AI: the next level of customer support?

It began with password resets, continues with smart automation and culminates with Artificial Intelligence managing the majority of routine customer support enquiries. Our two-part article explains how to prepare for the future in which AI transforms support.

 AI will completely transform customer support in the next five years

AI will completely transform customer support in the next five years

AI will change the way that customer support is delivered. We’ll look at this in more detail later, but to benefit from AI, you first need to understand the building blocks that underpin AI, as well as understand the true nature of Artificial Intelligence.

There is currently widespread confusion between automation and AI. Many people are incorrectly labelling customer self-service as AI. Yet in most cases, these interactions are automation and not AI.

It's not really AI
Cases of ‘true’ AI are very rare. For example, people often incorrectly cite services such as Siri or Alexa as artificial automation. They are not. Both of these services use voice controls to access data sources and relay the search results back to the customer via voice. These systems are not AI, and they are not even especially good representations of automation.  In fact, there are very few examples of true AI. IBM Watson is one them, and it is incredibly powerful, yet prohibitively expensive.

Automated customer support is more common, less glamorous but currently far more useful and commonplace than AI.  Customer support automation can be something very simple - such as password resets or a tool for looking up store opening times, or it can be a more advanced service. Amazon is the classic example of automated service. It is incredibly complex and efficient and it eliminates the need for almost all human-to-human interaction.

There are other examples that sit in-between these extremes. Take Tide, a start-up business bank. Tide has built an online process that is so slick, accounts can be opened in five minutes. Identification is conducted by taking a picture of your passport within the Tide app and the whole process of signing up and subsequent banking is so well thought out that it makes a mockery of the traditional, long-winded setup and banking management process.

No need for humans
It is this sort of smart automation, not AI, that is currently driving the revolution in customer support. Analyst Garner says that by 2020, with smart automation supported by ever-improving AI, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the business without interacting with a human. Of course, this won’t apply to every business and the figures may prove too optimistic, but achieving automation figures much lower than this will still be very beneficial for businesses.

AI - the NEXT next level
AI should elevate customer support even beyond the lofty predictions of Gartner. AI - should it fulfil its promise - will allow the process to become even more natural and remove the need to employ so many people in what can be repetitive and demoralising roles.

AI will be able to offer a more natural response to customers. It will offer them suggestions based on the context of the interaction and consult huge volumes of data to deliver the right information. It will help with feedback loops, informing itself and other ‘bots’ as to problems encountered, changes that will impact service.  

One day, AI may be so advanced that it will self-manage and require only cursory input from humans. But in reality, this will remain a pipe dream until it becomes a reality, so there’s no point planning for an eventuality that might never happen. 

A more realistic future for customer support is advanced automation supported by AI. And to learn how to take advantage of customer support automation, read part 2 of this blog by clicking the button below.