Email Support: The Pros and Cons of AI Customer Service Tools (Updated July 2021)

Written by Can Ozdoruk  on   Jul 25, 2021

Customers today demand more. To meet expectations for convenience, companies need to offer omnichannel programs and email support system solutions. While channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WeChat gain prominence, email support will dominate as the digital channel of choice for customer service in the foreseeable future.

According to Hubspot4, 62% of customers want to communicate with companies via email for customer service. This compares to 48% who want to use the phone, 42% who like live chat, and 36% who want “Contact Us” forms. An aside: the best chatbots can work on email (as opposed to just chat and social channels).

Consumers prefer to communicate with customer service 47% more often over email compared to live chat.

An email support system is superior in many ways. It’s not asynchronous and therefore is inherently more convenient. A person can send an email to a company and walk away, checking for a response when it’s convenient for them. A person is not committed to engaging in a real-time conversation which can get interrupted or lost due to connectivity issues or by simply clicking to a new Web page. Email also keeps a record. Emails can be stored and accessed later. On a phone call or Webchat interaction, no record exists.


Learn more about companies using chatbots for customer service.


Why Aren’t Traditional Email Support Systems Meeting Expectations?

Email is the most used digital customer service channel according to Forrester 1, but 62% of companies do not respond to customer support emails2. This presents a real risk to customer loyalty and satisfaction.

For the companies that do respond by email, they are not doing so quickly enough. Customers expect businesses to respond to their emails within an hour3. The average response time to a customer service request is 12 hours and 10 minutes2. Furthermore, only 20% of companies are able to completely answer questions on the first reply2.

From these numbers, it’s clear that email customer support needs to be improved. Customers want resolutions in their inbox. Making this worse, customer expectations for service in every channel are increasing; they expect faster response times and better responses. Companies like Amazon and Zappos have set the benchmarks for customer service, and people now demand quick, convenient support from every company they do business with.

“The handful of companies that respond promptly and accurately to customer emails increase trust in their brand, bolster customer satisfaction, and boost sales both online and offline.”

How Can Conversational AI Impact Your CSAT?

When launching an AI-powered Agent, email is often forgotten. Most companies start with social channels or live chat. Email, however, offers incredible benefits in terms of training an AI and delivering high customer satisfaction (CSAT).

AI Agents managing email conversations need to be more advanced than those deployed on a website or social channels. This is because email messages are typically longer and contain multiple intents. It’s important that you leverage a conversational AI platform that has the ability to decipher the intent from longer messages within the right context to be able to accurately resolve a ticket and reduce frustration.

Conversational chatbot AI can eventually manage over 50% of emails without human intervention, according to what we see from our customers. This offers the convenience and immediacy customers want on their preferred channel which keeps CSAT high.


Discover the key questions to ask when scheduling a chatbot demo.


Should You Launch a Virtual Agent on Your Customer Support Email?

Training an AI is initially done using historic data.

When you’re training an AI, it’s important to not focus on how you think people ask a question, i.e., the FAQs listed on your online help center or knowledge base, but how people are actually asking questions. In one example, Comcast found that their customers ask the simple question “I want to see my bill” in 7,500 unique word and phrase combinations.

By training with historic data, you’re able to set the AI Agent up for success by giving it knowledge and confidence to correctly classify intents across a larger number of utterances. The more data that’s available, the more accurate an AI will be. Because email has been used by companies for much longer than other channels, companies tend to have a much larger dataset.

Email is the most desired and used channel by customer service organizations and their customers.

When providing and omnichannel experience, it’s important to note that your customers ask things differently based on the channel in which they are seeking support. Chat is usually succinct. An email might contain multiple questions and additional detail. In a nutshell, people will ask things differently on email than other channels. So using your troves of historic email data will be most useful if you’re using it to train an email-based Conversational AI.

How Can Email Impact Reinforcement Learning?

