AI for customer service is no longer a new technology. It’s now table stakes for providing great customer experiences. Increasingly, customer service managers are incorporating the technology in their strategies to empower agents to build better relationships with customers. And it pays off—Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 found that high-performing customer experience teams are twice as likely to embrace artificial intelligence (AI).
Here are five ways customer service managers can enable their teams to deliver fast, personalized, and proactive support experiences with the help of AI.
1. Make strikingly accurate and fast predictions
Machine learning and deep learning are two types of AI that use algorithms to parse data, learn from that data, and make strikingly accurate and fast predictions based on what it has learned. Customer service managers are using these machine-aided predictions to boost agent performance.
For example, Pinterest’s customer service team uses machine learning to predict customer satisfaction during live interactions with customers, before they take a satisfaction survey. This enables agents to salvage the experience before it goes south and proactively handle customer complaints.
Other customer service teams are using AI-powered performance management tools, like Dōjō, which combines AI and gamification to make predictions about overall agent performance and provide them with meaningful recommendations for reaching team goals.
2. Improve self-service
Research is clear: Customers want the option to help themselves. And Zendesk’s Trends Report uncovered a compelling link between customer success, AI use and self-service. In fact, 84% of managers using AI to help customers have a self-service strategy in place.
Knowledge-base content is rarely evergreen—it needs to be regularly updated to stay relevant for its audience. AI can suggest new help center articles to write and flag existing ones to update based on trends in customer inquiries. For instance, if a rising number of customers are asking questions about your return policy, machines can proactively flag this trend and suggest related article topics that best meet customers’ needs.
AI-powered solutions can also help teams put their self-service resources to use to reduce agent workload and deflect repetitive, frequently asked questions to virtual assistants. For example, Dollar Shave Club deployed a virtual assistant to answer common questions that members could easily solve on their own, such as how to cancel or pause their accounts.
3. Enable 24/7, always-on support
24/7 service is important now more than ever as support is increasingly changing from in-person appointments only to 24-hour account access, and customers expect support teams to keep up. In fact, 89% of customers say getting a quick response is important when making decisions about which companies to buy from.
Besides helping customers help themselves, AI-powered assistants are essential to providing fast, always-on support. It wouldn’t be practical for your agents to wait online for every visitor that comes across your website, but a virtual assistant can proactively welcome customers and give them the opportunity to ask questions, before they abandon their cart.
4. Personalize interactions
While consumers tend to prefer AI agents for quick fixes and simple issues, they often still want to speak with a human for more complex problems, like ordering food for ten different people or handling bank fraud. For higher stakes situations like these, virtual assistants can seamlessly hand off the conversation to a human and relay relevant information to make the experience more personal.
For example, a virtual assistant can track if a customer has tried to self-solve their issue already and let the agent know which help center articles and webpages the customer has visited. When agents have immediate access to that relevant context and background information, the experience feels more personal because agents don’t have to waste time repeating answers the customer has already seen.
5. Provide a more human agent experience
According to McKinsey, just 4% of the work activities in the US involve creativity at a median human level of performance, and only 29% involve sensing emotion at a median human level of performance. AI can help customer service managers provide a more human agent experience by letting machines handle the repetitive tasks that lead to agent burnout.
This allows agents to focus their time on more engaging tasks that require empathy, creativity, and more complex problem-solving. And investing in the agent experience pays off–CSAT ratings for agents increase by 2.3% every year they stay on the same team, according to Zendesk’s Trends Report.
To create a more engaging agent experience, some companies are using AI to automate the translation of tickets in other languages, fostering a more inclusive customer service in addition to giving agents time back for less manual and more engaging work. Or, AI can populate responses right inside a ticket, suggesting sentence completions and macro predictions based on key terms and phrases, so agents don’t have to spend time searching for answers or typing out repetitive sentences.
The key to successfully incorporating AI in your customer service strategy is to approach it as something that empowers your agents to work better and smarter—not as something that is meant to replace them. And when customer service managers get that agent-machine partnership right, they have the secret sauce for delivering fast, personalized, and proactive customer experiences.
Hannah Wren is a Content Marketing Associate at Zendesk.