It sounds like a silly question, right? “Will AI change CX as we know it?” Of course, it will. Even in its most rudimentary form, we are running into AI everywhere. We see it in our homes with Alexa and we are starting to see more automation in how we engage with our favorite brands.
Automation is a scary word, though. Most people hear it and immediately think of interactive voice response (IVR) technologies. That annoying computer voice that asks you questions about why you are calling in an effort to answer your question or route you to the right department. That robot that ultimately most of us just yell “representative” at over and over until it transfers us to a human agent.
The good news is that traditional IVR technology is quickly becoming a thing of the past and new automation technologies – like virtual assistants and chatbots — are emerging. These technologies are far and away better than the automation of our past. They are smarter, have the ability to learn, and are contextually based – meaning they can answer more complex questions asked in a variety of different ways.
So we know that AI will change the customer experience, but let’s examine how:
Self-service will become easier & more accessible
We live in an era where the web holds answers to all our questions – or at least we expect it to. Nearly all of us turn to a brand’s website or a do a quick Google search to remediate an issue before calling a customer service line. And often, we still must escalate the issue to a service agent. Intelligent self-service technologies are changing all that. Imagine a world where a chatbot can not only handle routine questions but may also even be able to predict your question and provide you answers based on how you are interacting with the website. One where you can have a true back and forth conversation with a bot to quickly get the answer you are looking for. Most of us just want a quick and satisfactory answer to our issue — whether it’s provided by a human or not is inconsequential.
Customers will have a more personalized experience
I know this sounds a bit like an oxymoron. How in the world does automation create a better more personalized engagement? The first is simple – if a brand knows that a certain customer prefers self-service (i.e. they always opt for live chat every time they come on the site), they can offer that option as a first line of service. The second revolves around understanding who the consumer is and being able to offer them suggestions based on their previous history and the history of consumers like them. An example would be if I bought a pair of dress pants on a site and then was offered a shirt and pair of shoes that shoppers similar to me have purchased with those pants. Maybe I’ll move forward with the upsell, maybe I won’t, but having a system that is both automated and understands who I am and what I am looking for helps move the engagement forward quicker than a human to human interaction could.
The role of the customer service agent will be re-defined
That’s right re-defined – not eliminated. I’ve been seeing a lot of stories out there about how as robots get smarter, customer service jobs will be at risk. While I can’t say for certain that it’s not true, I can say that the need for human-to-human contact will not go away. Chatbots and virtual assistants will become an important part of the customer service workforce of the future, but they won’t replace it. Automation technologies will be a tool for the human agent than their rival. As we’ve discussed previously, chatbots are immensely helpful when it comes to straightforward queries. “How do I reset my password?” “Does this sweater come in blue”, etc., and they are getting even smarter with more complex questions, but they won’t be all things to all people. What they will do is take those level 1 queries off the hands of the agent so that they can work on more in-depth queries. As a result, the job of a customer service agent may be different, but it will still exist. Additionally, chatbots aren’t designed to just help consumers. They can be used on the backend to make recommendations on how an agent can respond to a query based on previous chats – making their job easier and more efficient.
There is a lot of excitement around AI in customer service today. Some of the hype is warranted, some may be seem a bit far fetched, but one thing is for sure – AI is here to stay. We are going to see these technologies evolve quickly and businesses implementing them as part of their overall engagement strategy. They will change how we interact with our favorite brands and may indeed change the way some of us do our jobs. But unlike some of our favorite movies may predict – robots will not take over the world. At least not anytime soon.