Three predictions for the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in customer service

Artificial Intelligence, or ‘AI’ for short, has the potential to radically improve the way that many businesses deliver customer service. In this article Dave Paulding, Regional Director at Interactive Intelligence – a customer engagement and business communications software and cloud services provider –gives hispredictions on how AI will transform your customer service in the near future.

AI – the story so far

AI means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, AI conjures a vivid image of the red, unblinking eye of HAL, science fiction’s most infamous machine menace. To others, AI infers a productive sidekick, like Star Trek’s Data.

In reality, AI is proving a tame, practical and effective tool for many businesses. And in the world of business,some of the most interesting uses of AI can be found in the customer service industry.

Customers, like companies, are ‘always on’. They expect an immediate, pain-free and personalised service when they reach out for assistance. When they aren’t satisfied, social media has empowered them to tell the world about their experience – so the pressure is on.

Thankfully, AI is already helping customer service professionalsmeetthe expectations of today’s ‘anytime, anywhere’consumer, and some of the use cases are ingenious. For instance, AI can be used to detect when a customer says “supervisor” – a watchword in any customer/agentinteraction. In response, the appropriate supervisor can be alerted, enablingthem to intervene and join the call if necessary. The key here is that the intervention happens in real-time, helping the right staff to intervenebefore the customer is potentially lost.

While innately impressive, this is only the beginning. The quality and complexity of AI is dramatically improving. At the same time, the drive to deliver a better customer service offering is quickly intensifying.

As these two forces come to a head, customer service professionals can expect to see the following three trendsmaterialize in the next five years:

1) Supplementation not automation

Many argue that AI has the potential to completely replacehuman customer service teams.In my mind this is completely untrue. AI should actually improve human involvement in the customer service process, not threaten it. That might sound counter-intuitive – after all, AI tacitly infers automisation. But AI can and should be used to better connect people with each other and with information inside the business. For example, when used effectively, AI can predict busy periods throughout the day, enabling customer service managers to allocate resources accordingly. In this case, AIactually gives customers more access to a real person, not less.

In customer service, the human touch is, and always will be, vital. While customers now demand that certain services be fully automated – ATMsand ordering takeaways, for example – when it really matters, they want to speak to a human. After all, who really prefers applying for a mortgage or tackling a computer problem via an automated service?

2) AI, from A to Z

A lot of the major ‘headline’ benefits of incorporating AI into customer service operations have come on the external, or ‘customer-facing’ side – in other words,those services and toolsthat directly impact the customer experience. One example is live webchat support. A once James Bond-like concept, AI-managed instant messaging tools are now a smart and resource-friendly channel for customer communication and support. Often, customers can’t even tell the difference.

But AI shouldn’t be limited to customer-facing interactions. The ‘Intelligence’ in AI means more than creating a human-like avatar that can work with customers in place of people. It speaks to the intuitive movement ofdata and resources. As such, AI will be applied to the internalworkings of customer service teams.

These customer service teams will leverage AI throughout their operations by developing intuitive personal assistants to lessen response times and enable agents to spend their time on more complex tasks thatcan’t be resolved through AI.

3) A prediction

One of the most dramatic innovations that AI promises is its predictive capabilities. With advanced processing capability, AI systems can analyse a given situation, ‘learn’ from the analysis, and pre-emptively send information and resources to the right customer and right customer service representative.

That sounds rather technical, but here’s what I mean. Take a customer who regularly calls her bank on a Friday to check her balance. Using AI, the bank will send the customer an automated email containing her bank balance before she even picks up the phone. This saves time, gives the representative more control and, ultimately, makes the customer happier.

The customer service industry is ripe for disruption, and with consumers becoming increasingly impatient – and vocal – when it comes to poor customer service, AI has a huge role to play in helping companies meet, exceed and predict customer expectations.

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David PauldingDavid Paulding
Regional Sales Director UK, Middle East & Africa at Interactive Intelligence

David Paulding has been working in the customer experience sector for over 20 years. With his great experience behind his back, David has developed a deep understanding of the challenges associated with doing business in emerging and developing regions, including cultural, market and local economic factors. In the past year, he has contributed to successfully growing Interactive Intelligence’s revenues by over 60%, which helped position the organisation as a leader in the UK market.

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