People don’t expect an answer immediately on email like they do on chat or voice. This allows companies to start leveraging an AI Agent “behind the scenes” and conduct reinforcement learning. In this type of training, an AI Agent has no direct interaction with the customer. Instead, an AI reviews every incoming email and suggests a response to a human agent. The AI learns how the human agent responds in order to build confidence over time. Because the expectation for instantaneous support does not exist with an email support system, you have the leeway to train with real interactions without disrupting the customer experience.

Excited to deploy AI for your email? We can kick start improving your email channel by free analysis of AI fit in your organization. Just ask us how.

References 

How Email Bots And Chatbots Can Benefit Your Customer Support

Written by Emily Cummins  on   Jan 29, 2021

Web-based Chatbots are what usually comes to mind when we are talking about AI in customer support. Advances in modern-day AI, though, have made email bots the next frontier in customer support automation, enabling companies to meet expectations for a fast and convenient omnichannel experience.

Some consider email an archaic channel compared to Facebook Messenger, SMS and Live Chat. That said, email support remains the most popular digital channel for customer support with 54% of customers having used email for customer service last year. According to the Netomi Research Team findings, when an issue or question arises, 47% people prefer to contact a company for customer service over email.

By leveraging email bots, companies can reduce support costs, improve the customer experience and build long-term customer relationships. These are not auto-responders. Primitive auto-responders have been around for years. These systems have done little to actually provide value or help resolve a person’s issue. Instead, auto-responders may provide links to “helpful” resources but are unsatisfying and often considered annoying by customers.

In this post, we’re going to explore how email bots work, the customer experience that can be delivered through AI-powered email support and why support teams need to leverage AI on the email channel.

First Things First. What Is An Email Bot?

To put it simply, an email bot is a part of the customer service automation toolkit that responds quickly to support requests and tickets sent in via email. Using AI, your existing knowledge base, and some contextual analysis, an email bot can then deliver responses that are customized to match the needs of your customer without the need for human interaction. With an email bot working side by side with your support team, you can automatically respond with the right message to customer requests without having a delay in response times.


Give your customers instant answers to up to 85% of customer service issues with our Zoho chatbot.


Can Bots Actually Send And Reply To Emails?

Chatbot vendors have been unwilling to point their technology at email because of the inherent complexities of the channel. On the email channel, most chatbots would provide poor customer experiences – unable to understand the intent of the customer. In comparison to email, chats are far simpler to parse. People typically keep chat messages short and focused. In contrast, email messages tend to be longer and complex and more importantly have more contexts and complexities. The latest advancements in Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning give AI systems the ability to comprehend the complex intent and nuanced meaning of email exchanges. With this new advancement, AI can respond directly to repetitive support emails or assist human agents in the background. Either way, email bots provide better customer experiences through faster resolutions to many questions.

Mature email bots like Netomi can handle a wide variety of how a person might ask a question, extract context, and reply sensitively and accurately to non-trivial questions like order status, returns, upgrades, order modifications and more. Email bots can now aggregate and insert key data elements into an intelligently crafted email template.

The email channel provides many benefits when it comes to training the AI as well. Email has a wide range of historical data upon which to learn – the building blocks of a great AI. It also allows for sufficient time to train and tune the algorithms and data models. Currently, customers don’t generally expect to interact with companies over email in real-time. This expected latency allows an AI email bot to become more accurate through reinforcement learning “behind the scenes”, – that is, drafting responses for agents to accept or edit, before ever actually interacting with a real customer. This type of “learning on the job” training is more difficult in other channels like chat where real-time interaction is the expectation.

What’s The Main Purpose Of Using An Email Bot For Customer Support?

The prominence of email as a support channel is not expected to waver at any time in the near future. Sending an email is convenient and fast. It’s easily accessible across all devices. There are no hold times. Customers are not held captive on a phone or computer, waiting for an agent or a response.

Companies have to do a better job of providing a positive experience on the email channel. Consumers want instant, personal and hyper-relevant resolutions to their problems. In our Customer Service Benchmark Report, we found that only 56% of retailers have an easy-to-access email address. Of those that have an easy email, 70% of companies never respond. Of those that responded, only 1 in 5 did so within 24 hours. Only 53% of telecom customer service companies provide an easily accessible email address and of those, only 65% of telecom companies did not respond to a simple question about their plan options.

