Friday, July 19, 2024

How AI is changing the customer service experience [Q&A]


Artificial intelligence is having an impact on more and more areas of our lives. In the customer service field it’s increasingly being used to improve customer experience and create more effective interactions.

But how good is AI at dealing with customers? And are businesses using it effectively? We spoke to Josh Kim, co-founder and CEO of AI-based chat and customer experience platform Channel Talk, to learn more.

BN: How are businesses already using AI in customer service?

JK: We are seeing enterprises increasingly leverage AI to enhance customer service in various ways. This adoption is evident in AI-driven tools such as chatbots, virtual assistants, personalized recommendation engines, predictive analytics for consumer behavior, sentiment analysis, voice assistants, dynamic pricing — and the list goes on.

Especially in eCommerce, we’re seeing AI chatbots that offer 24/7 assistance and attempt to resolve common questions around order management and tracking. This saves quite a bit of time and allows companies to dedicate their resources to more important questions, and relationship-building with their core customers.

However, while companies have embraced AI, not all have mastered its optimal utilization. Businesses will often invest in AI without fully understanding its potential and how it can significantly improve customer interactions — and how those customer interactions drive revenue growth and success.

AI is becoming ubiquitous and AI-driven customer assistance are now commonplace on e-commerce platforms. Unfortunately, many of these interactions lack authenticity, and AI assistants often struggle to discern the appropriate moment to escalate a conversation to a live representative, resulting in interactions that feel scripted and impersonal.

AI chatbots that are poorly designed have customers stuck in a loop, unable to reach a human representative. Too often, these AI chatbots reply with, “Sorry, I can’t assist with that, how else can I help you today?” leaving our questions unanswered.

Just like with any new application of technology, businesses see the value in AI investment, but have yet to master its ability to create a lasting impression on its customers and bottom line.

BN: What are some of the advantages AI can offer in this field?

JK: AI isn’t just about making things easier, it’s also about understanding your customers better. By being able to analyze browsing habits, provide smart recommendations, handle simple requests and customer interactions, AI helps businesses get into the mindset of the customer and figure out their next move.

Over the past decade, we have really seen the sentiment shift of in-person shopping to an overwhelming preference for e-commerce. AI is helping these companies create an online experience that incorporates the personalized feel of walking into a brick and mortar store.

In traditional brick and mortar environments, a store representative will greet you and assist you during your time shopping. With AI live chat platforms, that same greeting and assistance can be replicated online.

While AI is taking care of the nitty-gritty, it is leaving room for the genuine human connections that make customers feel like VIPs — and VIPs shop more, buy more, and share more.

BN: How much resistance is there from consumers to dealing with AI assistants and chatbots?

JK: There is resistance when the program is not properly structured and feels inhuman and inauthentic.

Most of us have experienced this at some point… AI assistants and chatbots are popping up everywhere in our digital lives. Some customers appreciate the quick answers and seamless help they get from these bots, but sometimes, it can feel a bit too impersonal. When this is the case, you can tell you are talking to a robot instead of a human being, and to be honest, those interactions can leave a bad taste for your customers.

In terms of the resistance of AI, it’s a mixed bag. Some people are all for it, embracing the convenience and efficiency it brings to their lives. They love how AI can anticipate their needs and make things easier, like suggesting the perfect product or swiftly resolving an issue. But then there are those who feel a bit uneasy about it all. They worry about privacy, wondering just how much of their data is being captured by these digital assistants.

So while AI assistants and chatbots are undoubtedly changing the game when it comes to customer service and tech interaction, there is still a fair bit of resistance on how AI will begin to infiltrate more aspects of daily life. We are living during a pivotal point in history, where we are navigating this brave new world of AI… trying to strike a balance between the convenience it offers and the need for human authenticity.

BN: What do businesses get wrong about the customer experience?

JK: When we look at where some businesses are missing the mark on customer experience, one noticeable misstep is the tendency to solely rely on data. While data is the life blood of any company, there is a risk of losing sight of the human element amidst a sea of analytics.

In customer service, it’s easy to become too focused on resolving tickets rather than engaging in meaningful conversations with individuals. But customers are more than just numbers, they are real people where conversations can bring valuable connection and feedback.

It is imperative for businesses to strike a balance between leveraging (necessary) data-driven insights and maintaining genuine connections with customers.

As we mentioned before, the overuse, or misuse of AI, can present a challenge to any customer-centric business. Companies must exercise caution against over-reliance on automation, recognizing that authentic human connections play an indispensable role in fostering trust and loyalty.

Another area that we see a lot of our customers struggle is in their inability to identify their VIP customers and to ensure they are met with a gold standard experience. AI Is a great way to efficiently identify these customers so that you can begin creating stronger relationships with them.

BN: How can businesses get around the challenges of accessing and using third-party data?

JK: Data is critical for businesses — but it is only getting harder to access and utilize when it is derived from third-party sources. What makes things worse is trying to do so in a regulatory environment that is constantly changing.

But here are a few things businesses can do to stay ahead of the curve.

First, build and cultivate partnerships with reputable data providers that prioritize quality and compliance with regulatory frameworks. Businesses can also leverage alternative data sources and innovative technologies to supplement third-party data. But the key to circumventing this challenge altogether is the advancements we are seeing in AI, Machine Learning, and predictive analytics.

The answer lies within a company’s own proprietary data. New technologies empower businesses to extract actionable insights from their vast troves of customer data, unlocking a wealth of untapped potential. By harnessing AI-driven algorithms to analyze internal data sets, businesses can gain invaluable insights into customer behaviors, market trends, and operational efficiencies.

These predictive capabilities of AI enable businesses to anticipate future trends and proactively respond to changing market dynamics, thereby staying ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving business landscape. So although growing challenges exist with accessing and utilizing third-party data, the potential within businesses’ own data offers a pathway to not only navigate these challenges, but to thrive where others struggle.

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