Fake News: AI for Customer Service – Hype vs. Reality

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Mar 26, 2019

When it comes to automated customer service, there’s a lot of news. We’re doing a fact check to let you know what’s hype and what’s possible today.

The evolution of AI is pretty remarkable. Just look at self-driving cars. While it is astonishing how far the technology has come and the pilot programs that are underway, the days when we’re all watching our favorite shows while our cars whisk us to work are still a few years off. If you read the headlines, though, you might think we’re either going to have fleets of autonomous cars on our highways tomorrow or self-driving cars will end humanity as we know it.

As with many things these days, there’s a lot of polarizing fake news circulating around AI, including with the application of automated customer service. Some reports and companies have over-hyped the capabilities of AI promising solutions that are not capable of today.  Others have issued scare tactics akin to the Hollywood portrayal of artificial intelligence, shunning the technology in the name of job loss or the ability for AI to provide a meaningful impact.

Let’s fact check some of the most prevalent things we hear:  

HEADLINE: AI can automate ALL of your customer support queries

FACT CHECK: AI can automate your high-volume, repeatable queries (~35%)

AI for customer service can effectively resolve repeatable, simple queries like order status, account/subscription updates or refund requests. By integrating with core systems, like CRM and OMS, an automated agent can provide replies to customer queries in a few seconds. You should not try to automate complex or emotionally-charged topics. The queries that require some level of objectivity or empathy need human oversight.  

HEADLINE: Your customers hate bots.

FACT CHECK: When deployed correctly, customers appreciate the convenience and instantaneous results that bots can provide.

This one is tricky. Consumers are excited about getting personalized, instantaneous support that is made available with AI.  It’s fair to say, though, that most people feel shortchanged by the interactions they’ve had with customer service bots to date, noting they are not as good as humans at accomplishing things or have not been given the authority to make decisions.

Automated agents need to have the authority to resolve tickets; empowered to approve or reject a return request, upgrade someone on a flight or refund someone under a certain price point. Make sure you always give customers an “out” to speak with a human in every circumstance.

HEADLINE: AI can predict customer needs.

FACT CHECK: With the right integrations, such as the Zoho chatbot, AI can help deliver proactive customer service.

While full-blown predictive service capabilities are still being developed, proactive service is a reality. if you integrate your AI platform with your core systems of record, you can proactively reach out to customers with important information. For instance, if a sweater comes back in stock that was sitting in a person’s cart, proactively send them a message to know it’s now available. If a snowstorm will cause a package to be delivered outside of the promised window, you can automate a message to the customer to let them know.

HEADLINE: AI will wipe out customer support jobs.  

FACT CHECK: AI needs to collaborate with human agents to provide frustration-free service

There’s a clear division of labor between human and AI in customer support. AI needs to be deployed to solve repeatable queries, while uplifting human agents to resolve the rest. AI can collect information from the customer or other business systems to package relevant information for a human agent to review and make a decision. AI leads to happier employees, as their jobs become more fulfilling (more high-impact work, less mundane tasks) decreasing agent turnover.

In summary, AI is advancing at a pretty incredible rate….. and the industry is still maturing. AI needs to be deployed within contact centers correctly to solve the right issues (highly repeatable), leverage natural language understanding to empower customers to engage naturally and connect to the right internal systems to have the authority to resolve.

Ready to have a real, hype-free conversation about automated customer service?  Let’s chatWe promise to leave the fake news at the door. 

For more information on customer service, visit:

Are KPIs Keeping Your Customer Support Team Down?

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Mar 20, 2019

How AI-powered automation can deliver on a customer support organization’s most critical KPIs

It’s not easy being held accountable to customer support KPIs these days.

Agents are pulled in a million different directions; forced to jump between various systems to answer a single question while interacting with often frustrated customers. They’re having to do so on an increasing number of channels as well: email, chat, social, mobile and so on. It’s no wonder that the turnover rate in customer support is among the highest of any profession. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Meeting modern customer expectations is also getting harder to do; they expect quick, convenient high-quality resolutions on their terms. We live in an on-demand, personal world. Leveraging AI to automate support is a means to get there.

