers. The past three years have seen a fundamental change in the way customers want to interact with companies. Personalized, around-the-clock service is no longer a perk; it's the expectation. Data shows that 73 percent of customers want to solve issues themselves.

An IVA can predict callers' identities via their phone numbers. Once the IVA has confirmed callers' identities, it can use data from past interactions to understand the callers' needs and personalize service. IVAs can also identify tone to quickly understanding if callers are happy or frustrated. The IVA can use this information to tailor its approach to solutions and mitigate further frustration.

AI tools help streamline customer interactions, supporting customers with straightforward requests and passing more complex interactions to human agents. Escalating necessary interactions to human agents reduces customer wait times and allows companies to serve customers more efficiently. These benefits work together to improve customer and employee satisfaction.

Along with increased efficiency and customer satisfaction, AI-enabled tools also let companies gather valuable customer data and feedback. Businesses can design tools with machine learning and natural language processing to help them learn with each customer interaction. This data improves the tool, and its insights can inform future customer interactions and employee training.

The way organizations interact with customers is changing rapidly. That's why many companies are using AI-enabled customer service tools to ensure customer and employee satisfaction. As the customer service labor market evolves, so is the way that AI helps companies connect with and serve their customers.

Rebecca Jones is general manager of Mosaicx. In her career of more than 25 years, she has held a broad range of operations executive roles focused on growing businesses, people, and profit margins. She also serves as a member of the board for the Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Louisville, Ky.