When most people think of AI applications in the workplace, they tend to focus on back-end operations like supply chain management. However, the reality is that AI can have just as transformative an effect on customer-facing activities.
As Sagi Eliyahu, CEO of AI-powered knowledge base platform KMS Lighthouse explains, AI can even help transform customer service centers. This doesn’t mean that robots are going to replace those who work in a call center. Rather, virtual assistants and other AI tools will support and strengthen their work so that their companies can deliver stronger results than ever.
1. Create Consistency Across Channels
“One of the most important things in customer service is providing consistency,” Eliyahu says.
“Whether the customer is making a phone call or starting an online chat, they want to enjoy the same experience from the brand. 95 percent of customers are going to use at least three channels in a service experience. AI knowledge bases ensure that chatbots, website FAQ pages, or a human call center worker all draw from the same resources. Consistent knowledge will build trust in your brand.”
Some customers (particularly older generations) will prefer making a phone call as their first option when they encounter a problem. Others find a chatbot more convenient. The end goal of AI should be to help customers receive the help they need, regardless of which channel they initially choose. This keeps all customers happy — not just the ones who happened to reach the right sales rep.
2. Speed Up Call Response Times
Even during the best of times, call center response times often leave something to be desired. This became even more pronounced during the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when efforts to keep workers safe frequently resulted in customers waiting three to four hours to get in touch with someone at a customer service center.
In addition to the logistical challenges created by the pandemic, many customer service representatives struggle with obtaining and using information to streamline their calls.
In fact, a survey from Consumer Reports found that 66 percent of callers complained of being “repeatedly asked for the same information.” This can be especially frustrating after a long wait on hold. AI can record information provided by customers so that all reps who speak with the customer have it readily available.
An AI-driven knowledge base can also help sales reps quickly find answers to customer inquiries. Rather than needing to redirect to another rep or a supervisor, the first person who speaks with a customer can provide a helpful answer.
3. Redirect Simple Inquiries
Quite often, customer service centers can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of inquiries they receive. Not all of these are inquiries that necessarily require the involvement of a living and breathing rep, either. Once again, AI offers a way to circumvent this common issue.
“AI that uses natural language processing technology scales up on its own to understand customer inquiries and provide a centralized source of reliable information,” Eliyahu says.
“A virtual assistant that is constantly learning will have up to date information and be able to relay this to the customer. While it can’t resolve every problem, it ensures that reps don’t have to spend time with basic requests. They can devote more of their efforts to more complex challenges that require more support.”
This also serves to further reduce service center wait times — a vital part of providing a positive customer service experience.
4. Ensure Customers Get Accurate Information
Inaccurate information is another common complaint in customer service.
In fact, in the previously cited Consumer Reports survey, 70 percent of consumers said they were transferred to representatives who couldn’t help or provided wrong information. 65 percent reported that proposed solutions they were given over the phone were “useless.”
“Not all customer service concerns have easy answers,” Eliyahu acknowledges.
“This can often make it difficult for service reps to know how they are supposed to respond to a particular situation. All too often, this could result in customers receiving inaccurate information. Two reps could give two different answers. With an internal AI-powered knowledge base, this isn’t a concern. Accurate information is just a click away, so all customers receive the same response, no matter who they talk to.”
5. Improve Client Relationships
“Using AI to help your customer center should ultimately be focused on one thing: improving relationships with your clients,” Eliyahu says. “When you’re providing accurate information and reducing wait times, customers are going to be more satisfied with their experience. This makes them far more likely to stay loyal to you and your brand. This puts you in a far better position for future upselling and cross-selling efforts.”
Indeed, while 66 percent of customers who switch brands cite poor service as the cause, companies have an average 60 to 70 percent chance of selling a product or service to an existing customer. When you are able to retain more customers with the help of AI, an increase in sales is likely to follow. By lowering acquisitions costs and increasing the lifetime value of each customer, businesses are able to improve their overall profitability.
With AI integration, customer service centers are poised to become more efficient than ever before, providing better support to clients so that the business as a whole can move forward. By improving acquisition and retention efforts, AI is a customer service investment that will easily pay for itself.