There has been a lot of talk on how AI customer support can be used within a support organization for years, with many organizations wondering how much of it is hype…. What impact can it really have? Will it really make a difference in what’s important to your organization and customers?

When deployed correctly, AI can have an immediate and immense impact on customer service by automating responses to expensive, repeatable tickets (usually about 50% of all tickets) and uplifting agents to do their work more efficiently. The customer support KPIs that AI can improve include:

  • First Response Time (FRT): Customers do not like to wait. It’s pretty astounding how long it takes companies to respond; the average response time is 36 hours over email, while 75% of customers expect it within 5 minutes. Leveraging AI to automate customer service responses, whether it’s providing an instantaneous resolution or acknowledging the customer’s needs and collecting necessary information before a human gets involved lets the customer know that they are being heard. The automation effect is noticeable from day 1: our customer WestJet gets back to customers in less than 1 second.
  • Average handle time (AHT): Getting back to your customers quickly is one thing, but how long it takes for you to actually resolve an issue is even more important. AI-powered automation helps in a few ways:
    • Automating resolutions to repeatable issues: Leverage AI to respond instantaneously to the high-volume, simple queries like order status and inventory checks.  Make sure your AI has the authority to resolve issues by connecting with core business systems. Set rules to minimize business risks like enabling the automation of refunds under a certain dollar amount or free upgrades based on loyalty status.
    • Empowering human agents to work faster: Use AI to gather data from any customer, such as account or order number, and pull information from other business systems like your CMS and OMS. The AI can package up all relevant data to pass along to an agent who can quickly review, make a decision and communicate with the customer.
  • Consistent Resolutions: Leveraging AI in customer support also promises to provide standardized resolutions. There is no human bias, subjectivity or bad days. A bot will review the facts and based on how it has been trained, act consistently every time. If there are any questions or uncertainties, a human agent will always be looped in.
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): According to Forrester, 73% of Americans say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good customer service. In our own consumer research, we found that quality and consistency in a company’s service and experience is key. As discussed in the points above, automation delivers on all of these.
  • Employee Satisfaction Score (ESAT): Automation allows you to give your agents back their time:  the time spent doing mundane tasks is now spent on more fulfilling and high-impact work. Agents no longer have to dig deep to find specific information needed to make a decision from various systems. AI gathers it for them before they even get involved. Agents are empowered with the information to make a quality decision quickly.
  • Cost Savings: The cost benefits of automation fall into two primary buckets:
    • Deflection from human agents:  By automating repeatable tickets, you will see a significant deflection from your call centers of tickets that are never even created.
    • Less agent turnover: With happier and more fulfilled agents, turnover will decrease resulting in savings tied to hiring and training new employees.

For further reading on KPIs, please check out our post on 15 customer service KPI metrics you need to know.

We’ve worked directly with our partners to learn the pain points companies are facing to design an automated solution that is designed to create an immediate, measurable impact. Are you ready to have a customer support organization that delivers on what customers and agents need? Let’s chat

For more information on customer support, click here.

How to Get Executive Buy in for AI-Powered Customer Service

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Mar 12, 2019

A Quick Guide to Becoming a Champion for Automated Support Within Your Organization.

AI is no longer reserved for the companies that are first-to-market; the ones that liberally trial new technologies on a whim with varying degrees of success. No… AI-powered customer support solutions are often now fundamental to a company’s success. Customer service is now a competitive differentiator on par with cost and quality, and AI-powered automation is the means to deliver the world-class experiences that your customers demand. [Read more about customer expectations here].  

