In an advancing digital-first world, customer support’s business imperative is a tough one: deliver customer satisfaction that can scale across thousands or millions of interactions at significantly lower cost. Trying to achieve this with a “business as usual” approach won’t work. But by unleashing AI and automation in their businesses, customer support executives can actually deliver on this.As technology advances, next-generation customer support will be defined by those companies that apply AI to improve experiences at every step of the customer interaction. Gartner estimates that, “in a few years, 89% of businesses will compete mostly on customer experience”. With rising stakes around quality support, leaders must lean on modern, readily-deployable technology to carve an advantage. There are simply too few alternatives to close the opportunity gaps that hurt positive customer experiences.
Are you a support executive investigating how automation can deliver and sustain value in your organization? Here are just three of the ways AI and autoamtion can assist:
Improve Difficult Issue Resolution
Infusing automation into the customer support workflow can reduce the average time a support rep takes to handle inbound support requests. In some cases, a company may introduce a customer-facing chatbot or other intelligent agent to handle inquiries. When answers are appropriately curated or scripted and then monitored effectively, the agent may be able to resolve common customer queries instantly, or at least improve response times.
Another option is applying an AI tool that provides intelligent knowledge base services. With this, companies can maintain desired human-to-human customer interactions, while keeping the AI or agent bot employee-facing. These types of AIs offer chat assistants to retrieve information from internal content stores in an expedited way. Advancements in assistant intelligence also mean tools can source the right information and relevant answers regardless of how the question is phrased. Consider how a new rep might lookup a support question on an internal site:
- “What is the return policy for used laptops?”
- “Can customers send back used products?”
Solid AI can interpret question intent – even when a specific keyword or phrase isn’t used – and still provide an answer. By giving actual answers based on question intent, the AI can can help improve resolution rates and create bandwidth for the rep to take on more difficult, higher-touch cases. And should an obscure question come in, agents can source an answer and trust that this information has been “learned” by the AI.
Customers lose confidence when the support team cannot definitively answer a question or resolve an issue during the first engagement. For agents, uncertainty is borne from bad, or outdated information. In fast moving companies, it is exacerbated by ever-changing product lists, features or service specs. By applying AI, a customer support executive can arm even the greenest reps with the right information and elevate their ability to resolve issues proactively. Sifting through siloed or disparate data sets and systems virtually guarantees competing, redundant, or outdated data – and gaps in agents’ knowledge.
AI-aided search can distinguish between current and out-of-date knowledge base content and excerpt a specific answer from within longer content. This provides massive benefit over an “AI-like” tool that simply offers a keyword matched list of likely content sources or answers. As it learns, the AI will also flag areas where content needs populating or where documentation and maintenance needs to occur based on the pattern of rep queries. With the right AI, leaders can make anyone on the team as smart as everyone on the team.
Consider examples of costly, but common, support department issues. The first, when a rep can’t answer a support question, they stop searching for information and ask around. Well meaning colleagues pause and help – and what ensues is a productivity, time and rhythm killing process affecting multiple customers. When the question is circulated enough and an answer surfaces from someone down the line, nothing changes. Data sources aren’t updated and support content isn’t created. This disruption repeats every time a new or varied question is raised – and when multiplied across dozens or hundreds of support reps, the cost is enormous.
Another, is the frequent hiring, training and re-hiring of reps driven off by boring work. Leaders can offload monotonous, routine work to the AI and keep reps engaged in more stretching and interesting activities. Attrition is often born from boredom. It’s vicious on budget and morale. But AI can bring savings by improving ongoing employee engagement.
By applying AI technologies into the support function, leaders can streamline processes, reduce costs and expedite information gathering. These tools will become the business's ‘super power’; and companies will wield customer support as a competitive weapon and differentiator. Perhaps most important, the customer support team will get back doing what they were hired to do: support your customers.