AI will fundamentally transform customer service

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) improves the economics and capabilities of everything around us: Amazon and Netflix recommend products based on our history; Yahoo and Facebook tag photos; Waze and Google get us to our destination more effectively; Lyft and Uber precisely communicate arrival times of our drivers. 

Consumers are starting to expect intelligent experiences – personal, contextual to their immediate situation, and highly relevant – every time they interact with a company. And customer service interactions are no exception. 

AI can assist agents in completing repetitive tasks, or even completely take these tasks over. Yet instead of replacing humans entirely, AI will enhance agents’ skills and allow them to focus their attention beyond routine tasks. Agents will handle customer interactions that require deeper insight and analysis. These interactions will often take longer to resolve and are opportunities to nurture profitable customer relationships which are increasingly rare in a digital-first world. 

The rise of AI for customer service will: 

  • Deliver differentiated customer experiences. Close to half of consumers already use intelligent assistants like Alexa, Siri and Cortana to sustain automated conversations. Intelligent agents for customer service will power single purpose chatbots such as what KLM uses to communicate booking confirmations to virtual agents that embed deep learning. AI will make these conversations natural, effective and will delight customers. Chatbots will anticipate needs based on discerned context, preferences and prior queries, and will deliver advice, resolutions, alerts and offers. And they will become better over time. 
  • Make operations smarter. AI will up-level contact center operations and streamline inquiry capture and resolution. It will extract useful information from voice and digital conversations, images and machine-to-machine communications to quickly surface trends in issues, and customer sentiment that may affect customer retention and loyalty. AI will schedule maintenance appointments, push fixes to connected devices and make field operations more efficient. For example, AI will identify when to restock parts based on needs and intelligently optimize field resources to provide on-demand service. 
  • Uncover new revenue streams and reinvent business models. AI can uncover patterns in large data sets that may reveal new insights for entirely new customer services that can be monetized. Machine-learning algorithms used for business and customer intelligence find answers to questions that humans didn’t even know to ask. 

For more information about AI-fueled customer service scenarios, purchase Forrester’s research on how AI will transform customer service

Kate Leggett is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

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