The Future of Customer Service is Autonomous Service

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Macroeconomic pressures are forcing organizations to improve operational efficiency and, at the same time, boost customer loyalty and retention. But despite how far the technology industry has come, many organizations still struggle with servicing issues such as marginal self-service, high agent turnover, lengthy and tedious service calls, a lack of visibility, and poor customer satisfaction scores. Advances in AI and automation can change (and for some organizations, are already changing) the game for service leaders, and it’s critical that they understand just how to implement these technologies to transform their organizations and drive real results.

Customer service technology is tracking a similar path to autonomous driving. Service leaders can now dial up increasing levels of autonomous service – from automating repetitive tasks to AI-powered decisioning and ultimately, to anticipating customers’ needs and proactively resolving them. This new technology – with the ability to orchestrate and automate the entire customer service experience across all engagement channels such as digital, phone, and email, is going to be – and in some cases, already is a major game changer for organizations.

According to a study from Deloitte, over 50 percent of organizations planned on incorporating AI and automation capabilities into their operations in 2023. Safe to say if you’re not already considering doing so, you may already be behind. The good news is, it’s not too late to catch up, and here’s some guidance on how to do so:

Separate fact from fiction

To start, you need to be able to sift through some of the marketing noise – there’s a lot of buzz right now about AI and automation, particularly generative AI, but not all of that buzz equates to solutions that practically work for a largescale business or a customer service center. Because customer service requires such a specific branch of AI and automation, you need to understand which solutions will help enhance the work humans are doing to make them more productive, as well as – in some cases – solve a customer’s issue before a human needs to intervene.

This concept of “autonomous service” doesn’t mean we completely remove humans from the equation, but instead, technology enables service to become self-optimizing, with the right technologies helping solve customer queries faster while helping enhance agent experiences for the fastest and most effective resolution possible. Essentially, the right solutions can help automate what you can while also giving your agents the best AI and automation tools to make their jobs easier and more seamless than ever before.

Implementing AI to augment customer service reps vs. replace them

There’s a lot of worry about AI eliminating customer service jobs, but that’s not happening any time soon. In fact, when there’s an agent in the loop overseeing the AI as well as the customer experience, we ensure better service outcomes.

For example, AI can help serve as a copilot for agents – listening to every service interaction, detecting the customer’s intent, suggesting workflows for the agent to run, recommending next best actions and guiding agents step-by-step through the servicing process. Generative AI can also be used and incorporated into the agent experience to do things like eliminate call wrap up time by capturing all the key points of the engagement and noting any outstanding actions – all of which ultimately accelerates the time to resolution and frees up agents to focus on the conversation with the customer and not processes. Having AI work alongside humans, rather than work independently, helps ensure better experiences for agents and customers alike.

Give your customers better self-service experiences

Research has found many customers prefer to self-serve, but they often get frustrated with limited self-service options – especially for medium to high complexity service inquiries – and ultimately end up seeking out a customer service rep in frustration. With the right technology in place, companies can now give their customers access to the same AI-guided workflows that their agents use in the contact center, enabling their customers to do things for themselves that could previously only be done by a contact center or back-office worker, such as uploading missing documentation required for a loan application, for example.

Modern self-service workflows also allow your customers to start a service process in one channel, step away from it from whatever reason, and come back to it later, even in another channel, and pick up right where they left off. This helps customers manage certain service inquiries on their own terms, only needing to escalate to a human agent for more complex issues.

Finally, be proactive

You can take autonomous service one step further with using AI and automation to implement proactive service to reduce inbound service inquires by detecting and resolving issues before they even arise. Proactive service can also optimize multi-step service engagements such as insurance claims by proactively nudging a customer to take an action such as uploading a photo of the damage and providing the link where to do so. This idea of “right-channeling” can accelerates service outcomes, reduce inbound service contacts, and save your customers from wondering where they are in the process. It’s a win for your customers and your bottom line.

There isn’t one-size-fits-all approach to service transformation. With the right strategy and technology in place, you can start by listing your key service journeys, pinpointing the ones driving high contact center volume, causing both agent and customer frustration, and inject more AI and automation into these workflows. Once you’ve achieved operational efficiency with these workflows in the contact center, you can reuse these same workflows to boost self-service capabilities across all your digital properties, and then graduate to implementing proactive and right-channeling strategies.

Achieving optimal service like this is possible – it’s just a matter of mapping out the right strategy and implementing AI and automation in a way that augments assisted service while also streamlining service experiences for customers. With the right technology and strategy behind the implementation, brands can make customer service effortless for everyone.

Fortuné Alexander
Fortuné Alexander, Senior Director, Product Marketing for Customer Service and Sales Automation at Pegasystems, is a product marketing leader with deep expertise in positioning Customer Experience (CX) solutions built for AI-powered decisioning and workflow automation. He specializes in GTM strategy, planning, and execution for enterprise customer engagement solutions.

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