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If the numbers are any indication, you might think chatbots and voice assistants were poised to take over the world. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly a quarter of businesses have increased their spending on artificial intelligence, and 75 percent plan to continue or launch new initiatives post-pandemic. Global spending on AI is expected to double by 2024.
AI is quickly becoming a cornerstone of customer service especially, but consumer sentiment is mixed. Fifty percent of customers believe chatbots and VAs make it harder to resolve an issue, but 37% say they’d prefer to get immediate help from a bot than wait on a human. AI might be growing at an unprecedented pace, but that growth will only continue as long as the tools enhance — rather than detract from — the customer experience.
Forward-thinking companies understand that AI is only worth implementing if it makes the customer experience better. Here are four CX-friendly ways you can incorporate AI.
1. Use AI to enhance the shopping experience
As online retail becomes more competitive, brands are turning to AI to enhance the quality of their online shopping experience. Amazon pioneered the use of AI to provide tailored purchase recommendations with its “Customers Also Bought” section. It also uses AI to adjust its pricing so that it’s always competitive.
These innovations don’t just drive more sales. Personalized recommendations create a more pleasurable shopping experience, and consistently low prices provide a layer of comfort. Customers know they’re bound to find something they like at a reasonable price.
But online retailers aren’t just being judged on price and personalization; consumers also expect them to be responsive. Research shows that consumers prefer to interact with a business in real time while making a purchase, much like interacting with a sales associate in a brick-and-mortar store.
By adding automated chat functionality to your store, you can help your customers find answers to their questions while they’re placing an order. This gives the impression that your brand is always there for them, even during a late-night shopping binge.
2. Help customers resolve problems faster
Customers don’t just expect instant gratification when making a purchase; they also expect lightning-fast customer support. In a recent survey, more than half of respondents said the most frustrating aspect of customer service was the slow response time or waiting on hold. Today, 90% of consumers say getting an immediate response to a customer-service question is “important” or “very important.”
One advantage to chatbots is that they are available to assist your customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can help answer frequently asked questions, point customers to helpful articles or initiate a return. This doesn’t just reduce labor costs; it actually helps your customers resolve issues faster.
Take State Farm, for instance. The company has always relied on an army of human agents, but it’s now using AI to help policyholders process claims more quickly. If a policyholder gets in a car accident on a holiday or weekend, he can use the app to start the claims process. A chatbot gathers all relevant information, and the customer can get his vehicle repaired sooner.
3. Use sentiment analysis to analyze customer feedback
When an agent is juggling hundreds of customer messages each day, it can be difficult to know which ones to prioritize and escalate. But sentiment analysis can help agents gauge the urgency of a customer inquiry by tagging messages as “frustrated,” “angry” or “excited.”
Two-thirds of companies say sentiment analysis helps reduce the cost of customer service, and 72% say it improves CX. Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters began running sentiment analysis on its CX data back in 2019 to close the customer feedback loop. You can incorporate sentiment analysis at any stage of the customer journey and use those insights to improve the customer experience.
4. Use AI as a customer-service assistant
While AI tools are great at fielding straightforward customer questions and performing simple tasks, more complex issues are still best handled by people. In these cases, AI can be useful in assisting human agents. AI tools can generate support tickets and call summaries while the agent is on the call. Taking over these tasks allows the agent to focus all their attention on helping the customer.
In other cases, a chatbot can serve as a customer concierge. Chatbots can help with simple tasks such as updating a customer’s contact information, placing an order or scheduling a service call — all without making the customer wait on hold.
These cases exemplify the hybrid human-AI approach contact center solution Five9 recommends. The company has added a suite of AI-based products to its lineup that it’s dubbed “Practical AI.” Practical AI should deliver tangible business outcomes (like shorter call times) while reducing the potential for customer frustration, thanks to its use of human fail-safes. The goal is not to replace human agents, but to help agents deliver a better CX.
With brands investing so heavily in AI, it looks as though it’s here to stay. But consumers won’t tolerate a bad customer experience, whether it comes from a human or a bot. You can only afford to offload tasks to bots if it actually improves your CX. That should be your litmus test for implementing any new piece of technology.