In an uncertain economy, excellent customer service is paramount because customers must make tough decisions about where they spend their tighter budgets. Companies that recognize that and prioritize creating amazing customer experiences will come out as winners.
But customers aren't the only ones tightening their purse strings in a volatile economy. As companies reduce headcount and shift spending from (perceived) "cost centers," such as Customer Support, customer service leaders have to do more with less. Any investments in customer experience require quick, concrete benefits to bottom lines.
So, how will companies provide impressive service to customers while working with leaner support teams in the coming years?
Artificial intelligence has been at the heart of many back-office systems in customer support for years, turning time-consuming manual processes into lightning-fast automated workflows. But the advent of generative AI, which interprets human language and mimics human speech, writing, and art (among other creative outputs) means companies can help customers while also making them feel understood and appreciated––at scale.
Generative AI tools have the potential to revolutionize customer support for companies. By improving agent productivity, reducing resolution times, and creating more personalized experiences, generative AI tools can help companies save money and compete better.
Moreover, making customer support more enjoyable for customers will help create repeat customers and brand loyalty.
Let's examine six jobs that AI tools can handle for customer support teams.
1. Automate and improve support ticket routing
Businesses are using AI to handle the tedious tasks involved in triaging and routing tickets, freeing up agents to focus on more pressing issues.
In the past few years, AI-powered support products have been reducing manual work for agents by automatically tagging support tickets by category. But the release of OpenAI's ChatGPT means AI capabilities now go beyond picking up keywords and using decision trees to send a ticket to the right department.
Generative AI tools can completely change the customer service experience by reading customer messages and understanding sentiment and intent to determine the customer's urgency level. They can write tickets for agents, summarizing key information about the customer inquiry and highlighting any elements that might be of particular concern. All that allows for a more personalized experience that will ultimately lead to happier customers.
For common customer support issues, AI tools can remove the need for ticketing altogether. Solve from Forethought, for example, can deflect customer inquiries directly to knowledge base articles, or use those articles to generate unique, personalized responses to customer questions. Customers can get answers to their questions immediately—without the need for support team help.
As companies strive to meet rapidly increasing demand, AI-powered ticketing solutions help deflect customer inquiries to self-service channels. That allows companies to grow at a reduced cost, without increasing headcount.
2. Answer customer questions across multiple channels
Unhelpful customer interactions with pre-scripted chatbots will soon be a thing of the past. Generative AI tools can extract information from millions of documents to deliver answers to almost any customer question in a conversational, personalized way.
Customer support solution companies such as Forethought and Ada have built support-specific chat tools using ChatGPT that are designed to mimic the way humans process and understand language. Such chat solutions are ideal for helping customers with live chat, help lines, and email support, as well as social media support and chat.
To ensure more helpful, on-brand answers to customer inquiries, companies can limit their customer support chat tool's dataset to their knowledge base content.
Using automated workflows, AI-powered support tools can also connect with CRM or e-commerce platforms via application programming interfaces (APIs) to carry out simple customer requests, such as reporting on order status or changing contact information—thus eliminating wait times for customers.
Although GPT-powered support chats are text-based for now, we anticipate voice solutions will be developed in the next year or so.
3. Make customer interactions more personalized
When given access to first-party customer data, such as purchase or website browsing history, generative AI tools can provide support interactions tailored to the individual needs and preferences of each customer.
An AI tool can turn a support chat with a customer into a friendly, helpful conversation that troubleshoots known issues related to recent purchases.
Imagine a support conversation in which a virtual agent, powered by AI, greets a customer by name and asks whether the customer is contacting support about a recent purchase. Once the customer confirms, the virtual agent asks about the issue. In this scenario, let's say the customer needs a replacement part. The virtual agent arranges for the part to be sent to the customer's mailing address and offers to have a support team member contact the customer once the part arrives for a walkthrough of how to install the part.
Human agents can also partner with generative AI writing tools to give customers more white-glove treatment. Support agents can prompt AI tools to compose follow-up emails using customer service call or chat transcripts. The AI can tailor messaging to each customer, summarizing the conversation and referencing "human" moments from it, such as mentions of sports teams or complaints about the weather. It can even recommend products based on the conversation.
In both scenarios, the customer leaves the interaction feeling seen, valued, and supported. When customers have that kind of experience at scale, customer satisfaction scores and retention rates soar.
4. Assist and train customer support agents
At the handoff to support agents, AI chatbots can help agents resolve tickets faster by providing recommended resolutions derived from the knowledge base, previous responses, and known bugs. Based on past interactions and similar cases. an AI solution could suggest the best course of action for each customer interaction.
To boost productivity, agents can use AI to automate simple or complex processes, such as processing refunds and checking order status.
AI can also run simulated situations for agents to respond to, providing feedback on areas where they can improve.
With the assistance of AI, supervisors won't need to constantly monitor calls and chats for training purposes, freeing them up to do higher-level work.
5. Develop more effective content for help centers and knowledge bases
Help center articles are a necessary part of providing excellent customer service, but they can be time-consuming to create. Generative AI tools such as Writer, Jasper, and Copy.ai can help save time by automating some of the processes*.
AI writing tools are trained on your company's documentation and marketing content. They can walk writers through creating FAQs and help center articles, instantly generating language based on information gathered from your company's materials; help keep terminology and messaging consistent across all articles—no matter who's writing them—by enforcing brand guidelines; and detect readability issues to make sure the language used is accessible to all readers.
*We saved at least four hours by using Writer to help outline and edit this article.
6. Analyze customer data to pre-empt issues
AI solutions can use customer data to address issues before they become costly problems. By gaining insights on customer purchase history and support interactions, businesses can understand their customers' needs and preferences. That data can be used to improve self-service options, find gaps in knowledge base and help center content, and provide more personalized agent interactions.
Tools such as IrisAgent can predict escalation and churn risk by discovering trending product and customer experience issues detected from anomalies in support and product data and alert CS teams.
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There's no denying that generative AI will change the landscape for customer support. Even in the face of tighter operating budgets, companies already dedicated to providing more engaging and efficient support experiences can continue to do so with the help of AI tools.
AI isn't about removing humans from Customer Support. It's about offering high-quality interactions, empowering human support agents to do their jobs, and making customer relationships last.
More Resources on Customer Support and AI
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