The Future of AI-Fueled Customer Service Is Now


By Javier Gonzalez Helly, Co-Founder @Botfuel - March 04, 2019

4 reasons for tapping into the power of automated customer service today

Today’s customers demand a lot. They don’t have the patience to wait for hours on the phone to get their questions answered or to sift through endless streams of links on a customer service page to get the information they need. When they want answers, they want them fast.

This helps explain why many customer today choose to contact businesses digitally for help, through social media or email, for example, before ever picking up the phone. Even so, 40 percent of customers agree that picking up the phone is still necessary for getting help with more complicated or complex service issues. However, as more and more of the customer service experience goes digital, picking up the phone is quickly becoming more of a last resort, typically only after having exhausted all other (usually digital) options first.

Long story short: today’s customers expect businesses — of all shapes and sizes — to come to their rescue whenever and wherever they need it, especially on digital channels. This is uniquely true for the younger, digital-first millennial generation, and it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. As new technologies and more immersive customer experiences emerge every day, the expectation for on-demand customer service will soon become table stakes across all industries. Businesses have no choice but to heed this call.

Unfortunately, not every business has access to unlimited customer service resources. SMB’s (small- to medium-sized businesses), ecommerce-only brands, and fast-moving startups, for example, rarely have the bandwidth to deliver timely and relevant customer service around the clock. Nor are they able to front the necessary resources to invest in building a truly comprehensive customer service operation. That is, until now.

The application of artificial intelligence (AI) in the realm of customer service has now turned the once insurmountable challenge of keeping customers perpetually happy into a bright spot where businesses can really surpass expectations like never before. Whether in the form of intelligent chatbots or hyper-personalized customer support (and everything else in between), AI is liberating the traditional customer service model while simultaneously giving businesses a more efficient and effective way to meet growing customer demands.

Now, for those of you who still think AI-fueled customer service is just hype or a passing fad, we’re here to show you why that’s not the case. AI is not only part of the future promise of customer service, but it’s very much in the here and now. The businesses that harness the power of AI to strengthen and grow their customer service efforts today will stand to win more loyal and happier customers for life.

Still not convinced? Here are four reasons why you should be:

BENEFIT 1: Increased productivity and task prioritization

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that not all service inquiries require human interaction, especially given investments recently made to develop intuitive and helpful self-service content. This is just one reason why that it has been estimated that, by 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions will be handled without any human intervention whatsoever — instead, through chatbots, self-service content, or other automated customer service tools. But this is much more than just a simple prediction; a massive 78 percent of brands have already implemented — or are soon planning to implement — AI into their customer service workflow to better serve customers.

This is a win-win for both customer service teams and customers alike. Why? First and foremost, because AI-fueled customer service can free up support reps to focus on inquiries that really need their attention and boost overall productivity by 40 percent. The end result is ultimately a win for customers because they can get answers to simple questions faster and more accurately than ever before while still getting access to a real human being when they need it most. And although consumers are still somewhat skeptical about the benefits of AI in customer service, 73 percent say they are open to it if it makes their lives easier.

Just because AI is quickly revolutionizing the customer service experience doesn’t mean that humans will eventually go by the wayside. Quite to the contrary, many business leaders believe AI will make the jobs of humans easier and more efficient, with 36 percent agreeing that it will both optimize internal business operations and free up employees to be more creative in their work. This makes a lot of sense when you think about how much time simple customer service inquiries — like questions about return and refund policies, order shipments, product troubleshooting, or even store location and hours — can consume. These tasks distract customer service reps from handling higher impact activities that ultimately provide more value to customers in the long run and create a better brand experience for customers overall.

Lastly, and this is especially true for smaller businesses that don’t have the resources to hire and train large customer service teams, implementing AI-fueled solutions can be a cost-effective alternative for not only enhancing a team’s productivity but also for helping businesses deliver a higher level of around-the-clock service that today’s customers expect.

BENEFIT 2: No customer left hanging

Not every business can build a 24/7 customer support team. But that doesn’t mean every business — whether big, small, or just starting out — can’t provide stellar customer service at any hour of the day. Keep in mind, service inquiries can and often do occur outside of “standard business hours.” When your customers need help, they want it fast — because, for them, solving their problem is (or should be) your company’s biggest priority. This comes at a time when the majority of customers today expect instant (or near instant) responses whenever they seek out help through online chat (77 percent), chatbots (75 percent), telephone (64 percent), and mobile apps (55 percent).