Many customer service executives on the front lines of managing CX understand the value AI can bring:

  • Personally responding to repeatable issues, about ~50% of support tickets, instantaneously [Higher CSAT → Brand Loyalty]
  • Deflecting tickets from human agents by automating resolutions [Cost Savings]
  • Empowering human agents to work better – using AI integrations, such as Zoho chatbot, to recommend replies, pull relevant information, etc. [Faster resolutions → Higher CSAT]
  • Improved agent performance and job satisfaction as the day-to-day focus is on high-impact work and less mundane tasks [Less Agent Turnover → Cost Savings]

There’s often polarizing views of AI within an organization: Some are entranced with the buzz around the new shiny object, excited for the opportunity to say that their organization uses AI. Others are skeptics, wondering if it’s all just hype; if it’s affordable; if the real value will be seen or if human agents are going to be replaced with machines.

The reality is that companies can’t afford to not adopt AI-powered solutions. According to Microsoft, 95% of consumers cite customer service as important in their choice of and loyalty to a brand and 61% have switched brands due to poor customer service, with nearly half having done so in the past 12 months.

——–

“Most traditional companies don’t think of digital as being strategic to the organization. It’s often thought about as a support function. We’re thinking about how to make digital, and a culture of innovation, be part of the DNA of our company.” — Alfredo Tan, WestJet’s Chief Digital Officer. [Watch a video here]

——–

So as you champion AI within your organization, use our guidelines to ensure a successful program is introduced that the entire organization can see value in.

1) Start Small With AI-Powered Customer Service

Identify very defined use cases for customer service automation with AI, such as order status or refund requests. This will not only help keep costs down, but it will enable everyone within a customer service organization to learn the process of implementing AI and witness how it evolves over time.

2) Identify the Right Use Cases

Pinpoint where there is a lot of historical data that can be used to train AI. AI and customer service is such a great place to start, as companies have troves of historic emails, chat and social messaging data that can be used to bootstrap AI training, and new tickets are continuously being created to give your AI the ability to learn in action. Determine what to delegate to AI by identifying which queries come infrequently and don’t require human oversight.

3) Create a Game Plan for a Human Agents and AI-Powered Customer Service

AI will not – and should not – replace human workers. It will help them work more efficiently while freeing them up to work on complex and unique tickets. Outline the situations in which AI will manage autonomously, which use cases will be exclusively managed by human agents (more sensitive issues), and which queries AI can help a human agent work faster by clarifying or pulling information from various business systems.

4) Solve Real Issues and Map Out KPIs

Set a clear understanding of what success will look like and how it will be measured. You should be implementing AI to solve real pain points for the business. Many companies struggle with meeting customer expectations for immediate, personal and convenient support. Even by leveraging AI to respond to 30% of your incoming tickets at first, the impact will be felt immediately.   

We like to tell our customers to measure AI as they would an employee: How is it learning and improving? Is it doing its job (i.e. resolving tickets)? Is it having a positive impact on the customer experience? Is it working well with others?

Some of the specific KPIs that our clients use to measure the success of a customer service AI is a deflection, CSAT, cost savings and time to resolution. Set realistic goals based on where your organization is performing today and how AI should impact this in 3, 6 and 12 months.

5) Educate Your Organization About What AI is… and What it Isn’t

Ensure everyone understands the capabilities of AI. Often, there are some within an organization who have been swept up into the hype and have a very unrealistic view of the maturity of the AI market today.

Set your AI up for success by educating your colleagues on what AI can manage – tasks that are a high-volume, highly-repeatable, low business risk. Communicate how an AI learns from real-world experience and how it will get better over time. The performance on Day 1 is not what it will be on Day 30 or 60.  AI should not be expected to be creative, have empathy or manage complex or long-form queries.

The Time is Now for AI-Powered Customer Service

You cannot afford to delay adopting an AI-powered customer experience into your organization. AI Agents improve over time, in terms of accuracy in understanding questions as well as learning how your human agents respond in various situations. Your competitors have adopted AI; it will be impossible to catch up if you don’t move fast.

Are you ready to become an internal champion for AI and transform your customer support with automation? Let’s chat about AI and chatbot tools.

For more information on customer service, visit: