AI Trends in Customer Support to Look Forward in 2021
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Once viewed as science fiction, artificial intelligence has become a reality, impacting the marketing world on a daily basis. One of the most effective ways to utilize AI is through customer support. The lightning-fast 24/7 functionality of AI helps customers throughout the whole year.
The end result is a significant increase in customer service efficiency. How? It clears up phone lines and frees time to human representatives, who can then focus on more relevant matters.
In this article, we will go through six AI trends to look forward to in 2021, as AI will change the face of customer support.
The Increasing Importance of AI in Customer Support
Smart devices have become the standard in the lives of modern consumers. Everything from smart light bulbs to televisions, doorbells, and refrigerators allow us to live a more connected life.
Picture 1. Customer support stats
All of this emerging technology creates additional touchpoints for customer service departments. That’s why we’ve listed this among AI trends. In fact, the predictions say that the total number of customer service calls fielded by humans will exceed 300 billion by 2027. The total annual volume of customer service calls will increase globally from 400 billion to a whopping three trillion.
This unprecedented level of growth means that companies will have to make customer service efficiency a priority within their organization. Why? In order to maintain their brand reputation.
AI Industry Stats
Artificial intelligence is helping companies achieve customer support greatness. And as a result, the AI industry is absolutely exploding with growth. Gartner predicts that the total business value of AI on a global level (including the value of customer experience, cost reductions, and new revenue) could exceed $1.9 trillion in 2019. This is up from $1.2 trillion in 2018 and way up from the $692 billion generated by the industry in 2017.
The pace of growth is expected to significantly slow down after this year. However, Gartner still projects a global value of $3.9 trillion for the AI industry by 2022.
IDC projects that the annual growth rate of AI-related revenue by itself will exceed 37% through 2022. That accounts for more than $77 billion in global revenue by that time.
In case you’re not great at math, that’s a whole heck of a lot of money. So, where is it all going? IDC reported that in 2018 companies were spending the most on chatbots and automated customer service agents. They also invested heavily in threat intelligence and fully automated prevention programs. Finally, companies were sinking funds into sales process automation.
6 AI Trends in Customer Support
Here are six AI trends to look forward to this year as artificial intelligence will change the face of customer support.
1. AI Will Help Solve Everyday Business Issues
Poor customer service is a huge issue that can have grave ramifications to a business. How grave, you ask? A failure to meet customer service requests with convenience, friendliness, and accuracy has reportedly cost companies more than $62 billion.
That’s one of the main driving forces behind the adoption of AI customer service agents. They are able to deliver lower time to resolution rates and can increase overall customer satisfaction scores. It’s no surprise this is considered as one of the growing AI trends.
There is a possibility that AI will be utilized less for marketing campaigns and focus more on customer support. If these artificial agents are built with natural language understanding and deep reinforcement learning, they could communicate in a natural way with customers and understand their wants and needs before recommending actions. Sometimes this comes in the form of resolving the issue itself and other times the bot can just forward the issue along to the right human agent.
A great example of this concept would be Capital One’s Eno. This technology allows customers to engage in everyday banking activities. How? By interacting with a bot through casual conversation. Some of the actions customers can take with this program include fraud alerts, the paying of credit card bills, and account information access.
Capital One utilizes Eno to fight against banking security threats. It does this by creating unique card numbers for various retailers to protect their customers in the event of a large scale data breach.
2. ChatBots Will Continue to Evolve
Chatbots have become one of the most common forms of AI that we interact with on a daily basis. Through the evolution of chatbots, we could stand to see solutions for time-saving as well as the cutting of labor costs.
Picture 2. Messenger marketing vs websites & email comparison
The one issue plaguing chatbots is still a lack of contextual awareness, which limits them in the present. The scope for improvement, however, is there. As chatbots continue to transform, their potential benefit to human lives definitely goes up.
The two most common chatbots in use today are Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. They’re becoming incredibly popular virtual assistants. Assistants who utilize speech chatbots to enhance the user experience for both companies.
As time goes on, these virtual assistants become more and more effective thanks to the constant evolution of speech recognition technology. User behavior is constantly shifting. And this technology is predicted to be able to change along with these behaviors to create a more personalized experience for the user.
What’s fascinating is that chatbots are fairly widespread in today’s environment. But not nearly as widespread as they could be in the future. Technologically speaking, chatbots are still in their developmental stage. And with only 20% of internet users incorporating them in their day to day lives.
And where chatbots are headed in the future? It has been estimated that by 2021, 91% of internet users will be making chatbots a daily part of their online lives.
Whereas right now, chatbots are seen as a convenience. Moreover, they are believed to be on the way to developing into a phenomenon. That’s why they are listed in these AI trends.
3. Response Times are Cut Down by Automated Replies
Every once in a while customers bring forth some truly thought-provoking questions in a customer service call. But ordinarily, they’re typically frequently asked questions. Even if you’ve gone to the trouble of creating an FAQ page to assist your customers with a quick and easy resolution to these issues, you’re still going to get customers calling in about them and gumming up your customer support channels.
Canned Responses, FAQ Page, etc.
