How can artificial intelligence make life better for human customers? Glad you asked! Actually, cold, unfeeling machines can make your customers feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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Using AI, customer service reps can improve and scale their customer service efforts. But you should also be aware that AI is a reflection of how the customer service game is changing before our eyes.

As time goes on, artificial intelligence will continue to become more prevalent in the context of digital customer service. These kinds of resources are becoming ubiquitous in any aspect of business that relies on modern technology, and customer service is no exception.

It's important to have some grasp on what these tools are, how they operate, and what they could potentially do for your service department. Having that understanding might mean the difference between your customer service efforts keeping pace with digital transformation or becoming outdated and insufficient. 

Here, we'll get a better understanding of which AI resources and processes are emerging as potential staples of future support efforts and how they're changing the landscape of customer service.

How AI Is Changing Customer Service 

Speech Recognition

Your customer service operations today probably generate a lot of data. Audio calls, text transcriptions of those calls, text chats, live chats — you name it. A recent McKinsey study sees this as rich material for AI systems to process. Done right, this can produce some profitable machine-enabled customer service outcomes.

The study notes:

"Improved speech recognition in call center management and call routing by applying AI techniques allow a more seamless experience for customers — and more efficient processing,"

And it doesn't stop there. Using AI called deep learning, customer service operations are getting more sophisticated.

"For example, deep learning analysis of audio allows systems to assess customers' emotional tone; if a customer is responding negatively to an automated system, the call can be rerouted to human operators and managers."


Emotion recognition is one area where AI can help. Another is personalization.

McKinsey notes that Netflix and Amazon use AI-powered recommendations to delight customers. The AI analyzes your consumption data, then recommends other things you want to watch or buy.

In this way, AI is pushing the boundaries of what customer service is. It's not just about customer satisfaction after the sale (though that's important). It's about creating incredible experiences and offers — time and time again. 

These experiences and offers are then highly personalized using the power of AI. The more personalized the offer, the better chance a customer walks away delighted — and the better chance your brand scores a sale.

That means AI can turn your actual sales process into a valuable customer service tool by giving consumers even more opportunities to spend money on what they already like.

Take the example of a travel company cited by McKinsey. The company used AI to "micro-segment" customers. Then, the company offered more personalized services, like hotels and plane tickets. The travel company used "product and customer data" to train the AI.

The result?

A 10-15% increase in revenue.

On one hand, AI can make your current customer service operations better, faster, and more effective at scale. On the other, it can personalize your marketing content so well that it delights customers. Content becomes a vehicle for offering consumers the best offer for them at the best time.

Automatic Ticket Tagging

AI can also be an asset for your internal customer service infrastructure. If your business uses a ticketing system, then your customer service department is probably inundated with a massive volume of support inquiries every day. Those tickets have to be read, analyzed, tagged, and ultimately routed to an appropriate representative or team. 

Without AI, the process is tedious and time-consuming. Frankly, it can be a waste of your support team's effort and resources. AI tools — specifically text analysis ones — take the stress, personal effort, and monotony out of that process. 

They have the capacity to analyze text from and automatically tag support tickets — reducing what would be an hours-long process into a matter of seconds. 


Another way customer service departments have been leveraging AI to improve customer experiences is through the use of chatbots — bots companies place on web pages to address basic customer support inquiries at any time of day. The efficiency and accessibility these bots offer are redefining customer support.

Chatbots leverage AI and machine learning to understand the fundamentals behind a company's product or service. They're able to answer common questions customers might have well beyond operating hours — while actual support reps are offline. 

They make customer service simpler for customers and service reps alike. With chatbots, customers with basic questions can have their inquiries addressed easily whenever they need. And reps aren't burdened with constant, monotonous, simple questions — giving them more time to tackle more pressing, significant issues. 

Digital Assistants

The example of Amazon's Alexa digital assistant also shows us how AI is changing the customer service game. Alexa is essentially an always-on brand ambassador that blurs the lines between marketing, sales, and customer service.

Yext's Duane Forrester, a voice search expert, says,

"A digital agent will be a game-changing moment in a customer's life, and each company knows they have a small opportunity to get it on the bullseye, and a large opportunity to miss the mark and drive consumers away from their platform. This means these products will be much more advanced than the digital assistants we now live with when introduced." 

AI assistants and service tools present huge opportunities to get customer service right. But do them wrong, and you drive consumers into the arms of competing brands. This is all happening because consumer preferences are changing.

The Changing Landscape of Customer Service in the Age of AI

We're moving to a contextual world, where consumers search online for personally relevant results in real-time. Voice is ascendant, as consumers make more on-the-fly searches, decisions, and purchases. Online reviews generate tons of data that can tell us much about customers, if only we had the time and ability to analyze these reviews.

In a world of almost limitless data, AI is helping us leverage that data to improve our existing customer service operations. But AI is also being adopted to help brands cope with a fundamentally changed customer service landscape, where everyone expects one-to-one attention — at scale.

One thing is clear in this brave new world, effective customer service is no longer a job humans can do alone.

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Originally published May 14, 2020 7:48:30 AM, updated May 18 2020


Artificial Intelligence