Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In fact, AI is transforming customer service and support. In this first article in a new series we take a general look at some of the benefits of AI in messaging services.
Remember your last great customer experience (don’t take too long...!)?
Chances are that the experience was positive because you had someone’s full attention. Or it was efficient. Or the person you dealt with had helpful answers to all your questions. The experience could have been in a bricks and mortar store, on the phone, or online. And if it was online, are you sure it was an actual person you dealt with?
AI has finally arrived: but not in the way the movies thought it would be. Thinks less ‘robots capable of independent thought’; and more ‘machine learning algorithms that follow automated processes’.
Well, yes. But AI in customer support is a combination of things. Let’s take a closer look at what they are, how they are being used, and how both consumers and companies can get value from them.
So many customers know the pain of navigating automated telephone systems; which can presumably explain the recent surge of online alternatives. Plus so much shopping is done online now, and pretty much all of the price, product, and service-related information we need can be found somewhere on the internet.
Now that the expectation is that we should be able to find what we want, when we want it; offering personalised, instantly responsive, always on customer service is a logical next step. Great for customers, right? And for companies too. An AI saves money in the long run.
But surely more AI means fewer customer service jobs? Actually, AI is being designed to complement what staff do. In fact, it gives them an opportunity to delve into more complex queries; to troubleshoot and investigate, ultimately providing people with more meaningful work to do. All the AI does is take existing information and serve it up in a way that is fast and reliable.
According to a Zendesk study, 88% of people have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision.
But how does AI provide the answers? What platforms does it use? Customer service AI takes on several different forms, but the most well-known is probably the social media bot.
Functioning like a typical chat between friends, social media bots are brand-owned communication channels that are set up to interact with customers by answering specific queries, providing them with information before directing them to the company’s site to complete a purchase.
Some of the most popular brand-based social media AI bots include:
While it is an area that is still pretty much dominated by Facebook Messenger for now – with now over 300,000 active bots, predictions that more than a quarter of the world’s population will use messaging apps by 2019 look beyond North America and Europe as the primary markets. WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE, and Viber are very popular in Asia. Let’s not forget that China and India are the world’s most populous countries, while emerging markets like Indonesia and South East Asia have increasing influence. Russian social network, VKontakte, is more popular than Facebook in CIS nations; and let’s not forget Telegram.
A Gartner survey shows, that by 2020, 20% of organisations will dedicate workers to monitoring and guiding neural networks.
Conversations equal conversions. That is pretty much a given. But customer service AI is more than just chatting to your favourite companies on social media.
While many consumer brands using AI bots via social networks are relying on pre-established audiences, we should keep in mind that B2B services have just as much reason to explore the use of Artificial Intelligence as part of their customer support offering.
You’ve probably ventured onto a website and been greeted by a speech box icon at the bottom of the page asking how they can help. Yup, that is pretty much guaranteed to be an AI: ready to help you find what you need.
But onsite AI has another purpose when embedded into a website: on-page optimisation. By monitoring your site activity, an AI has the ability to serve questions or content based on what you’re looking at; allowing companies to make data-driven decisions in real time.
In fact that is exactly what we do at Mesaic.
62% of B2B customers purchased more after a good customer service experience.
Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana. Let’s not disregard voice AI as viable customer service interfaces. They continue to evolve from frivolous brand extensions to useful information tools. And they are learning fast.
This is partly to keep pace with increased customer demand for voice assistant devices – January 2018 stats show that at least 45 million Americans have access to a smart speaker. But when you consider advances in voice recognition and the ability for voice AI to pick out keywords from customer enquiries – or jump in when an call centre agent forgets something – we begin to realise that there’s still a long way to go, as the possibilities for AI usage are only limited by what we allow them to do.
Ultimately, smarter devices, homes, businesses, and services will inevitably lead to AI taking a more prominent role in our lives.
Right now, the AI we have at our disposal is very much human powered; meaning they’re only as good as we make them. What they lack is empathy and the ability to problem solve; there are very clear parameters about what they can and cannot do.
But technology powers on, so even if the time comes when robots do take over at least brands can feel safe in the knowledge they’ll do a great job on the frontline of customer experience. But, as recent reports show, we should probably keep them away from marketing – at least in the short term.
Here at Mesaic, we see messaging services as a crucial part of every customer journey. Why? Because they spark conversations that, handled correctly, can blossom into lasting and meaningful relationships. Want to find out more? Get in touch.
Upcoming articles in this series will look more specifically at Voice AI and neurolinguistic programming in customer service. Definitely worth coming back soon!