AI: The Customer Service Agent That Never Sleeps

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the next big thing. It is going to touch us all in countless ways from life’s simple conveniences (Alexa, turn on the lights) to life-saving medical diagnoses. It seems like every week there’s another story of an AI-assisted breakthrough in all kinds of applications from simulating job interviews to creating original artwork.

In the world of customer service, AI is being used to augment customer service agents overwhelmed by the huge increase in remote customer inquiries.

The behavioral shifts brought about by the pandemic are becoming permanent. Remote shopping, contactless customer experiences, and home delivery are here to stay. Businesses must change the ways they interact with consumers and scale up remote customer support capabilities to meet increased demand.

A survey conducted by Medallia Zingle showed that prior to the pandemic, 78% of consumers said they visited businesses like grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, and beauty salons at least three times a week. Since the pandemic that number dropped to 34%. The same survey found 87% of consumers want businesses to continue to provide online ordering and delivery/curbside pickup services indefinitely to reduce the need for in-person transactions.

Translation: Customer support call volumes are exploding, and thanks to online stores and service portals that are always open, customers are calling 24×7.

The problem is that most businesses do not have the resources to provide live customer service agents to respond to customer inquiries 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

AI is the answer
Automating tasks like call routing and initial information intake using customer-facing AI tools like chatbots to answer basic questions without human interaction will speed the resolution of every call, leading to better customer experiences and improved customer retention. AI solutions never take breaks, vacations, or get sick, and are a fraction of the cost of a live customer service agent.

If companies with a large online presence or remote business model have not yet implemented some form of AI into their customer service operations, they will soon.

AI is already being used in multiple customer service activities; many times, a caller may not even realize AI is at work streamlining their request. AI does things like:

  • Routes calls to the most qualified agent based on product or service
  • Performs initial customer information intake to open support tickets
  • Identifies trends in customer feedback for agile marketing
  • Integrates and shares data with customer relationship management tools
  • Powers chatbots and virtual assistants to assist callers without human interaction
  • Enables automated message response to eliminate human errors and delays

The automation of routine tasks will not just relieve stress on customer service agents, but it will also fundamentally change their jobs. Rather than answering simple information requests, agents will be free to handle more complex problems and focus on relationship building and customer retention.

Advantages of AI in customer service
AI is bringing new levels of efficiency to customer service through:

  • 24/7/365 availability to provide basic assistance outside of call center operation hours
  • Enabling customers to find the information they seek without talking to a live agent
  • Minimizing wait times by collecting data and routing calls to the best agent
  • Automating repetitive tasks to make agents more productive
  • Supports Natural language processing (NLP) technology to determine customer sentiment

Internally, AI helps manage the customer service function better with capabilities such as real-time call transcription for training and monitoring purposes. It can rank customer service agent performance against metrics like call volume and duration, and use past customer behavior to predict future purchases.

AI tools, once trained and refined, are also less expensive than live customer service agents. But not everyone is a fan.

Some customers find Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology impersonal or difficult to comprehend. Some agents fear AI will replace them, while some businesses believe their product or service is too unique or has too many variables for AI and requires a live customer agent to answer every call. These issues will disappear as the technology matures.

Wherever a company stands on the issue of AI in customer service, one thing is clear: A resilient, fiber-rich network is necessary to support the transfer of data at speeds that can emulate human thought.

That’s where Astound Business Solutions comes in. Astound’s modern fiber optic network taps into over 100 data centers across the country and serves eight of the top ten U.S. metropolitan markets, so we can connect your customers to your AI-assisted customer service agents from virtually anywhere at the speed of light.

Download our white paper, Artificial Intelligence: The Future Of Customer Service, to learn more about how AI is transforming the role of customer service agents, its advantages, and why AI is becoming a vital tool in the battle for customer retention.

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