Humans and AI Form a Powerful Duo to Improve Customer Service

More money than ever is being invested into artificial intelligence systems. In fact, IDC is projecting $77.6 billion will be spent in 2022, more than three times the $24 billion that was forecasted to be spent in 2018.

Customer service is one of the primary areas where AI is already at work. Netflix AI learns from your viewing patterns. Google AI delivers the right search content. Hedge funds rely on AI to spot trading patterns.

The question is whether AI will take over everything and render customer service a humanless endeavor? The answer to that is probably not, certainly not in the near future.

However, AI will increasingly take over more basic customer service tasks. AI will also arm humans with more information, faster, to improve the customer journey. As AI improves, consumers won't even notice how much is being done in the background to improve their journeys. The AI will just work and be invisible to the consumer.

At the same time, human (i.e., customer/agent) interactions will become more rare, and, therefore, more valuable, according to Gartner. This means that companies that apply the right human interaction at the right moments for customers (what Gartner calls the "defining moments") will create stronger connections with those customers.

At Talkdesk, we see AI improving the customer experience in three big ways:

  • Proactive Service. AI will only get better at doing the things that Facebook, Netflix, and Google already do to enable more companies to personalize service. Google's tactic of suggesting responses to emails in Gmail is indicative of how AI will get more proactive. Look for changes like that across an entire range of customer service offerings. For instance, today, airlines notify customers if flights are canceled. That's a big improvement from just a few years ago when customers had to check websites or, worse, find out when they got to the airport. Soon, airline AI-infused solutions will crunch weather, airport, and airline data to proactively intercede. That might mean alerting fliers days before flights to the likelihood of cancellations and alternative flights.
  • Extra value. When every company can deliver the same product or service at roughly the same cost, the differentiating factor will be the customer experience. AI solutions will improve those experiences. For example, customers who frequently stay at the same hotels reveal clues as to what they like. Maybe they frequently go to the gym and access the gym with their guest cards. Or, they have a favorite type of coffee each day at the coffee bar, or frequently request the same items from room service. With that data, hotels might place certain guests in rooms closer to the gym, or remind them at check-in when the coffee bar opens, or do both. Personal touches, without being intrusive, build consumer-brand relationships. In a contact center, AI supports and allows agents to offer more tailored suggestions to each individual caller. In these cases, AI doesn't replace the human touch, but rather, enhances it with extra value.
  • Discovery. There are no limits to the amount of data that companies can amass. Improving database technologies provides companies with access to more and more data and the power to comb that data with AI. By doing so, companies will discover new ways to serve and delight. In fact, AI will be critical to getting the most from customer data, which today is often inaccessible to companies because it is stuck in silos within the company. One part of the company simply cannot access data available to other parts of the company. AI, once fed with clean, correct data, will more quickly connect all the available data sources, revealing previously unseen customer service patterns and opportunities. For instance, if a hotel guest is continuously showing up less and less often, that might indicate a customer is ready to leave the brand because other data from thousands of other customers show the same pattern. With that insight, a hotel could reach out proactively to intercede. AI solutions will also very quickly analyze large amounts of data and highlight the most relevant details, which will allow humans to respond faster and more efficiently. The best news is that AI technology will actually help companies clean data so that they can actually trust the data and discover insights from it.

At the end of the day, AI is exciting technology that will impact our lives in many ways, most of which we won't recognize because the AI will be so transparent, and, at the same time, so incredibly powerful. It will also empower humans to deliver better customer service, especially in the moments that really matter.

Jafar Adibi is head of artificial intelligence and data science at Talkdesk, a cloud contact center solutions provider.

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