While customer service has always been around, its customer-centric focus has flourished in the past years thanks to the realization that a good customer experience helps you earn more money. And more importantly, bad customer service will cost you. According to Frost and Sullivan, “US companies are now losing more than $83 billion annually due to poor customer experiences, an effect compounded by the reality that it costs six to seven times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one.”
So what does it mean to have good customer service? Most people will point to speed, convenience, friendliness, and knowledge. And with the emerging state of advanced Conversational AI technology, these qualities are completely possible to deliver through a virtual assistant.
As more businesses have begun investing in virtual assistants and other customer-facing conversational technologies, we have seen numerous companies attempt to create applications that will satisfy customer demands. Unfortunately, many have fallen short. These applications need more than just the right features and technology, they need proper design and integration in order to see success at scale.
So for such a new phenomenon- AI in customer service- what are the best practices?
There has to be an element of the human touch
I’m sure you’ve had experience with an overly robotic AI application. Somehow it knows everything about you, but it doesn’t understand how to use the information in a contextual manner that is actually helpful. Or maybe it asks you to describe what you’re calling for, but it can’t understand what you’re saying.
These are examples of applications designed without the human touch. Although artificial intelligence can “learn” based on past experiences, it cannot learn something that is never taught. That’s why it is essential for humans to be in the loop when it comes to customer conversations in order to teach the application about customer intent and phrases that may not be recognizable to a machine. And the key to the human touch is that it must be incorporated in real time, so that every customer has an effortless experience.
Consistency across channels
There are a lot of channels that customers can choose to contact your business on. And in this age of convenience, it seems logical that more channels equals more convenience. This, however, disregards an important element of customer service, which is consistency.
So while it is better to have more channels, those channels must be integrated in a way where customers not only get a consistent experience from channel to channel, but they are also able to seamlessly transition from one to the next without having to repeat their issue or information.
Simply put, for an AI application to be successful, there needs to be continuous learning. And yes, this can refer to the actual application improving by processing more data, but it also refers to working with a vendor that is able to continuously tune and tweak the system to operate as efficiently as possible. The ability to use customer feedback in order to enhance conversational design and other application features can be the difference between a good experience and a great experience for your customers.
Can it work at scale?
When talking about customer service, these three elements are key to making sure that an AI application can provide the type of experience that is consistent in speed, convenience, friendliness, and knowledge. However, perhaps the most important consideration is the ability to deliver this at scale. It’s best to find a partner who has designed these applications at scale to ensure best results. An application should not work sometimes, or most of the time, it has to be designed to work everytime.
As technology becomes more advanced, and the customer experience industry continues to evolve, these best practices will likely remain constant in one way or another.