Have you ever thought about what the future holds for us? Self-driven cars, automatically-curated Netflix queues, and an intelligent home that auto sets the temperature are some of the things that come to mind. It is no secret, then, that artificial intelligence (AI) will impact us in myriad ways as technology progresses.
A recent study by research firm Gartner found that over 55% of forward-looking organisations are either already investing in AI, or have plans to do so by 2020. This is a clear indication of the importance of this phenomenon, one that is bound to impact decision-making for businesses. By looking at current trends that are driving growth in customer experience, one can identify topical innovations and where they are bound to be powered by AI.
Look at popular consumer brands like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, and Dropbox. They manage to support a growing list of customers that is in millions, every day, every hour and every minute. It is virtually impossible to staff enough people to handle each and every query, clarification or problem raised by such a massive cluster of customers. AI is the answer to the problem, for it delivers solutions using machine and deep learning.
While it is hard to predict how exactly AI will influence our lives, the changes it will bring about in customer experience can be predicted. This can be done by studying the emerging patterns.
Rise of the chatbot
Chatbots can deliver personalised communication by assessing patterns. As interactive platforms, they can manage many basic functions hitherto managed by humans. That will free up precious time of support agents, allowing them to apply their minds to more important functions. Automating most processes through bots also gives a company an image of being forward-looking and technology-oriented. Chatbots can also provide immense scope for companies to improvise and learn consistently about their own customers.
Multichannel to the rescue
With the rising number of communication platforms available today, how does a company choose one over others? AI presents potential for delivering personalised communication options for customers. Email, social media, chat, phone, etc. are some communication options today. The important point to note is, different customers have different preferences in the way they would like to interact with a company. Take, for instance, a millennial who is likely to prefer chat or social media as their preferred channel. But the older generation is likely to choose a telephone call or email. AI has the potential to learn these preferences and intuitively manage them for a company, thereby saving precious time and monies.
AI helps streamline processes better by directing a customer to a chatbot to respond to basic queries from a customer, and then escalate them to email or a phone call if required. Such engineered smart processes can help deliver better customer satisfaction and, not to mention, free up agents' time in the process.
AI has the capability to quickly solve problems. Automated services can deliver quick turnaround time by providing easy-to-understand responses for most basic queries, thereby optimising agents' time to manage more critical issues. Machine learning can also provide customers with assistance and advice on how to prioritise and handle an issue more effectively. This inherent quality of AI to streamline customer support by analysing patterns and delivering human-like responses to queries is advantageous both for customers as well as agents.
We live in a world that is constantly changing. A growing number of new-age companies demand new-age solutions to help keep pace with customer needs. The customer, on his part, is also transitioning and expects brands to relate to him and provide custom experiences. Customers across the world today have access to social media and on-demand TV, which is different from the offerings available a few years ago. To stay relevant, companies can rely on feedback and learning from their existing customer interaction and keep improving it through AI.
That said, one thing is for sure. AI, which was a speculation till five years ago, is now a reality and here to stay.
KT Prasad is country sales director at Zendesk India, a global customer services software firm headquartered in San Francisco, California.
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