Beyond human: revolutionizing Customer Support with AI
A scientist and radiation worker, Andrew Karam, shipped a bunch of radiation detectors. He sent a package of fragile and expensive instruments from New York through a courier service. It cost him over a hundred dollars, but he insured the shipment for $10,000 to be safe.
To Andrew’s surprise, three days later, he received an email from the facility attaching the images of the broken instrument and informing him that the package was damaged. A few months later, Andrew was notified with an invoice that the team had to invest $360 to repair it.
Since Andrew had insured the package, he counted on a refund for the repair. He visited the official website to learn about the process of filing insurance claims. There was no information provided. When the man went to the local branch the staff suggested contacting Customer Support, but there was no live chat option on their website. Finally, he sent an email describing the incident, which resulted in a month-long run-around of sharing photos, and information and asking for updates.
Why is this bad customer support?
The courier service lacked the basic requirement of any successful business– customer support. Customers today have very high expectations when it comes to receiving quality customer support. The presence of the brand when Andrew was seeking assistance would have been the key to fostering loyalty and attaining retention.
This compels one to wonder about the advantages of integrating chatbots and artificial intelligence: how does artificial intelligence, and especially chatbots, affect our lives?
What's a chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with users; a communication interface that helps customers and companies to have automated discourses with minimal effort. This requires a well-defined script of responses and a combination of complex algorithms to imitate a true human-like interaction.
The first documented chatbot in history was created between 1964 and 1966 at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab by Joseph Weizenbaum. ELIZA was the most noteworthy advancement of a chatbot as it simulated the conversation using a pattern matching and substitution methodology.
We have explored more on this earlier, and you can read the same here.
Chatbots are indeed becoming more popular by the day. It’s one of the fastest-growing technologies among companies, and they are using chatbots after realizing the benefits and improvements it can bring.
The global chatbot market is projected to grow to over $994 million by 2024.
By 2027, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for roughly a quarter of organizations, according to Gartner, Inc.
But which AI can help here?
There are several types of AIs, like Rule-based AI, Reinforcement learning AI, Generative AI, and choosing the correct AI model is a crucial step for your company.
Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that focuses on generating new data rather than simply analyzing and categorizing existing data. This technique can be used to generate new images, videos, or text based on training data– ChatGPT, Bing AI, and GPT-4 are just some of the popular examples of Generative AI tools.
The above can help automate processes, identify potential areas of improvement in the customers’ journey and even create personalized experiences for individuals. Ultimately, Generative AI has the potential to increase customer satisfaction levels while elevating efficiency and saving time. While traditional AI has been limited to working with what already exists, Generative AI opens up a world of possibilities by creating new data.
So, how has customer support evolved?
The first call centers were established in the 1960s, before which in-person or by mail were the only ways to provide customer support. It was only in the early 2000s that the Internet became widespread, giving newer ways of reaching users and resolving their issues. Since then, customer support has evolved. Exceptional customer support was highly important to 84% of businesses surveyed in a study released by the International Customer Management Institute on the future state of customer support.
Even though for consumers, the peak of customer support cannot come soon enough, companies are slowly making progress towards a more seamless and simpler approach to providing support.
In today's competitive business environment, standing out from the crowd is crucial for survival. Exceptional customer support can be a major factor in terms of satisfaction, loyalty, and brand reputation. But with high customer expectations, providing exceptional service is a challenging task. One solution is AI-powered customer support, which can revolutionize how businesses interact with their customers.
Now, where do AI, chatbots, and customer support come together?
Here comes the part we have been waiting for– where do AI and chatbots help in enhancing customer support?
We’re all incredibly busy people, managing multiple aspects of life at once. Many individuals are involved in managing conflicts with others, while others are occupied regulating emotions in their daily lives. People these days have less patience and time to spend on a product or a service and need the entire experience to be effortless.
Any customer facing an issue with a product or a service wants an instant and personalized solution. The integration of chatbots with AI is the key to meeting this requirement. It has the capability of offering customers the opportunity to interact with the organization at their convenience and round-the-clock.
One such advancement in using AI for chatbots was made with IBM’s Watson AI; an advanced AI platform that enhances customer support operations. The platform uses natural language processing and machine learning to understand and respond to customer inquiries accurately. Watson AI can also identify customer sentiments and suggest appropriate responses, leading to improved customer satisfaction rates. IBM's Watson AI has been integrated by several companies, including Harman Kardon, with their customer support chatbots, allowing for more efficient customer interactions.
Finally, what are the benefits of AI?
So, as Andrew’s story tells us, he faced multiple bottlenecks while trying to reach out to the customer support team. The required information or contact touchpoint was cumbersome to find; he had to visit a store only to be further disappointed and then scavenge the website to finally connect with a support representative.
Once the dejected man finally made his voice heard by the support team, he had to wait for months to get an update. When he finally received an update, it was not to his satisfaction, and all the waiting had gone to waste.
Now we’ll discuss why AI would have made this entire journey a lot easier for Andrew and many more customers like him. Generative AI combined with chatbots is a powerful tool that can impact customer support in a number of ways:
- 24/7 availability and quicker responses: AI chatbots reduce waiting time by automating the ‘conversational’ customer support process, sometimes even successfully making people believe that they are talking to a human. An AI-driven chatbot can remain active at all times and provide support to customers no matter what hour of the day. Since this tool is not limited by bandwidth, it can cater to multiple users at once, in turn ensuring faster replies and solutions.
- Proactive and better support experience: A chatbot constructed based on machine learning does not need predefined questions. It can interpret exactly what you want to say, unlike a version that uses basic scripts, so if you want to give your customers a human experience and not a cold template, then this is the ideal way.
- Increased customer retention and loyalty: A happy customer is the only customer who revisits, refers, and remains associated with the company. The immediate response simplifies the customers’ experience with the business, thus increasing their satisfaction. And an all-around availability helps inculcate trust in the company.
In case the courier service had adopted an AI-powered chatbot for their customer support operations, it would have been very easy for Andrew to get his issue addressed. The lack of this resulted in him having to visit the store and scroll through the website, worry about his loss, write an email, and then wait for the team’s positive update; altogether, a very hectic, time-consuming, and disappointing experience.
In the presence of an AI chatbot, he would have been able to find the touchpoint to file his insurance claim, would have seen all disclaimers related to the refund process, and could have provided all relevant details at once.
We must carefully consider the pros and cons of making the entire customer support industry AI-driven. This will always require a certain amount of human intervention, but of course, in reduced frequency and intensity.
While we see that using AI can have a number of benefits, it also poses certain drawbacks, like loss of human touch, error in decision-making, and the possibility of provided database getting outdated.
The debate on the future of AI and customer support is never-ending, newer advancements are emerging every day and nobody really knows what the far future holds. One thing is for sure- artificial intelligence is here to revolutionize how companies and customers interact, and it is definitely here to take over!
Sources: EBS-Integrator, LinkedIn, Simplr.ai, TechTarget, HelpCrunch