With all the AI hype in 2017, the customer service industry expected smart machines to truly transform the customer experience. However, while AI has not yet become the answer to all our customer service challenges, the technology is moving forward at a rapid pace, and is en route to achieving the level of impact previously predicted. AI and its enabling methodologies — Machine Learning, Deep Learning and its applications, NLP, computer vision and speech recognition — are the focus of major investments and research. Much progress has been made in processing and identifying the incoming data; the challenge still lies in contextualizing this data – a fundamental requirement for human-like conversational skills. Today’s AI-based customer service chatbots still require human intervention to help provide that context, enabling a better understanding of the bigger picture.
Disappointment aside, smart machines still provide significant short-term benefits, including their speed, accuracy, ability to scale and lowered cost. By combining humans and bots in customer management and service, each of their strengths can complement the other, enabling greater accuracy and delivering more value within the customer experience. With today’s customer service domain powered mostly by humans, there is a huge opportunity for hybrid solutions to improve customer experience and reduce costs at the same time.
Human-bot collaboration – a timely, winning solution
The path to the future of efficient AI in customer service is collaborative – today, humans and AI-based customer service chatbots can collaborate to maximize interactions with customers. Collaboration can be applied in two primary ways:
- Augment human intelligence
- Enhance human capacity
Human intelligence augmentation
AI enhances human-based customer care by delivering relevant data , insight, or suggestions to the human agent who is interacting with the customer. For example, an AI-based customer service chatbot can quickly analyze very large amounts of customer data — more than the human agents can possibly analyze or understand on their own — and highlight only the most relevant details based on the context of the inquiry, enabling the human agent to respond immediately without the need to access multiple data repositories. Computer vision can be used to power a visual customer experience, where AI-powered virtual technicians can visually identify device models more accurately and faster than humans, thereby helping the human agent hasten the path to resolution. In addition, as AI learns from every agent interaction, it leverages this mass storage of knowledge to suggest the right answers to human customer service agents. For example, it can suggest the most favorable chat responses based on past history.
Human capacity enhancement
AI scales human capabilities through hybrid interactive platforms where humans collaborate with and supervise bots. For example, customer service chatbots handle initial customer inquiries, as the majority of these requests are simple and easily understood. As soon as the bot cannot confidently handle the inquiry, the chat is immediately passed to a human agent via an automated customer service process flow, allowing the agents to continue the conversation where the bot left off, resulting in a natural and conversational experience. In more advanced solutions, the conversation can switch back and forth between human agent and chatbot,with the customer none the wiser. This tag-team effort also enables the organization to handle a higher volume of interactions that would be possible with a human workforce alone. In addition, a hybrid solution can assist organizations in prioritizing customers based on their value, or potential value, ensuring that call centers optimize agent availability, wait times and opportunities for proactive service delivery to VIP customers.
Value driven by hybrid solutions
Scale service capabilities to meet rising customer care demands
In today’s digital age and customer-centric marketplace, customer-driven demand for support and care continue to rise. Employing a hybrid model mitigates this demand by capturing some of the initial promise of automation. Hybrid solutions scale customer service functionalities by overcoming human limitations in accuracy, speed and data analysis (intelligence and capacity), enabling faster and more targeted service while relying on human strengths – context and emotional intelligence. Utilizing a hybrid model enables a higher volume of interaction without increasing human manpower, thereby reducing the average cost per interaction, and often improving customer satisfaction.
Reduce risk of negative CX
Implementing a hybrid customer service chatbot solution within customer support operations mitigates the risk of disappointed or frustrated customers interacting with an early AI-only powered agent, which would have likely resulted in a mediocre experience at best.
Actively explore automation
The use of a hybrid solution allows the business to carefully and responsibly experiment with automation, methodically identifying use cases and processes where full automation would be possible and valuable. This early identification process is a critical early step towards full AI adoption, as it hastens decision-making, clarifies ROI to senior management, and creates clear priorities when planning for an AI-based future.
Build the infrastructure
Hybrid solutions familiarize the operational side of the business with the challenges of AI early in the process. This knowledge helps the business prepare for an AI-based future, by ensuring the right data infrastructure will be built, the necessary hardware and software will be deployed, the correct operational procedures will be implemented, and appropriate HR roles will be identified to drive the AI revolution. It also starts the ball rolling on capturing the data necessary for the systematic training of the AI platform.
Summary: The future of man-machine collaboration holds great promise
AI is without a doubt poised to transform the business landscape over the next decade. Today’s organizations must find the sweet spot necessary for deploying AI technologies – even with its current limitations – to prepare for the AI-based customer service operations in the near future. Implementing a hybrid human-AI customer service chatbot solution enables a gradual integration of AI into customer service operations, addressing the delicate balance of introducing innovation while enhancing service levels, and allowing companies to benefit from AI’s current capabilities while the AI revolution evolves.