For example, let’s say you’re an online sportswear retailer.You probably get a lot of queries with regard to clothing size, material, expected delivery dates, return process, etc. Some will want to get it clarified over text on Facebook. Some of them suddenly switch to the phone. But they still expect you to connect and be able to answer. Such situations are where helpdesk software would be beneficial. For new users looking to start out a help desk software for free could be an option.
Many companies prepare canned responses to such inquiries. But this is not the fastest resolution to the problem. Support staff still need to read through the ticket and choose the proper response.
Picture 3. Product diagram
AI algorithms tag and target tickets based on the customer’s overall meaning. AI has become so advanced that it can mathematically understand a sentence’s context by understanding alternative words and phrasing.
By that, we mean that an AI system is smart enough to understand that someone “requesting a refund” wants the same thing as someone who says, “I want my money back.”
Once these tags are applied to your tickets, automation takes over to address these frequently asked questions. Human staff members will no longer have to explain the answers to common time-consuming inquiries. The customers will get these answers automatically, freeing up the support staff members to handle more advanced questions.
4. AI Will Improve Customer Journeys
Data integration powered by AI is slated to become the main way marketers will be able to track the customer journey.
Datorama chief marketing officer Leah Pope talked about this very issue, saying, “As consumer expectations have changed, they require personalized marketing treatments. ‘Spray and pray’ type of communications is no longer acceptable. Marketers must deliver programs that reach buyers with the right incentive at the right time on the right channel. Anything less is not going to entice customers to adopt any business’s respective product or service.”
Pope went on to say that in this hyper-competitive environment marketers are turning toward marketing intelligence. Why? To achieve a better understanding of their programs. This also allows them to push and pull the correct metaphorical levers to improve on their key performance indicators.
About Integrating Machine Learning into marketing
The importance of integrating machine learning into marketing campaigns was echoed by Cat Prestipino. He is the chief marketing officer of Employment Hero.
“For example, we rely on machine learning to help us make smarter decisions on how to reach our customers,” she said, “the messages to send them and where our sales team should focus their team. We’ve seen huge success with small machine learning tests run in 2018 and we’ll be doubling down on those in 2019.”
These thoughts were finalized by Rachel Townsley, the head of marketing Asia-Pacific for Quantcast. She added that marketers would continue turning toward automation in order to improve their overall efficiency and level of personalization.
“AI and ML technologies that help marketers to automate will continue to grow,” Townsley said. “With budgets tightening, automation will help marketers scale more effectively, help inform decisions quickly and reduce operating costs. And with AI and ML driving increasingly more efficient data analysis, marketers will find it easier to deliver hyper-personalization to their customers, from content creation to unique customer journeys,”
5. More Informed Recommendations
Companies like Amazon have made offering recommendations to online shoppers based on their browsing and purchase history a major part of their marketing plan. Sometimes, it seems as though you only have to mention wanting a certain product in your life before you start seeing targeted ads showing up on your computer screen or phone.
In 2020, that recommendation process is expected to become even smarter across the retail world.
Advancements in AI are set to make it so that products can be recommended based on your tone and sentiment, on top of browsing history.
Picture 4. Gwyn
This is similar to the AI gift concierge system Gifts When You Need. Or Gwyn, which was created by 1-800-Flowers. Using similar technology, companies will be able to provide a more personalized shopping experience.
The benefits of this technology don’t begin and end with the online world. Shoppers who are browsing in brick and mortar stores will soon be able to receive product recommendations via in-store displays that are powered by AI.
6. Human Interaction Will Not Be Going Away
The last one among AI trends for this year, but no less important. One of the fears of the growing presence of AI in the customer service world is that it will do away with human-to-human interaction. But this is not the case at all.
Customers expect a great experience when interacting with a company. Partly because of evolving technology. While AI can deliver a lot of the bells and whistles that we associate with positive customer service it cannot recreate actual human interaction.
Humans vs Chatbots
There’s a lot of cynicism in the mind of the modern consumer when it comes to the AI-powered customer service experience. A lot of that hesitation comes from some of the ways that companies have attempted to offer these experiences. Facebook, for instance, gave Netflix and Spotify access to the private messages of its users. And many people saw that as a gross invasion of privacy.
This caused a massive amount of backlash against all three companies. Yes, customers often appreciate the efforts of companies to personalize their services. But there are some cases, like the one mentioned above, where they go too far.
Studies show that customers want more interactions with other human beings when interacting with a brand and resent overreliance on AI and algorithms.
Because of that, a future in which chatbots handle 100% of our customer support interactions feels very unlikely. It makes sense to use them for simple queries because they can provide fast and reliable help. However, the challenge before modern businesses is to find a way to move between AI and human interactions as seamlessly as possible.
If for some reason a chatbot is unable to help a customer, a human representative has to take over. It will be one of the core challenges of the next few years to figure out how to move from one to the other with as little lag time as possible.
To summarize, AI continues to grow more advanced by the day. And with AI growing, AI trends continue to rise. As such, its impact on the customer service field continues to grow as well. So keep an eye out on this six customer service AI trends in 2021 and beyond. And, if you haven’t already, consider implementing more AI into your customer support department.
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