For many, AI brings to mind memories of Asimov's Robot series, Battlestar Galactica, or The Terminator. The phrase conjures images of horrifying futures; unpalatable, nightmarish imagery of self-aware robots inevitably enslaving humanity in some futuristic dystopian hellscape with bad special effects.
As AI is often demonized by pop culture as a potential threat to human existence, the true intentions and benefits of the technology can easily be overlooked. The fact is, at the moment, AI is far away from gaining self-consciousness and coming to kill us in the dark of night, but it is enabling many industries to be more efficient, accurate, and generally better serve their clients.
The manner in which customers are beginning to interact with brands and organizations is entirely new and incredibly dynamic. It's been proven that providing the best possible customer experience (CX) is critical to an organization's success, and has a huge impact on revenue. So the real question we should be asking is - how is AI being used today, how is AI transforming the customer experience, and what can we expect from its uses in the future?
Current state of affairs
Your package didn’t arrive on time, there's a problem with your bank account, you need to renew your driver’s license; just a few examples of a situation that will have a customer dialing the customer service number of a company, being put on hold for a long time, and finally being poorly-connected to a customer service representative with a fake name in a distant country.
Companies have been outsourcing their customer support teams, sales teams, and even marketing efforts to India and other countries around the world for years in efforts to reduce costs and in hopes to raise efficiency. One of the major impacts of global labor arbitrage was lowered standards and growing frustration with many company's customer support and other customer outreach. What if you didn’t need cheap, low-quality labor to accomplish the same goal? As shown in this Forrester study, companies that lead their industries in CX have significantly faster revenue growth. In a market full of choices, where any small negative experience can drive a customer straight to your competitor - how do you make sure they stick with you? How do you provide excellent service across the board, without compromising on resource costs and your bottom line?
Instead of dialing that phone number, many people are now choosing to communicate with businesses through channels such as Messenger, WhatsApp, or live website chats. And why wouldn’t they? You are instantly connected to the company, and generally, the issue is solved quickly and efficiently. A chatbot is more accurate, reliable and trustworthy than a human, and it will never be rude to you - no matter what tone of voice you choose to use with it.
Using AI to better understand customers
But it’s not just the consumer that’s reaping the benefits of AI being used in business. The companies that have chosen to implement similar types of technologies have experienced increased trust in their brand, more repeat business, and higher rates of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some of the reasons behind this are obvious from the side of the customer - generally, people don’t have to wait as long to get accurate solutions to issues. However, on a deeper level, brands are actually better able to understand what their customers need and what is important to drive action on. AI-powered conversational surveys are a relatively new way for companies to ask their clients questions that they don’t already know the answer to.
Traditional surveys have low response rates, and by design are assumptive about the customer experience. Conversational surveys, using AI, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning, engage the customer in a live conversation where the side representing the company is also responsive and interactive. This allows companies to get specific feedback and individual insights. By asking follow-up questions, the bot is able to get to the real root of an issue, and companies are able to use that information to make critical decisions and actions. As a result, the customer feels listened to and cared for, and as a result, the company is better able to serve them. Everybody wins, right?
Empowering humans with AI-driven systems
Many people fear AI, as historically, people have often viewed technological development as a deterioration of humanity. You may read articles warning you of robots displacing humans in factory work, call centers, and customer service positions. The same articles will argue that the technological advancement is a danger to the economy, and worry that as AI becomes more and more applicable to business, unemployment in industries such as Customer Service will rise.
The truth of the matter is, many companies are already using AI to improve and grow, and it will be a long time before the technology is able to serve as anything but an efficient way to perform repetitive or routine tasks. So yes, there is the potential for human jobs to be replaced by machines - but doesn’t that just provide an opportunity for those humans to grow and more, unhindered by tedious execution of trivial tasks? And for now, the changes that AI is driving in CX are only beneficial to all parties involved (I'm sure the bots enjoy finally having something practical to do, as well). So have no fear, doomsdayers - as long as you have emotion, logic, and value judgment, no one should be sending you to pack up your desk anytime soon.
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