As the world grapples with artificial intelligence (AI) and debates its impact on security and privacy, many industries have already embraced this promising technology.
The customer service space has become particularly intrigued by its capability, relying on AI to power text- and voice-based chatbots to field any number of questions or complaints. This has enabled the likes of Whole Foods, eBay and Burberry to field many phone and web inquiries before involving a human customer service agent.
Is this the future? It’s hard to imagine a world that would turn out differently, particularly as AI infiltrates a growing number of sectors. From airports to grocery stores, the spread of AI has only just begun. In fact, the technology has grown so fast that it has led some to believe that it is more of an invasion than a proliferation. That might seem like a fair concern.
Gartner predicts that by 2024, AI will handle 69% of routine work currently performed by managers. The technology could save banks billions of dollars, but at what cost? Are humans slowly being replaced? It might appear that way, but there is something bigger going on.
While some businesses might attempt to automate everything imaginable (who wouldn’t want a profitable business that runs itself?), smart enterprises recognize the need to strike a balance between humans and machines.
This will be essential as AI technology grows and gradually reshapes virtually every aspect of our lives.
AI can be a work enhancer and job creator – so why would any firm allow it to become a job eliminator? This concern has given the technology a bad name as fear rises that automation will, in time, remove the need for human involvement.
In actuality, businesses should rely on AI and machine learning to improve their performance. This is especially true for the telecoms industry, which could benefit significantly by integrating this technology into telephony platforms.
Don’t mistake this for another attempt at removing or limiting human involvement. In this instance, AI can wholeheartedly transform the way customer service is implemented by providing companies with unprecedented access to analytics.
The technology could be used to automatically analyze phone calls, determine the tone (was the customer happy?) and report to management. This information could be invaluable in training current and future call center agents to better serve their customers.
AI can also enhance the customer service experience by accurately directing calls to the appropriate agent. Service can even be personalized (AI has an incredible memory) for a more enjoyable customer experience, informing agents about previous calls and purchases.
With that information in tow, businesses can ensure their teams are ready to answer any query, all the while improving dexterity and efficiency to provide the best service possible.
Consumers are always searching for a better customer experience – and they are willing to spend money for the benefits that experience provides. This is evident by the success of companies like Apple, which offers a customer service center (known as the Genius Bar) at every store.
The customer experience is especially important in building brands that attract and maintain customer loyalty, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do in this super competitive and ultra-personalized landscape. Consumers want brands that remember their preferences and can provide a unique and individualized experience.
This is irrespective of the privacy concerns of AI, which are broad but not enough to dissuade customer desires. As a result, brands are now expected to demonstrate that they can accurately customize the experience for everyone, adding a personal touch to a world dominated by impersonal communication, repetition and ubiquity.
Brands are also trying to reconcile costs by relying on automation to perform a growing number of tasks. AI chatbots are a terrific example, as they have become a common toolset for any company looking to simplify their processes.
They can provide a modern alternative to the old click-through approach, in which customers clicked an endless display of links to achieve the desired results. But is it enough?
Whether looking for more information on booking a vacation or inquiring about new products or services, consumers are more likely than ever to encounter a chatbot. In some instances, the bot might be the only point of contact outside of email and/or a hotline with limited hours.
With AI being applied to those technologies as well, some customers might wonder if there are any humans left to service their needs.
While automation is certainly an important part of any industry – today and especially tomorrow – it should not be implemented at the expense of the customer experience. Instead of relying on bots that attempt to handle everything automatically, customers would be better served by businesses that find a happy medium between human and machine.
AI is, after all, artificial intelligence. “Intelligence” is what we need to improve productivity, efficiency and deliver better results internally within the organization as well as externally with customers and clients. The “artificial” part, however, can be a bit lacking – even downright underwhelming. It can only be overcome, enhanced and smoothed out with the touch of human employees, who bring knowledge and expertise no AI can match.
Thus, AI should be used in a way that enhances the work we do, not as a sole replacement for those who currently perform a particular task.
AI is the start of a beautiful relationship between the way we interact with our technology, and the way our technology interacts with us. Contrary to some, this isn’t the horse and buggy all over again – no one needs to be replaced.
Though some enterprises might be tempted to swap out human employees whenever possible, the real success of AI will be in how it is used to enhance the great work we all perform every single day.
Neil Hammerton is the CEO and co-founder of Natterbox, the cloud telephony platform embedded in Salesforce. He spent most of his professional life working in IT where he recognized the importance of listening to customer requirements. Hammerton created Natterbox to disrupt the traditional way of thinking about the telephone. A serial entrepreneur, Hammerton has led four successful business ventures throughout his career.
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