By adopting email bots that can automatically resolve the highly repeatable customer service emails, companies can scale to thousands of responses per minute. Companies can also reduce customer support costs. According to Gartner, customer support emails cost an average of $8.01 per contact if handled by humans. By automating even 50% of emails, a company could enjoy significant savings.

Will My Customers Know It’s A Bot Sending Them The Email?

Just like with the best AI chatbots, email bots can pull data from CRM, order management and other back-end business systems to provide personalized resolutions. While an email bot should never try to pass as a human, it can provide a human-like experience – accurately understanding the customer, providing a relevant and personal customer service response, and picking up on sentiment. That being said, email bots should always have a seamless way to escalate a customer to a human agent based on the nature of their issue, their sentiment and other factors like customer profile status.

Email Bots are the next big thing with customer support automation 

Even as SMS customer service and social media messaging like Messenger, WeChat and WhatApp have gained prominence as a customer support channel, email remains the go-to for customers of all ages, from boomers to Gen Z. Companies need to adopt AI to respond to incoming emails to improve the customer experience and reduce customer support costs. Now that modern AI has caught up and is able to accurately understand customer support emails, the adoption of email bots is going to accelerate in 2021.

Learn more about how AI can radically improve email channel support and customer relationships. Get our ebook now.

Find out what your ROI will be if you build an AI chatbot. Try our free chatbot ROI calculator today.

Zendesk customers now have access to the Netomi Virtual Agent, a powerful AI counterpart for human agents

Written by Shail Gupta  on   Aug 21, 2019

Netomi has launched the Netomi Virtual Agent that extends Zendesk, Inc.’s leading cloud-based customer service platform. Netomi’s Zendesk chatbot integration enables companies to leverage AI to provide faster resolutions to customer service queries, responding in seconds. 

We already work with many Zendesk customers, and our new app will make it incredibly easy for companies to easily introduce AI customer support into their customer experience workforce. Through seamless integration into the Zendesk dashboard, companies can leverage Netomi’s AI to automatically resolve tickets or empower human agents at a virtual contact center to work more efficiently with AI-recommended responses. By leveraging AI, companies dramatically reduce response times, boost agent productivity and provide a brilliant customer experience.  

“Zendesk helps organizations build better relationships with their customers. Through this partnership, we’re giving companies the power of AI to deepen those relationships by meeting quick-rising customer expectations for immediate and convenient support. Simultaneously, we’re empowering agents with transformative efficiency. Our platform automatically resolves over 50% of a company’s incoming service tickets immediately, without delay. Our customers delight customers with quick resolutions, and enable agents to focus on complex customer needs,” said Puneet Mehta, Founder, and CEO of Netomi. 

The Netomi Virtual Agent for Zendesk app, which works across customer support email and website chat, provides: 

  • AI-assisted responses:  The Netomi Virtual Agent drafts recommended responses for human agents to review, edit or approve before responding to a customer. This enables companies to respond and close tickets within minutes. 
  • Full automation capabilities: Companies can delegate certain use cases to the Virtual Agent to automatically resolve and immediately close tickets. If a customer asks an untrained question, the Virtual Agent creates a ticket within Zendesk for an agent to manage directly. 
  • Data discovery and training: We work with our customers to identify where AI can make an impact. Within the Netomi AI Studio, companies select pre-trained AI skills and customize responses to align with their brand personality and business policies. 
  • Robust analytics: With the Netomi Virtual Agent you also have access to Netomi’s full suite of analytics including average handle time, first response rate, AI Performance score and more. Our customers can also view untrained queries to plan and prioritize future training. 
  • Integrations: Connect with core systems business systems including Order Management Systems, CRM platforms, and inventory management systems to resolve customer issues, not simply respond. 

To get started, visit the Netomi app page in the Zendesk App Marketplace by clicking the link above in the first paragraph. 

Zendesk customers, we look forward to providing brilliant customer service with you! Questions about our Zendesk chatbot integration? Get in touch and we’ll get back to you right away.