Knowing this, if you had the choice to “go dark” during off-hours or empower intelligent automated customer service solutions to cover your bases after the team goes home for the day, what would you choose? (The answer should be simple.) These solutions give you an easy way to keep your customer service efforts “always on” while also catering to the instant gratification-oriented needs of today’s demanding customers. Fortunately, among the many benefits of AI-fueled customer service solutions, it’s been found that the greatest benefits of chatbots, for example, are 24-hour service (64 percent), instant responses (55 percent), and answers to simple questions (55 percent) — all of which your customers will appreciate.

So, you might be wondering, what if a customer service inquiry is too complex or complicated for a chatbot to handle on its own? The good news: any automated customer service engagement creates an opportunity to foster a more positive initial customer interaction, efficiently capture relevant customer information related to the problem or concern at hand, and then automatically create a service request that the support team can address once back in the office the next day. Whether this customer service interaction happens initially via a chatbot or eventually in a follow-up call with a real human, it more often than not leaves customers feeling like they’re being heard and that someone, even if it’s not a real person at all times, is there to help until their issue has been fully resolved.

BENEFIT 3: Low cost of maintenance

The biggest benefit of implementing an AI-fueled automated customer service workflow is the speed at which the information input into those tools can be added and updated regularly. This ability to make real-time updates ensures that the responses provided through these automated customer service tools can evolve quickly alongside your business.

For example, as your business information changes — like exchange policies, store hours, and so on — it’s easy to both update the knowledge base of these tools in real-time and activate those changes immediately. This frees up humans from having to be retrained every time business information changes and is a quick and easy way to tackle the “low hanging fruit” of your customer service efforts within minimal ongoing effort. Think of this as an efficient and effective turnkey customer service solution that, once properly set up and deployed, can improve the experience customers have with your business in a big way.

That being said, you can’t just implement these new tools and expect them to get to work immediately. You must do your due diligence, at the very beginning, to equip them with the essential knowledge and information allowing them to respond quickly and accurately to your business’s most frequently asked questions.

This upfront work you do to set up your chatbots and other intelligent customer service automation tools is the equivalent of “training” customer service reps. The only difference here is that these tools leverage machine learning to adapt to your business’s needs in real-time to provide a more relevant and personalized level of customer support on an ongoing basis. In most cases, unless the solution you’ve decided to implement has already been optimized for the customer service needs or expectations of your specific industry, the “training” of such tools can be quite tedious and time-consuming.

Fortunately, unlike many other intelligent tools in the market today, our automated customer service solutions take a lot of the pain and suffering out of the “training” and implementation process. We’ll explain more about that in another blog post, but if you you’d like to learn more now, feel free to reach out to us today.

BENEFIT 4: Improved customer satisfaction

According to Microsoft, 96 percent of consumers worldwide believe customer service is an important factor in driving brand loyalty. This also comes at a time when one-third of (dare we say, fickle) customers say they’d be willing to switch companies after only one bad customer service experience. The writing is on the wall: businesses that fail to meet customer service expectations today shouldn’t be surprised when unhappy customers decide to run off to the nearest competitor. Delivering subpar customer service is not acceptable; businesses have got to step up their game or run the risk of losing customers for life.

For all we know, you might offer the best products and services in the world; however, if you fail to provide your customers with the level of support they want, need, and expect, you’re already losing half of the loyalty battle. Fortunately, AI-fueled customer service solutions can help you overcome this hurdle and, for all the reasons mentioned above, simultaneously help you improve customer satisfaction, build trust, and spark long-term customer loyalty.

The truth is, simply giving customers a way to get a hold of your business anytime they need you most — whether or not your automated solutions can resolve their issue on-the-spot — is an easy “win” for your business. It shows you care, and that alone is a major step towards earning the loyalty of happy customers for life.

There are a lot more reasons why weaving AI-fueled solutions into your customer service efforts makes a lot of sense, especially for smaller businesses that don’t have the resources to run a fully-staffed, 24/7 customer support team. At Botfuel, we’ve got a full suite of easy-to-implement solutions that can transform your customer service experience overnight.

Are you ready to bring your customer service efforts into the AI generation? We thought so.

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