Today’s consumers expect immediate and seamless customer service. They are more willing than ever to invest and stay loyal because of exceptional experiences. This requires the service function to adapt and evolve, ensuring it is well-placed to meet the growing demands facing brands.

Technology has been a core enabler for keeping pace with these changing demands. From the maturity of chatbots, to the expansion of messaging capabilities, the technology has evolved how brands connect with customers. However, it’s also true that the digital transformation journey across the industry has varied. Some brands still find it difficult to meet consumers where they are most active digitally. It’s clear that some technologies like chatbots continue to produce mixed experiences. 

This, in my opinion, has the potential to change, and change quickly. The emergence of generative AI (gen AI) has everyone talking, but it’s not just a trend for 2024. It will create a long-term transformation in the service function and how brands think about the entire customer experience. The questions are – in what way, and how easy will it be? 

AI development in the service sector 

AI in customer service isn’t new. In recent years, we have witnessed the birth of conversational AI. Gen AI augments these capabilities, as well as offering new possibilities. By using neural networks and large language models (LLM) to identify patterns in its training data and generate new content, gen AI can:

  • Learn from historical data
  • Understand the context, language, and prompts
  • Constantly evolve its capabilities and generated content. 

Both technologies are essential for achieving higher levels of personalisation, customer satisfaction, and business efficiency, but there are important differences. For example, conversational AI requires a massive volume of training data to accurately comprehend and respond to human language. Whereas, gen AI analyses patterns in the data and generates content based on these patterns and structures. It’s these unique capabilities that gen AI offers that mean it has the potential to have a truly transformative impact across the service function. 

Finding the volume-cost balance 

Depending on how you view and implement it, gen AI can impact the smallest of daily tasks, to framing the nature of customer experience. For example, service agents can use gen AI to do something as simple as rephrasing their responses or adjusting their tone and avoid errors or typos. More transformational is gen AI’s ability to drive more intelligent bot and automation experiences. While chatbots have gone some way to delivering on the promise of an automated, more intelligent customer journey, it’s not wrong to say that bot experiences vary and lots of users remain frustrated. But with gen AI and its ability to identify patterns in its training data, understand the context and intent, and continually learn on each customer interaction, brands will be able to more easily automate and personalise a variety of frequent customer support requests. 

Yet, the bigger picture will be the ability of brands to strike the coveted balance in the volume-cost equation. It’s still often the case that when customer volumes surge, brands respond by increasing their human resources – more customers, who need to be served with a high level of service, require more agents. This has improved in recent years as technologies have shifted brands towards more autonomous, channel-agnostic customer engagement, but many are still a long way from being able to find a greater equilibrium in this equation where, for example, customers can self-serve on any channel they like, while agents can now focus of higher stakes inquiries across different channels simultaneously. 

Gen AI can help bridge this gap

Brands often already have a wealth of valuable information on their website, encompassing various product and service options, policies, and more. Support pages, FAQ, and agents’ scripts are already prepared and waiting to go, and by leveraging gen AI, you can swiftly “scan” or “upload” all your available materials, flows, and previously resolved processes, both successful and unsuccessful, in a matter of seconds. This rich pool of data immediately offers brands the ability to offer autonomous, self-serve customer journeys – AI-powered bots can automatically assess the most effective path for successfully resolving nearly any customer inquiry – while human agents can be primarily involved in handling complex issues. That’s a fundamental shift in the volume-cost equation.

Where should you start? 

It’s no surprise, then, that 99% of business leaders are already planning to invest in the technology, with one third of business leaders reporting that their organisation is already using it regularly. But while there is broad recognition that gen AI can transform the service function, there is still a key question front of mind – how easy is all of this, and where do I start? 

These questions are particularly front and centre for legacy industries, such as finance, insurance, and telecoms, which were not born digital, have a more complex digital transformation cycles, but still want to gain a competitive edge. Across most solutions today, driving a more autonomous, self-serve customer journey requires implementing multiple systems and orchestrating their functions to seamlessly work together. It also entails writing scripts for bots, addressing potential caveats, building engagement flows to involve human agents at the right time, and training agents to shift their focus.

But this is also the beauty of the technology – the ability to digitally transform will become easier than ever. Whether it’s the ability to swiftly scan and upload all your available materials in a matter of seconds, or use this data to build a more intelligent, self-serve bot experience in no time at all, the speed at which even legacy enterprises can transform their capabilities is unprecedented. Coupling these powerful capabilities with an omnichannel solution that can seamlessly integrate with your existing infrastructure, the value of Gen AI can be unlocked almost overnight.

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