Artificial intelligence is awesome when it comes to asking Alexa what time the latest Disney movie is showing at your local cinema this weekend, or finding out whether to wear an extra layer when you head out of the house. Virtual assistants have become commonplace for supporting day-to-day life with simple tasks, such as adding a calendar reminder for a meeting, converting cups into pints, or navigating to the nearest coffee shop.
But if the conversation turns to customer support, people don’t always love the idea of talking to a chatbot instead of an actual breathing human—even though chances are that robot’s been trained to handle even more questions than its human counterpart.
In customer interactions, however, authenticity is critical, and your users are apt to feel alienated if they’re trying to explain a problem and have to repeat themselves five times using different words. It’s bad for the customer experience, and it’s bad for your brand. Sure, you may be saving money on hiring customer support, but if you’re losing customers left and right as a result, it’s a no-win proposition.
But while a simple rules-based chatbot may not be the right fit, don’t count out artificial intelligence just yet. In fact, AI does provide tremendous potential in the field of customer support—the key is using it wisely. Artificial intelligence can be used strategically, not to impersonate a real customer support agent, but to serve up knowledge based on the customer’s own issue. Here’s a look at some ways AI can be used to enhance the customer experience.
- Offer self-service access to your knowledge base based on users’ questions
Using an AI tool that can process natural language lets your users ask questions and get answers with contextually relevant content from your knowledge base. Your users will be able to use self-service support to quickly find the answers to their questions and resolve their issues without the need to escalate to a customer support representative in most cases. They’ll have a better customer experience with the answers to their questions right at their fingertips.
- Provide step by step guided support for daunting tasks
Let’s say your customer wants to put her subscription on hold for a certain period of time. Rather than force her to wait on hold for a customer support agent, you can build a scripted AI program to help her navigate through the subscription management process, helping her to find the right menus to accomplish her goals with step by step support. The AI tool can be used to confirm accuracy with the process at each step, to ensure that the task is completed correctly.
- Route complex problems to the best support team immediately
While your users will most likely find that they can locate the answers to most problems independently, there will definitely still be some cases where human support is needed. In this case, your AI tool can provide an excellent triage system: When the user has an urgent and time-sensitive issue, , it can instantly route her to the most relevant support team member to help solve the problem quickly, rather than getting stuck in an email customer support black hole for a day or two.
- Use behavioral data to better understand customer needs
In addition to direct customer feedback, AI customer support tools can take additional context into account to help address customer needs. For example, they can identify what geographic region a customer is logging in from, so that they instantly adapt to the correct language, measurement system, and currency for relevant questions. In some cases, they can also link to historical customer data to help understand the customer’s unique context, such as the model number that the customer recently purchased. This type of personalized experience results in a more effortless service experience for the customer.
- Use analytics data to understand what customers need and provide it proactively
Over time, AI tools‘ machine learning capabilities will help them to understand which user questions are most frequently asked, drilling down into the customer data by type of user (based on factors that might include geographic location, job function, or others). The tool can use these insights to instantly surface the most relevant information, providing answer snippets before the user has even asked a question. For example, if a customer is exploring an online purchase from a shoe brand, the tool can provide information from other customer reviews to let them know that the shoe runs a size small.
AI does not replace human support
AI has tons of great use cases when it comes to customer support, but be careful that your digital transformation doesn’t irk your customers. Most customers are perfectly happy to engage in AI-supported self-service—but less inclined to converse with chatbots.
The key to using AI in a way that enhances customer satisfaction is to empower customers to solve their own problems. They’re not talking to a robot, they’re simply getting AI-facilitated knowledge to answer their own questions.
In situations where they’re not able to easily find an answer, customers should have the tools to instantly connect with a customer support agent. In the days before implementing a machine learning solution, your customer support agents were probably swamped with tons of common, repetitive, simple questions—but with an AI solution filtering out the majority of those customer support requests, they should be able to quickly get in touch with a real human who can take the time to answer questions thoughtfully.
Adding artificial intelligence to your customer support operations requires empathy towards your customers. Although you’re probably aware that AI tools can help your bottom line and cut down on labor costs, the bigger part of the puzzle is how it helps your customers. If you’re able to use artificial intelligence to add personalization to your customer interactions, and increase customer satisfaction with better access to relevant information and quicker response times from your support agents, you’ll be delivering true value to your organization and your customers.