Artificial intelligence is radically changing how companies handle customer experience. It’s already causing huge shifts in other areas. Helen Murray from Webhelp explains.
Take, for example, banking: 32 per cent of financial services executives have confirmed they are using AI tech such as predictive analytics already. Meanwhile, fintech apps like Chip have embraced AI to automate savings for customers; in Chip’s case, in collaboration with major retail bank Barclays, where the savings accounts created through the app are held. Fintech solutions are already compatible with online and mobile banking technology – they’re just using AI to take the service to the next level.
Speaking of apps, one of the most notable changes for those of us working in customer experience is the rise of messenger apps combined with AI. A report in late 2016 from 7, a CX software company, found that 28.9 per cent of consumers prefer online chat and messaging apps to phone or email when it comes to interacting with retailers. There are a few reasons for this – hold times are minimal; customers can use chat apps quickly and easily from anywhere, instead of typing out a long email or finding a quiet spot for a call; and apps and webchat make assisted self-service much easier than other channels.
Part of the significant shift to AI currently taking place is the integration of messaging apps with tech that assigns low-complexity customer interactions to AIs, rather than human advisors. If the customer needs something more, the conversation can be automatically shifted to a person, but the majority of very simple chats (customers checking when a delivery is to arrive, confirming that an order has been placed, or resetting passwords, for example) can be conducted without bringing a human being online. The result is that CX teams can focus on complex customer needs while still drastically reducing wait times.
Another relatively new solution is augmented intelligence, which utilises AI technology to assist people at work – for example, ROSS Intelligence developed a solution for use in the legal sector. ROSS brings the IBM’s Watson to legal research – described as “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney”, this cloud-based AI allows users to input questions on laws and cases in natural language and receive instant answers, combined with any other information the AI deems relevant. What’s more, ROSS can learn; growing more useful the more it is used.
Blue Hill conducted tests to compare ROSS’s performance to Boolean search and natural language tools, and also examined the results achieved using ROSS combined with Boolean and natural language searches. The results were largely in ROSS’s favour in terms of both user satisfaction and time. For example, users rated the combination of ROSS and Boolean at 5 (on a 1-5 sliding scale) for usability – Boolean on its own scored 3.3. Participants who used both Boolean and ROSS to complete the assigned research tasks completed their tasks in an average of 36.5 minutes, while those using Boolean on its own averaged 52.3 minutes for completion.
Combining augmented intelligence with existing tools could be a real asset to brands. The technology could be integrated with existing customer relationship management systems, allowing CX teams to provide up-to-the-minute updates on industry-specific issues that could impact customers – traffic congestion and its impact on deliveries, for example – with minimal additional training.
When these new developments are considered together, it’s possible to see an entirely new model for customer service developing. First, a customer contacts a brand on WhatsApp and their initial query is answered by an AI; then, the conversation moves into more complex territory, and the AI transfers the interaction to a human. The advisor continues the conversation without interruption, and uses augmented intelligence to answer the customer’s queries with no delay.
When you look at the new interaction model I laid out above, seamlessness and speed are fairly prominent. When you consider that an AI can also access customer details during the interaction, it also becomes clear that these quick, smooth conversations can also be highly personalised. These are three elements that customers are demanding more and more in CX – they want to talk to brands that know them, understand them, and value their time and comfort when they communicate. Augmented intelligence and AI, combined with new communications tech, can offer all of these benefits without removing the important human element from the equation.
So the question now is: what’s next?
Helen Murray is the Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Webhelp, a global business process outsourcer (BPO), specialising in customer experience and payment management in addition to sales and marketing services across voice, social and digital channels.