2017: The year of enhanced intelligence in customer service?
Last year, we asked if the future of customer service was artificial intelligence, but this year there was no doubt.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a very broad term, applying to everything from machine learning to driverless cars and the Siri application in iPhones. The term is relative to its time and application. For businesses, it means practical software applications that enable greater efficiencies, productivity and most importantly, customer service excellence.
In its many guises, AI has been one of the biggest technology trends of the last year. Momentum for adoption of AI has steadily been growing as more case studies come to light. In fact, in the coming years it is predicted that investment in smart machines will be a top five priority for over 30% of CIOs globally. So who is investing in AI software and what are they investing in?
There is a huge selection of intelligent machine applications available, which can do everything from image recognition to medical diagnostics, but by far the most applicable for the businesses today, are those applications that enable organisations to unlock meaning and gain use from the mountains of unstructured data we created every day. 90% of the 44 zetabytes of data created per year is unstructured (descriptive and generated in the human voice) and is therefore labour intensive and costly to process.
Unstructured data from customers, suppliers and staff affects nearly every company and industry, but where the benefits of AI and machine learning is being felt the most is within customer service and marketing operations.
Most used AI enterprise solutions in 2016. Source: Raconteur
Analytics software is nothing new and has been around for some time in one guise or another. However, this form of AI often relies on a data scientist or individual to study vast amounts of data and spot patterns in order to predict a future behaviour. Through using AI-powered analytics software, individuals are freed up to act on the trends highlighted. IDC has estimated that by 2020, the estimated size of the AI analytics markets will be $70 billion – no small amount. This side of AI is also being used by organisations to better understand their customers, ahead of time and current trends – companies can now quickly identify what their customers want and when, and as a result, are making themselves more competitive in crowded markets.
Analytics is not the only way that AI is making a huge impact on customer service operations. Gartner have highlighted that intelligent applications (chatbots, virtual personal assistants etc.) will be one of the top technology trends for 2017. This is really no surprise, if you consider the momentum these applications have gained in 2016 – the market is saturated with options.
Analysts have also stated that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. At the moment it is fair to say that the majority of interactions you may encounter with a chatbot are in some way powered by a human response. The machine learning simply isn’t clever enough just yet to have conversations on its own and of course there will always be the need for emotional empathy, which it is fairly safe to assume machines may be never be able to master 100%. The chatbot works seamlessly with the multichannel and digital world customers now want.
The desire to speak with a customer service representative at any time would mean having to have a team of operatives available 24 hours a day – at cost. Chatbots mean that organisations have a readily-available agent to speak with a customer whenever they want - satisfying the on demand service culture.
Investment in AI and Smart Machines. Source: Raconteur
The final big trend that Gartner highlighted for next year is digital platforms, and how all of the AI technologies come together within an operation to provide the biggest impact. It is vital that organisations have a digital and automation plan, and that the various applications of AI work together to create optimum benefits.
It is predicted that investment in smart machines will be a top five priority for over 30% of CIOs globally
For example, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) has been high on automation agendas this year, however it is unable to learn and unlock meaning from unstructured data. When used in collaboration with a machine learning application and predictive analytics platforms, the entire process is optimised resulting in better performance, competitive advantage and happier customers.
2017 will be the year of intelligence, not just because of the growing influence of artificial intelligence and machine learning on businesses, but because of how companies intelligently use the technology out there to meet the needs of their customers.