While artificial intelligence may not be new, its growing significance to the customer experience certainly is. In the past few years, many companies have recognized the power of AI for revolutionizing the sales and customer service processes. Intelligent assistants and chat bots are helping customers with tasks ranging from checking the weather to purchasing items online. The Internet of Things is making everyday objects smarter, often eliminating the need for customer service at all by diagnosing and solving problems before they arise. Companies love the idea of streamlining processes, but one question remains: What happens to the role of human agents in customer experience? According to a recent Forrester report, human assistance is as important as ever, and blended AI that efficiently uses human support will be a key player in customer experience in the next year. Here are five ways blended AI may transform customer service and sales in 2018.
For truly optimized customer experiences, human assistance should not be eliminated. Rather, companies must focus on providing human support when it matters the most. For example, fashion brand Everlane has been using Facebook Messenger successfully, allowing customers to place orders, receive personalized recommendations, and get updates on order status all within the app. However, when customers have complex questions, they are able to chat with human agents. As chat bots become more sophisticated in design, they just might replace human support one day. But for the time being, blended AI offers customers a perfect solution: the timesaving benefits of automated service combined with the personalized and detailed assistance that humans have to offer.
As every savvy brand knows, customers want to save time. For this reason, many companies are favoring channels that offer real-time support, often driven by AI and human agents. Social media platforms and chat will become even more important to service and sales, allowing customers to ask questions and finalize purchases quickly and on the go. Indeed, some brands such as Apple and Uber are consciously moving away from channels such as email in favor of chat. Blended AI will therefore continue the shift in the direction of self-service and real-time support.
Omnichannel customer service has made expensive channels such as voice less in demand, allowing companies to reduce costs. With AI, brands are expected to save even more: According to a study by Juniper Research, chat bots may help cut business costs by more than $8 billion per year by 2022. Currently, chat bots are already saving companies $20 million globally. As call volume decreases and human agents are allocated to different tasks, costs will continue to drop.
Artificial intelligence eliminates many of the barriers that inhibit sales growth. For example, brands may offer 24/7 service with or without human support, ensuring that sales opportunities are not missed. AI can generate more leads, offer more accurate prospect information using advanced algorithms, and improve productivity in the contact center—all leading to increased sales. Harvard Business Review states that when electronics company Epson implemented an AI sales assistant, the lead response rate increased by 240%.
Despite all the benefits of blended AI, Forrester points out that customer satisfaction levels may actually drop as brands embrace this strategy. The main reason is efficiency: Brands that rush to implement blended AI without optimizing their processes may fail to engage customers efficiently. In other words, simply using the technology is not enough. Companies must constantly test the technology to make sure it works, optimize it to suit the needs of customers, and allocate human agents accordingly for the most effective customer experiences.Artificial intelligence may indeed be the future of customer experience, but it’s clear that human support will remain vital to its success. To deliver the very best in customer service and conversational commerce, learn about Vocalcom, a global leader in cloud-based contact center software solutions and premium omnichannel customer interaction platform for great customer experiences.
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