2018 saw AI increasingly becoming a real value-add for enterprises beyond just using the term to signal ‘innovation’ in marketing programs. Customer Service is one of the early verticals where AI is showing quantifiable benefits in the form of reduced cost, improved customer experience and increased staff productivity.
So where is AI moving towards, in 2019? Here’s my take:
1. Ineffective chatbots will be thrown out of the market
Chatbots seem to be everywhere. From start-ups to enterprises, everyone seems to be trying them out and feature them in marketing programs as an ‘innovation’. Chatbots seem to be widespread, but why is it still difficult to find successful case studies? Customers have still not taken chatbots seriously and the experience is still clearly broken. Quantifiable results of using chatbots will be out in the open and customer service leaders will understand that if chatbots target keywords, as most do, it will not be as capable as an AI engine trained on the company’s own historical customer support data. Just the results and a clearer understanding of the technology will weed out the ineffective chatbots from the market.
2. AI’s limitations will be clear as we move beyond the hype
As the results from the various pilots and implementations start to show, customer service leaders will come to a clear understanding of hype vs. reality. As the media hype has only shot up people’s expectations around AI, it is but certain that reality is only going to lower a customer service leader’s expectation around the technology.
3. AI is going to help agents before helping customers
2018 did see many companies making the mistake of releasing automated chatbots directly to consumers which only resulted in frustrating experiences. As more solutions that help agents increase productivity, arrive in the market, enterprises containing significant historical data will first look to implement AI solutions that augment human agents in resolving queries faster. Once they are confident of the answers being suggested to agents, they will then look to automate certain types of queries where the confidence level is higher.
4. AI will also be used to improve internal processes
Tasks such as routing and classification of tickets which is an unnecessary and time-consuming task for agents will be handed over to AI. As more data flows, this system would get better with time.
5. AI will be measured
AI would be measured just as any other contact center employee. Its effectiveness, efficiency will be gauged and compared with human agents. Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) for the AI engine will also be closely monitored as customer service leaders are interested in reducing cost but not at the expense of customer experience.
6. More pilots by large enterprises
2018 saw the implementation of AI in customer service in a production environment by the more innovative enterprises worldwide. In 2019, we will witness even the more conservative larger enterprises carrying out pilots with AI vendors to evaluate the effectiveness of AI in reducing cost and improving customer experience and efficiency.
7. More agents will be freed from answering simple queries
This is a trend which will only rise each year. As AI engines get better with time and as self-serve platforms get better with content discovery, customers will no longer need to contact a human agent for Level 1 (basic, repetitive queries) support. Agents will thus focus on solving queries with higher complexity which would free them from answering simple questions over and over.
2019 is going to be an exciting year to witness the effectiveness of AI for customer service. Similar to how social media, mobile and chat have increased customer expectations around service, AI is going to be the propellant that will take customer expectations to an even higher level.