When Should I Consider AI Customer Service for My Team

Pros and Cons of AI Adoption

Pros and Cons of AI Adoption: The 5 biggest reasons why you can’t wait on AI

A question comes up frequently as we talk to companies across various industries: Do we really need AI for customer service now or can we wait six months? What are the pros and cons of adopting AI now? 

Companies can come up with many reasons why they think that bringing AI into the workforce is not immediately necessary. Whether it’s maturity of their business, ticket volume, uncertainty around how to integrate with legacy platforms or anticipated changes to agent systems. These reasons, though, are not enough to delay bringing AI into the customer service workforce.

When you take into account the fundamentals of training an AI, the human agent’s day-to-day responsibilities, evolving customer expectations and the understanding that circumstances can change rapidly overnight, the time to bring AI into your workforce is now. 

The 5 Biggest Reasons Why You Can’t Wait on AI 

AI is the way to provide excellent customer support as your business grows. Here are the five biggest reasons why companies need AI now. 

1. See Immediate Results

The benefits of AI are clear: decrease resolution time, assist agents and increase customer satisfaction (CSAT). On Day 1, AI can start to offload at least 20% of work from agents immediately, resolving issues in seconds. 

The performance of your AI on day 1, though, is much different than how it is performing day 30, 60 and 120. With customer service automation being  a question of not if but when, giving AI as much time to learn and improve will provide the highest ROI and impact on the customer experience. 

This is because AI learns from real interactions. It learns how human agents respond. The more time that AI is interacting with customers, or even working behind-the-scenes drafting replies for agents, it’s getting smarter. Time is the most critical thing when it comes to optimizing an AI.  

Time also provides AI the opportunity to take on more responsibility. Starting out, we recommend focusing on a few key use cases, and as algorithms get adjusted and performance increases, you can expand how many tickets are routed to a virtual agent. WestJet, for instance, automated resolutions to about 30% of tickets on day 1, which has since grown to 74%

2. You never know when the customer service organization will become strained

We’re experiencing this now with the Coronavirus outbreak: customer service teams are on the front lines, dealing with a tsunami of tickets, made more complicated by ever-evolving policies and stressed customers. When a crisis happens —  whether on a global, industry or company-specific level — companies can’t hire a team on the spot, and successfully train and onboard in a matter of hours or days. 

If a company uses AI, it can quickly train a virtual agent how to answer new questions, or update responses related to new business policies. At the very least, AI can resolve  everyday tickets, freeing up human agents to work on new and pressing issues.   

During times of crisis, the emotional well being of agents can become a concern as stress levels increase, responsibility balloons and workload becomes overwhelming. When agents are supported by AI, there will always be tickets that are being resolved, every second, even as teams regroup and uplift each other. 

Lastly, and this is happening now on a wider scale with the Coronavirus outbreak than ever before, customer service teams are working from home. With disparate teams, it’s difficult to know what individuals are working on. AI is completely measurable and transparent. You know exactly what’s working and not working. 

3. Offload mundane work from agents and minimize attrition

Agents are under more pressure than ever as they have to switch between various systems simultaneously while rushing to close tickets quickly.  Agents are also increasingly engaging with frustrated customers. As a result, customer service remains one of the top jobs for turnover, further ballooning operational costs spent recruiting and onboarding/training new employees.

AI can resolve repeatable, everyday issues like order status and refund requests for retailers, subscription updates for media companies, or early-check in and flight updates for travel companies. We’ve found that for most companies, the same 5-7 customer issues account for more than 50% of all tickets. 

If you use AI to eliminate mindless work and empower agents to focus on more high-touch work, they will be more fulfilled and attrition will decrease. 

4. Your customers expect immediacy and convenience

Today’s customers expect effortless resolutions on their terms and increasingly, are making their buying decisions based on the support they receive. According to American Express, 90% of Americans use customer service as a deciding factor when choosing to do business with a company1. According to a Forrester report, respecting people’s time is the most important factor when it comes to customer satisfaction. Even if your brand is automating resolutions to 20% of tickets, ⅕ of your customers will be getting immediate resolutions to their issue within seconds. Resolution time will decrease across the board, as AI assists agents with autonomous resolution, AI-drafted responses and pulling data from multiple business systems. 

5. Offer Proactive Care

Being reactive is simply not enough, companies need to start offering proactive and predictive customer care. In fact, 87% of customers want to be proactively reached out to by a company for customer service related issues2. By empowering AI to act on signals from various systems – whether its logistics or inventory management – you could let a customer know, for instance, that their package dot delayed due to a storm or the product they ordered is now back-ordered. Getting out in front of issues helps salvage customer satisfaction. 

Offering proactive care can also significantly cut costs: over a 12 month period, proactive customer service can lead to a 20-30% reduction in call center calls — lowering call center operating costs by as much as 25%2

The time for companies to adopt AI for customer service is now 

The idea of figuring out the best time to adopt AI reminds me of something someone once told me. The best time to plant a tree was probably about 10 years ago. The second best time is today. 

The time is always right to invest in your agents and customers, and the right systems to turn customer service into a business driver. Good customer service pays dividends right away. Positive experiences are investments in the future of your business. The more you collect earlier on, the more that interest will compound over time. Look for AI solution providers that offer a model where you only pay for the benefits you gain, like full resolution of tickets. 

AI for Customer Service Readiness Assessment  

If you’re still on the fence if you need to adopt AI now, ask yourself a few questions.  

  • Are your customers expecting support on multiple channels – email, chat, messaging, voice, phone?
  • Do you keep your customers waiting for resolutions on any of these channels? 
  • Are you only offering reactive customer service?  
  • Are you experiencing agent attrition? 
  • Are you looking for ways to reign in customer service costs and optimize margins?
  • Do you have a few key issues that account for a large volume of tickets?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s not too early to start exploring AI.

When AI for customer service is not for you 

All of this being said, AI is not for every situation or company. Here are a few reasons why you would not adopt AI at this point in time: 

  1. You’re the first line of defense in emergency situations such as police, fire or health emergencies. 
  2. You manage highly sensitive issues such as offering guidance to people seeking help in critical situations like physical abuse, drug or alcohol, suicide, etc. 
  3. Your customers’ issues are very unique and there is little repetition to your customer service tickets. 
  4. Your agents have a lot of leeway to be subjective and creatively problem solve issues, with little to no consistency in response. 

Can we talk more about whether AI is right for your company?  Let’s chat.

References 

  1. American Express: https://about.americanexpress.com/press-release/wellactually-americans-say-customer-service-better-ever
  2. MyCustomer.com: https://www.mycustomer.com/service/management/infographic-five-stats-that-prove-proactive-customer-service-can-make-you-a

Dylan Max

Head of Growth Marketing

Dylan is an expert at analyzing data, studying trends, and executing creative marketing strategies. His insights on people and technology interactions have been featured in publications like  Beyond AI, Towards Data Science, CMSWire, SmarterCX, Zendesk, and Forbes.

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