AI is an unavoidable concept whether watching fallen world science fiction, talking about autonomous vehicles, data analytics, or even our personal assistants like SIRI or Alexa. Consumers are adopting the technology rapidly (most unwittingly) to improve and simplify their lives. Businesses are using it in a variety of ways including spotting trends, identification of weak points in their processes, and getting to market more quickly. The use of AI in customer interactions is one of the largest areas of growth and opportunity for businesses and consumers to get big returns.
When it comes to AI in communications, the technology plays to distinct roles: a) the automation of repetitive tasks using bots for complete self-service and b) assistance to employees while interacting with customers. The AI technology is designed to use machine learning to identify natural language and gain insight from unstructured text. This learning allows AI to grab information from your business data and listen for the customer’s sentiments, presenting either an agent or the customer with the information they need in a way they can consume it. The value of improving the speed, accuracy, and experience of client interactions has the potential to drive meaningful change to our businesses while improving efficiencies and increasing revenue.
Bots use AI to communicate with customers in their natural language, providing the experience of interacting with a live agent without the associated cost and delays. This method matches our cultural expectations for instant access to easily accessible information and results. Clients don’t want to wait on hold; they don’t want to navigate complex auto-attendant menus, and they especially don’t want to spend time informing the agent of repeat information. Life is busy these days! These bots feed off the data you store in systems like your CRM/ERP, knowledge bases, and website and translates the requests into actionable responses that emulate a natural conversation. They can easily solve problems like status requests, account balances, order processing, and other repetitive requests without the need to engage a staff member. As a customer navigates your website and e-commerce platform, the system can use contextual information to offer assistance like providing suggestions, directing them to the correct webpage, delivering step by step directions, or any other imaginable response. Using the technology available today, this can be accomplished while maintaining the “voice” of the company with your language, tone, and style. Bots are a great first step in your AI journey, reducing overhead and improving customer experience.
AI for Staff
In the long-term, most staff will use and embrace AI in a variety of ways, but as of today the lines of business that benefit most from this technology will be those supporting agents and sales staff. The AI technology impacts these specific segments of a business in two key ways. The first is contextual presentation of data (knowledgebase articles, inventory levels, color options, previous support tickets) and input screens to the agent to reduce call times, improve hold times, and minimize transfers. Agents today may be navigating as many as 20 screens to support or sell to a client, leading to confusion, long-training cycles, and errors. This challenge can be addressed using contextually aware AI prompts. The second impact is the ability for AI to model, forecast, and pattern conversations to provide insight to an agent or salesperson on how to steer a conversation, what to upsell, and how to drive to the best possible outcome. This is accomplished through machine learning as the AI platform ingests the interactions and then identifies known patterns and what actions will lead to the best results. The AI then prompts agents to respond in a way that leads to the highest probability of success. This technology is growing in strength and capabilities. As AI develops it will give those who invest major advantages when compared to those who work in a traditional 100% human dependent model.
Sure, there are many organizations that will say they want to “maintain the human element,” but this is only an excuse. AI allows for businesses to be more intelligent with their interactions and enhance the human element with a more personalized experience for customers.
AI for Analytics
Look, the tools used today for measuring our customer interactions is reactive, limited, and belongs in the garbage heap. Using things like abandon rate, hold time, average speed to answer, and even surveys are all historical. These measures are helpful in identifying an issue but not in resolving it. The new technology must use AI to view the sentiment of clients, buying patterns in relation to conversations (for training and prompting), and real-time alerting to supervisors of poor interactions and missed opportunities. The data we view historically must combine the traditional measurements with new ones that give us visibility into talk tracks, customer and agent sentiment, and broader patterns. Once it has this data, AI should be intelligent enough to suggest solutions or even deliver zero-touch implementation with your approval, adjusting the routing, menu offerings, and talk tracks. Analytics are important to any business; AI gives you context and intelligence to adjust your tack quickly and ensure your experience is consistently world class.
AI...Here to Stay
AI for communications is here and rapidly improving. It’s not Skynet or a sentient being (this is Artificial Intelligence NOT Alien Intelligence). AI is all about the ability for data to be correlated and presented in a language natural to the human it is interacting with. The possibilities are only limited by the creativity you possess and the dollars you wish to spend. Those who embrace the available solutions will get an immediate return related to customer loyalty, increased revenue, and decreased costs. Many business leaders we talk with feel this is something they want to do but are waiting for the tech to get less expensive or easier to understand. This is a mistake; AI learns and adapts over time, so the more data it is fed, the better it gets. It is much like an employee, as the employee learns and grows, they become more effective and important to your company. AI needs time to learn your language, to integrate to your key platforms, to be developed and optimized. The sooner you begin embracing this trend, the sooner you can catch up to your competition, who made the investment first. Those who wait for it to be “fully baked” will be too far behind to catch up. Sure there is the slight possibility that AI will become so strong, should you invest now, that within 3 years it will take the place of your CEO but hey, that’s just one more parking spot available and more snacks in the breakroom.
Author: Kyle Holmes