AI Is Super-Charging The Customer Service World
In the world we live in today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Some of the places we experience it are very obvious, but sometimes AI is being used in ways we may not even realize. The question we face isn’t when AI will begin to play a role in our everyday lives because the answer is that it already is. Rather, we should be asking whether or not we are using it to its full capacity.
I had the opportunity to talk to Robert Weideman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Nuance Enterprise. With over 6,500 clients worldwide, Nuance is a leader in the world of customer service and customer service solutions, with a focus on AI.
The far-fetched ideas that have been portrayed over the years are no longer so far-fetched. "It’s mainstream", Weideman says. "And in fact, it’s evolving from the ship’s computer in Star Trek to Jarvis in Iron Man. It’s getting really, really sophisticated and really, really powerful".
When it comes to integrating AI with customer service support, virtual assistants can serve as a true assistant, in that it should be able to help with many things, not just the simple tasks or questions. Research shows that consumers are starting to prefer self-service to talking to a customer service agent. Ultimately, AI-powered virtual assistants help customers get answers to their questions easier and faster. Companies save money through improved automation and consumers get what they want with an improved customer experience.
"When you think of conversational AI, you need to think of a person", Weideman says. "Literally, we’re trying to mimic a human agent. Consumers also expect conversations they have to flow from one channel to another – so they don’t have to backtrack or repeat themselves".
AI is trending stronger in the customer service world. Many times, AI is what’s fueling conversations that customer service representatives are having with customers, without them even realizing it. The "machine" listens, in real time, to the conversation between the customer and the agent, and then feeds useful information to the agent so that he or she can, in turn, give the customer the best response possible.
With each passing year, we see these virtual assistants getting smarter and smarter. AI is the fuel behind these strides, but just how far has the technology come? Nuance has created a virtual assistant known as Nina, which could be compared to Siri or Alexa, but for customer service. "Nina allows our customers to deploy virtual assistants that appear to have PhDs in customer service with the ability to handle intelligent dialogue and transactions", Weideman states.
AI is not only the way of the future. It’s the way of today. Beyond virtual assistants and chatbots, AI is showing up in more common applications, such as messaging. Whether it’s texting, Facebook messaging, Tweeting or using Whatsapp, the whole world is doing it. No matter the platform used, it’s becoming more and more common, and acceptable, to choose messaging as the communication tool of choice. And the reasoning behind it is evident. There’s a simplicity to messaging, especially when the platform is capable of moving the consumer from an interaction with the virtual assistant to a live engagement with a human agent.
Using AI for customer service needs is based on the same reasoning. It all comes down to what the customer wants. Studies show that 90% of consumers want to use messaging to communicate with businesses, but less than half of the companies have what is needed to do so. If this is a channel that customers want, this is a channel that your company needs to be on. "Messaging is the most used feature on mobile devices, and consumers want to be able to communicate with the companies they do business within the same way they message with friends and family", Weideman says.
Some question the investment it takes to implement an AI solution. The cost is coming down to the point that even smaller companies can afford to use AI for some of their basic customer support. But, the question shouldn’t be whether or not using AI is worth the money. Rather than thinking of it as a question of cost, look at it from the value that it adds. Weideman says, "Will implementing this result in a better bottom line? The answer is absolutely".