Artificial intelligence is creating a buzz. We hear about it everywhere in headlines, on Twitter and in boardrooms across the world. The applications of AI are endless, and that goes for customer service as well. Find out the basics in this blog post.
The tech consulting company Gartner defines artificial intelligence as the application of "advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning, to interpret events, support and automate decisions, and take actions." More simply, AI is the ability of machines to apply reasoning, make decisions and act.
The power of AI
The great strength of AI is that it can interpret enormous quantities of data, far more than humans can deal with, as well as making connections between the data. For example, Tesla built a predictive maintenance application based on AI. By analysing data – the number of kilometres travelled, the hardness of the road surface, etc. – this software can predict when car owners need to replace their tyres, take their car in for a service, and much more.
Certain AI applications can also learn to perform a task using the data itself. This is known as machine learning.
Machine learning (ML) is a specific application within the domain of AI. Instead of performing a pre-programmed task, an ML algorithm teaches itself how to do that task. And that also leads to new perspectives: today, machine learning is the leading discipline within artificial intelligence, and is making ground-breaking progress.
We often come into contact with AI in daily life. In fact, the list of applications is endless. Below is a tiny selection of what's out there:
- Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram use AI algorithms to offer users personalized suggestions based on their search history, interaction with content, etc.
- In hospitals, doctors and nurses use AI to search patient files and to help make diagnoses.
- Virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant use AI to fulfil user requests or answer questions.
- In factories, AI applications are used in robotics, for example to recognise different types of objects and sort them.
- Email applications like Outlook use AI to generate suggested answers to emails.
From businesses to consumers: AI is used in countless applications to make our life simpler and more pleasant. And that also applies to customer service.
Artificial intelligence in customer service
Artificial intelligence opens up new possibilities for personalizing and optimizing both customer service and the customer experience. Not only that, Microsoft predicts that, in 2025, 95% of all interactions between customers and businesses will take place through channels that use AI.
Examples of AI customer service tools include chatbots, virtual assistants and automation. All of these streamline customer support.
Virtual agents, of which chatbots are the largest category, are the top AI customer service application by far. They can provide first-line support by answering the most frequently asked questions. As a result, support agents only have to deal with the more complex questions.
A chatbot based on conversational AI mimics human interaction and offers particular added value for e-commerce. Bots like these are often more advanced and can guide website visitors through your products or services, check delivery times, show personal offers and much more.
Automation + AI
Automating tasks or processes can bring significant productivity gains to your agents. And AI goes even further: it can suggest answers and automatically categorize customers' questions to simplify reporting, for example.
Analytics & reporting
For your agents to do a good job every day, information is crucial. Artificial intelligence customer service tools can help you see the bigger picture in the countless interactions support agents have every day. With a little help from AI, problems become visible faster and you can display complex data on clear dashboards. Ultimately, this allows you to manage your team better.
How well does your customer service score? Knowledge comes from measuring things. And AI, and machine learning in particular, is perfectly suited to doing that. With AI-driven quality control you can automatically analyse and evaluate customer interactions. You find out what agents are good at and what they struggle with, so that you can make adjustments where necessary.
Advantages and disadvantages of AI customer service
The advantages of artificial intelligence customer service tools are shown in the stats. Virtual agents allow you to be operational 24/7, and they can resolve up to 60% of your customers’ queries autonomously. The agents are often multilingual and respond immediately. This means shorter waiting times for your customers. Virtual agents therefore lighten the workload for your human agents, and can even give the sales figures of online stores a significant boost.
Analytics and quality assurance help you improve the quality of your services by extracting practical insights from masses of data.
But AI also has its drawbacks. Not every customer is comfortable with having a conversation with a bot. Furthermore, artificial intelligence customer service tools can get things wrong, which may lead to frustration for customers and agents. Take the automatic response suggestions that email applications such as Outlook formulate, for example.
AI in customer service: a good choice for you?
Virtual agents, analytics… The high buzzword factor around AI customer service tools often leads to scepticism. This is logical, because no good company wants to invest in expensive tools that ultimately have little to offer. So is AI much ado about nothing, or does it really benefit your CX?
Our answer: keep your goal in mind. Do you get more customer questions than you can answer, and do you have little insight into the quality of your service? Don't start with AI for AI's sake, but with a clear business case. And when in doubt, talk to an expert. They can explain exactly which tool will benefit your company, and what results it will generate.
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