A new era of customer service
Human nature is to fear the unknown. With Artificial Intelligence, we fear being made redundant. But what if there was a middle ground between human and machine?
When was the last time you used a landline? For many of us, it is the number we use to reach our parents on from our mobiles. Smartphones have replaced conventional landlines, and messaging has overtaken calling as the preferred means for communication. Interesting then that you are expected to call a hotline when your vacuum cleaner breaks down, or send an email if you want to complain about a negative experience you would like compensation for. Why are companies not adjusting to these new trends?
Customer service is often considered a cost department rather than an investment in your business. The reasons are clear. Scaling your customer service capabilities is a painful, labour intensive process. Basically, if you want to add capacity, it means hiring more employees. This comes at a cost and is why customer service is often the first department to be outsourced to countries with cheaper labour. Sound familiar?
What is more, it’s often a thankless role and teams tend to have a high churn rate. In addition to pacifying irate customers, customer service agents find themselves responding to the same questions day in day out. How do I know? I was one once upon a time. More than 50% of the tickets tend to be repetitive questions, give or take, depending on the industry the number can even rise to 80%. That is not very motivating. It is also a missed opportunity. Companies that master the art of customer service enjoy higher brand equity. What if one could leverage the advantages of human emotional intelligence with the benefits of technology?
This is where artificial intelligence comes in. It’s important before we go any further to address the elephant in the room. What do we mean by AI? While science fiction would have us believe it is robots that will take over the world, we are not quite there yet. We are talking about machine learning. AlphaGo, the AI that beat Lee Sedol in the game Go, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Chess and Monopoly. Why? Because its automated neural network was trained in the game Go, nothing else. Not quite time for Asimov’s three laws of robotics just yet.
That does not mean it is nothing short of revolutionary and is in the process of changing our lives like never before. In fact, you have probably had countless interactions with AI today without even realising it. Just think about how your smartphone works for starters!
The common fear is that AI will replace human jobs, and in some respects that will happen. But what it will allow humanity to do, is focus on areas that really add value. Let’s take for example the case of your customer support agents. By empowering them through AI, over the space of a few weeks they could be free from replying to those repetitive, tier-1 tickets. If one imagines the volume of generic questions a business receives, for this example let’s say 500 a day, and that each ticket takes an agent using a macro 30 seconds to read and solve, that adds up to over four hours to answer. Time poorly spent that comes at a cost, in time, money, and motivation.
Using agents supported by AI is a hybrid solution that allows them to prioritise replying to those questions that add value. The key tenants of success in customer support are, amongst others: showing empathy, the ability to actively listen and connect, admitting mistakes, providing solutions, and of course the average handling time. By automating the tier-1 questions, an agents time can be better spent on turning those negative experiences requiring empathy and a human touch, into positive ones. Studies show that a positive customer service can turn upset customers into loyal ones (Harvard Business Review). These uplifting experiences have another positive effect, they are rewarding and help to further motivate your team.
To summarise, employing a system of Agent + AI ensures that you are able to offer a comprehensive, efficient service to your customers, that can scale as your business does. All of that without any tradeoffs. This was the same conclusion reached in the CGS’s 2018 Consumer Customer Service Survey (Computer Generated Solutions).
How does your Customer Service team tackle these new trends and challenges?
We would love to discuss our vision of customer service and how we could help you meet your growing needs.
Jerome Flint, VP International Markets,