Call Centers and Customer Service in the Age of AI
As smart phones, AI and Chat bots become smarter and society begins to rely more on text and email forms of communication as opposed to calling and talking, what happens to voicemail and more importantly what happens to call centers? In this article, we outline how call centers AI and Chat bots are being used in the customer service industry, how they will be used in the future and how these changes are happening.
Voicemail, AI and Chat bots
In recent years there has been a change in the way customers communicate with service providers. Voicemail is being used less and less. The explanation being, the only reason to leave a voice mail as opposed to sending an email is so that the person can hear your voice, which may be (perhaps) a bit presumptuous. Rather than call, customers may expect to WhatsApp, Facebook message or email. Another thing that has been happening more and more is the start of omnichannel. These are conversations that are started on one channel and change over to a different media continuing the same conversation multiple times. The goal of the voice mail and of voice - mail is to get something done quickly and efficiently. Voicemail is now inefficient and there are different ways of getting that job done through new forms of communication that are more effective. Messaging allows people to multi-task and trying to dedicate half an hour to a wait on hold with a call center for a minor issue is not at all appealing to consumers. According to Chatbots magazine, “67% of people expect to see or use messaging apps when talking to a business”. Messaging is more convenient and less demanding of a person’s time. Currently Chat bots are being used in self service industries, in soft searching — a customer asks a Chat bot about something rather than plugging in the question into a search box — and in ordering. This is just the beginning of what bots can do. Situational bots are can be critical to sales. Brands have already implemented this strategy to a larger degree and agents are able to focus on the specific task at hand rather than worry about how long it is taking to deal with one customer. We have all seen it on apps like Booking.com or Facebook messenger, AI and Chat bots are able to respond immediately and if they cannot answer the question, you are directed to a person. As the technology advances, bots will be able to remember and then reuse pertinent information. For example, if you were to search for something like a camera using a bot, it could later reuse that information by saying something like, “I noticed you were looking for a camera, but passed on these items because they are too expensive, here are some cameras that are in a lower price range.” Smart speakers like “alexa” and “echo” use the same kind of concept as they translate the context, if you use the device to order some tooth paste for you, it will simply order the same brand you used the las time you purchased some without you having to tell it! AI and chatbots add extra value and will continue to do so in years to come.
Call Centers, Human Interaction and AI
Voice mail being utilized less, does not necessarily mean that people do not want to talk on the phone, it simply means that communication patterns are changing. Call centers still make up the biggest proportion of the customer service industry and are being shaped and re-formed by artificial Intelligence (AI). Gartner projects that, “AI bots will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020” which is only two years away! The reason for this being that consumers today expect quick responses and seamless interaction. In sizeable corporations, it is not possible for agents to keep up with the volume of calls which is why the customer service experience is notoriously disliked by most people, including customer service agents themselves. AI and Chatbots used in unison with call centers have the potential to change and are on their way to revolutionizing the previously expensive and sub-par customer service field.
The implementation of AI and Chat bots into call centers and customer service has proven to be effective in both, price reduction and in assisting customers. At the end of the day, businesses have to look at the financial side of things and AI and Chat bots are able to cut down costs significantly. According to IBM, chat bots are able to save companies up to 40% of their annual customer service costs. Call centers provide consumers with a direct line to the companies they purchase from, which is why 73% of consumers still use and appreciate call centers, according to statistics at the end of 2017. Human interaction is a crucial element in selling a product/service or solving a problem. AI and chat bots have advanced to the stage where they are more personalized than ever before, and they are able to help both consumers and agents in enhancing the customer service experience. This saves time and money, where in the past multiple people had to do the job which costs companies more money. Most likely you have called a company’s customer service line and you have heard the prompts: press one for this, press two for that and after some time you get through to someone who is well versed with the issues you are experiencing — or at least that is the idea. AI is used and should be used to enhance customer service experiences. However, in the future, AI will be used to anticipate the customer’s needs using big data, provide instant help and only using invaluable human agents when it is essential and really necessary. For example, if a client had a broken phone and calls the support - while she describes her problem the AI pickups on keywords. As soon as the agent asks for her serial number and she has answered - AI will automatically locate the relevant information for the agent and show them that the phone is still within warranty. The agent would then ask if they want to turn in the phone at a shop or send it, if the customer answers she wants to return it to a shop - then AI can automatically find the closest shop to the client and show available timeslots to the agent. Once the call ends - AI can send an automated but personalized email to the customer confirming the return of the broken phone and the details of the appointment. These are some of the possibilities that can be reached in the future of call centers using both humans and AI to make for the best customer service possible.
Call whispering (previously known as call screening) is a new and effective calling feature for call centers that deal with non-geographic systems and inbound marketing software to determine what campaign a potential customer is calling about. How does it work? A message is played for the person receiving the call to tell them what the person calling searched or typed in to get to this point and the location they are calling from. This is so that they can prepare the relevant information all the while the caller is hearing the ringing noise. Call whispering saves time and allows the caller to get quick and helpful service and gives the receiver time to gather all the information needed to answer the call and perform to the best of their ability. It has been suggested or predicated that AI learn from human agents how to take on this job and will then be used in this way. Thus, making customer service, cheaper, better and more efficient in the long run.
Presently, AI and Chat bots have been and will continue to be used in unison with human agents to shape and assist call centers to create a better customer service industry, one that both agents and consumers can appreciate and respect. If you enjoyed the article please click subscribe and we’ll keep you updated with weekly posts on all things digital marketing, AI and lead generation!