Email is and will continue to be the most widely used and preferred customer support channel. The reason for this is simple. Email is convenient and fast. There are no hold times. It mirrors existing user behaviors. Nearly everyone who uses technology, from boomers to Gen Z, is comfortable sending emails. The biggest opportunity for rapid and radical customer support improvement is adding artificial intelligence to your email response systems.
Despite the commonality and universality of email, to date, most progress in applying AI to customer support processes has focused on web/mobile chatbots, virtual assistants and decision support systems for live agents. Recent technology improvements, however, have made it possible for AI systems to comprehend the complex intent and nuanced meaning of email exchanges.
Modern AI that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Deep Learning (DL) can understand complex conversations and compose cogent responses. The most advanced artificial intelligence today can digest bodies of text with comprehension that approaches or surpasses human capabilities. These AIs can understand exactly what a person is asking for and any key details provided within the text, such as account numbers or product type.
Email Customer Support Is Becoming More Important
Any organizations that are serious about customer support have some form of auto-responder in place. So it’s surprising how many eschew this basic step. According to the 2019 Superoffice Customer Service Report, 90% of companies do not acknowledge or inform the customer that an email has been received. It gets worse. Over 60% of the 1000 companies covered in that report do not even bother to reply to customer emails! The companies that do, are not doing it fast enough. The average response time to customer service request is a whopping 12 hours and 10 minutes.
This sad reality runs counter to increasing customer expectations from support teams across the board.
These higher expectations will increasingly have to be met through digital channels. In a recent survey of call center leaders by McKinsey & Co., respondents stated they expected digital-care channels (such as web chat, social media, and email) to grow from 30% of all interactions to 48% by 2020 (within five years) – a metric that has actually been eclipsed by many companies.
Against this backdrop, even as omnichannel digital becomes the norm, email remains the most popular channel for support inquiries. According to a survey we conducted, when an issue or question arises, 47% people prefer to contact a company for customer service over email than any other channel, according to our new survey.
Why is AI Particularly Well Suited to Email
For AI to be effective and successful, it requires a number of key elements:
- a wide range of historical data upon which to learn
- domain expertise expressed in the data
- sufficient time to train and tune the algorithms and data models
- a receptive customer base; a way to continually learn and improve
Email has all of these elements. The most sophisticated AI Agent systems for email today can be delivered as a service and integrated into your existing email systems in a matter of days. This also allows those systems to run hosted in the cloud with greater resiliency and greater availability than an on premise system. For cloud-based AI Agent systems, too, training can be done in a matter of weeks; a distributed workforce can be leveraged so the training goes on round the clock.
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- Customer Service Benchmark Report, Superoffice – https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-service-benchmark-report/
- “Winning the expectations game in customer care”, McKinsey & Co. – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/winning-the-expectations-game-in-customer-care