How AI and customer service talent are coming together for greater efficiency and productivity


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A new industrial revolution is upon us, and it is being led by a whole host of groundbreaking technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). From entertainment and search engines to e-commerce and more, AI has already had a tremendous impact on a number of industries. It stands to completely transform the world of mobility as self-driving cars become a reality.

With an ability to achieve impeccable results in automation, many believe that the world is inching closer to computers and machines that can demonstrate human-level thought. This is both exciting and, for some, a little scary. What will machines do with such a high degree of intelligence?

If the media hype is to be believed, numerous jobs could be at stake – particularly those involving customer service. With voice recognition technology improving and AI getting smarter by the day, it’s easy to see why some people are concerned. But are their fears overblown? Is AI really on the verge of replacing jobs that are not only vital to many companies but also to many hardworking individuals?

Working in unison

Chatbots have become the new norm in customer service as businesses rush to save money and employ a technology that can work seven days a week, 24 hours a day. On its surface, there may appear to be a degree of logic in this strategy. Natural language processing (NLP) has continuously advanced over the last several years. Cadence and semantic elements are also being carefully considered as voice recognition developers work hard to advance the technology. With an end goal of mimicking human speech patterns (so that it can have a natural, lifelike conversation with actual humans), this technology shows a lot of promise.

Low price points have already made chatbots an attractive alternative for many enterprises. Does this mean that customer service jobs are on their way out the door? Will every firm replace their customer-facing staff with robots that attempt to handle all questions and issues automatically?

That may be a tempting proposition, but smart businesses will recognize that there is an incredible opportunity here to enhance, not replace, their customer service teams. They can rely on AI to measure sentiment, for example, creating valuable and highly measurable data points around customer feedback. By interpreting the nuances of language, AI is now more capable of accurately assessing what consumers think about a brand. Are they happy and satisfied, disappointed and annoyed, or somewhere in between?

Without AI, it would be very difficult to find those answers. Large teams would be required to deeply explore every communication between the brand and consumers. It would quickly become a costly and time-consuming effort that detracts from other, more critical parts of the job.

But sentiment is important in determining how consumers feel, and thus an imperative part of creating and maintaining brand loyalty. Likewise, AI can help brands use historical and contextual data to effectively match the customer experience with the needs of every individual. Both of these elements are essential in achieving brand satisfaction.

By enlisting in the power of AI where it is needed, organizations can improve their offering and remain competitive. When combined with customer service, customer experience and marketing talent, brands will have what it takes to thrive in this new, technology-driven age.

New solutions

With every step forward, some may wonder if and when AI is about to plateau. But it keeps getting smarter – and new use cases continue to be unearthed.

A recent Natterbox study found that approximately two-thirds of respondents are personally interested in emerging innovations. They believe that the new tech on the horizon could be useful in improving their role. That’s not at all surprising when you consider how far AI has come.

One next-generation solution currently in development involves automation for customer service. Instead of directing calls with an operator or a guessing game of customer prompts (e.g., “Press 1 if you know your party’s extension”), AI technology is now being developed to solve this problem. It would allow businesses to automatically direct customers to the agent best equipped to deal with their query.

Agents would then receive key information about the customer’s situation (such as previous purchases or interactions with the brand) and be better prepared to help. In the not-too-distant future, AI could then be used to analyze the tone and content of the call, providing managers with invaluable information about their customers.

More efficient and productive than ever before

AI is leading the charge in what could be a new era in the labor market. But instead of replacing customer service jobs – or any other job for that matter – this technology should be used in combination with existing talent. When humans and machines are joined together, they can accomplish so much more than when they are left to work on their own. Humans, of course, are limited by time, speed, analysis and calculations. Machines are limited in their ability to truly think and act human, and therefore are unable to apply the same quality of thinking and emotional depth that human employees can bring to the table. The two should work in unison, side-by-side, for a better tomorrow – and a greater degree of efficiency and productivity.

Tim Beeson
Tim Beeson is the Global Alliances Director of Natterbox, based in Chicago. He joined Natterbox in 2010 and has played an instrumental role in forging alliances for Natterbox with Salesforce. Previously, Beeson led the Natterbox UK sales division and global alliances segment, securing large accounts like Groupon.


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