Few technologies stand to change our lives more than artificial intelligence. AI algorithms guide everything from Netflix recommendations to the route Uber drivers take through traffic. In customer service, which is one of the top priorities for companies making AI investments, it is already powering chatbots and voice-recognition software.
But we’ve barely scratched the surface. If AI were the internet, we’d still be in the MySpace era. In the next five years, we will see a dramatic shift in how we interact with companies as they begin to deploy AI in increasingly sophisticated ways.
Here are three ways AI will change the customer experience for good:
You’ll never hear hold music again
On average, we spend 43 days of our lives on hold. Such is our grim familiarity with hold music that some tracks have become minor cult classics: an hour-long version of Cisco’s signature tune has two million views online. But hold music is going the way of DVDs and landlines simply because there will be less need for customers to call. The global market for chatbots is expected to triple in size to more than $9 billion by 2024. Chatbots can already rebook flights and set up bank accounts, but as AI advances these systems will handle ever more complex queries and refer callers to human agents less. Because AI can power interactions on websites or be built into apps, these systems will meet customers where they are rather than making them wait for a call centre.
Youtube's recommendation algorithms showcase how impressive the personalization is that we already interface with today. Youtube's understanding of my interests at times feels better than my own!
Interactions will be more personalized
Rule One of customer service is to treat customers as people, not numbers. Yet there is relatively little personalization of service from most big companies. Take banking, where the average American keeps the same chequing account for 16 years. Despite an average of 16 years of data from which to draw from, when you call up a bank, chances are you will still have to introduce yourself and describe your situation afresh each time. Building a truly personalized service is expensive, so most companies reserve it for only their most valuable customers.
AI changes the calculus, because it can quickly and cheaply parse vast amounts of data. AI is already being used to personalize marketing by companies like Starbucks, which uses it to make product recommendations based on purchase histories. This approach will gain ground in customer service, too. When you start talking with a chatbot, it accesses your full account history and knows information like when you last contacted the company and what you discussed. It can also be trained to learn those small but important details, like whether I prefer to be called Michael or Mike or what times of day it’s best to contact me. AIs can be taught multiple languages and use whichever the customer prefers. This may sound like simple convenience, but it goes beyond that. This approach could fundamentally change how customers and brands interact, opening up the possibility of having the kind of personalized relationship people currently only have with their friends.
You won’t reach out to companies, they’ll reach out to you
That personalization will rest on one thing: data. In an AI world, data is the new differentiator and the companies that collect it and use it the most efficiently will have the advantage. That’s going to turn customer service models on their heads. Instead of trying to minimize contact with customers to keep a lid on costs, companies will try to increase their interactions to gather data and build a more in depth picture of their clients than their competitors’. Because an AI can run millions of conversations simultaneously, firms will be able to reach out to customers in a much more organic way than is currently possible through email. The key, though, will be to ensure these interactions benefit the customer first. People don’t mind Netflix logging their viewing history because they know it makes for better experience, it’s when firms start asking for all kinds of personal information that the trouble starts. Smart companies will remember that gathering data is good only if you use it to keep your customers happy.
It’s not too harsh to say that many companies currently compete to provide the least-bad customer experience. But with its ability to dramatically lower costs and personalize interactions, AI could change our idea of what customer service even is. Instead of companies using a loudspeaker to broadcast the same information to everyone, they’ll speak in a whisper with a message tailored just for you.
To find out what the tailored message looks like for your company, chat with an Ada team member here.