The AI Revolution in Customer Services
Business dynamics are in constant flux and new operational paradigms are forming all the time, particularly as users start to identify areas where technology can empower them to work better, faster and more productively. A great example of a rapidly evolving model is that of Customer Service Management (CSM).
Traditionally, to resolve user requests the only part of the business that offered service desk support was the IT function. However, the IT desk naturally started getting non-IT service requests from the customer services department. From then on, we have seen the need for an enterprise service desk for all business functions.
Now many organisations are using CSM where they were previously using IT Service Management (ITSM) to handle requests across HR, finance, sales and other business departments with a focus on service management excellence. And it’s not just big enterprises experiencing this shift – small businesses will work with the same technology DNA at the heart of their operations.
The challenge is to enable all of these departments to run optimally, which is where a robust, intelligent data backbone is required. Service empowerment isn’t possible without information validity and veracity. Only with good quality data can the CIO arm the COO with enough confidence to make strategic long-term plans instead of tactical short-term fixes and tweaks.
Predictive customer service with AI
With a good data foundation, departments can then look to leverage additional technologies. To go back to CSM, we can take the example of a flight cancellation to showcase proactive customer service using artificial intelligence (AI). This could enable an airline to detect when a passenger starts a live conversation with a chatbot and know that it is likely due to the cancellation. To remediate the situation, the customer can be immediately escalated to a human agent to arrange an alternative flight and deliver a superior service. This directly impacts business strategy and outcomes as anticipation of activity will in turn evolve and improve organisational management and KPIs more regularly.
How AI is empowering humans
A longer-term impact of AI on CSM is that it will empower humans to be more human. AI elevates the role of the customer care professional because they are freed up from repetitive tasks – enabling them to spend time on high-value roles which increase job satisfaction.
Current adoption of such technologies looks positive, with a survey of global IT professionalsfinding that a third of organisations have rolled out or are trialling chatbot technology, with 39% increasing the use of chat to meet the growing consumer needs for immediate gratification. While 64% will work to extend the range of queries that virtual customer assistants (VCAs) and chatbots can handle.
As a result, customer service professionals will very quickly start to understand how much more they can get done in any single working day, which is reflected in the data, with half of respondents saying AI will enable customer service operations to become more efficient. And nearly three-quarters (74%) of organisations that have already introduced VCAs and chatbots are seeing benefits around handling high-volume, routine questions and tasks, providing always-on support and freeing up customer service agents. The provision of this effective CSM support layer will have a dramatic impact on employee retention if individuals are fully trained up and aware of the technology’s capabilities.
In the same research, 70% said customers show a very high level of acceptance of emerging technologies.Truthfully, they just want quick and efficient resolution to problems or questions, they don’t mind where support comes from, as long as queries can be escalated to an empathetic human when it’s needed the most.
The future of AI and customer services
Next, AI will go beyond just freeing up humans from repetitive tasks. When we combine the data-processing ability of AI technology with that of the multiple connected devices and systems used to deliver communications, then we will really start to see the future of customer service.
To go back to the flight cancellation scenario, AI could also assist in notifying customer service agents before the incident has been logged by the traveller. This is because agents will be armed with the visibility of everything that’s happening throughout the service supply chain. As a result, they can proactively alert customers when things are going wrong, or fix faults before they are affected, put in place remedial measures, or provide instant compensation – getting involved when the human touch is needed the most.
Ultimately, for the customer services industry, AI-driven technologies will become more prominent in customer service strategies. Teams will be able to deliver more wow experiences, which will soon become the norm and in turn build customer loyalty and advocacy. This enables you to gain a competitive advantage and to meet the growing consumer expectations for customised attention, instant responses and effortless service.
Paul Hardy joined ServiceNow in January 2016 as Chief Innovation Office - EMEA. He is regarded as a trusted adviser to CIOs, leadership teams and business executives for service management. At ServiceNow, Paul is responsible for shaping the company’s overall messaging, while also providing input into the future development of the ServiceNow...