Vivek Kapadia How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Landscape of Customer Support April 10, 2017

You have a problem with your phone bill. You call a customer service number. You are greeted by a voice which by then you are sure that you are dealing with an automated process (a computer communicating with you). The voice asks you to dial a number, select a service and after speaking about innumerable services within one number in your ears, you are confused as to what did you call for in the first place or you might be struggling to tap the right option.

Even if you manage to get through this number game and finally speak to a human voice, the waiting time while some irritating music playing in the background will test your patience to the core. And the solutions that they provide leave you baffled and cringing wanting to either talk to the supervisor or changing the service altogether.

We have all been through this experience and customer service, probably, is not customer’s service but to irritate the customer till the one hangs up on you and you do not have to deal with the problem anymore. Not only the telecom industry, but the banks, pizza delivery, electronics repair or any company where you have to deal with such telephonic customer service companies will result in similar experiences.

Surely, we have pondered at some point of time that why customer support is underrated!

But with the major transformations happening around AI, the companies in question have taken customer service to a whole new level of customer engagement experience. Companies have lately started realising the importance of user experience, and have taken under notice that user experience isn’t just limited to a colourful piece of design.

We were also offered to report through Emails but it kept us awaited for days or sometimes months to have a response, and many a time, the responses became troublesome in its own way. We wanted to interact but we weren’t able to. We wanted an assurance but it turned into disguise. Long story short, it actually didn’t seem a promising way to deal with the problems.

Now, we are introduced to messengers, Twitter support accounts et al for every new brand that pops up that we use. These companies are not letting the customers down with quick responses available, and at least, now they have realised if the problem persists and didn’t get resolved, then they could be exposed to social media (with genuine complaints) which will not only result to some bad PR but damage their reputation as well.

How can these bots help?

Today, customers expect their complaints to be addressed quickly and a 24-hour response window doesn’t match their expectations. And a canned-response won’t do the job, either. Although we realise at times that the responses are followed through a very traditional technique, copy-paste, but at least now it is getting addressed in the way we were looking for. Quick and responsive!

The answer may lie in artificial intelligence (AI), which could eventually meet all of these expectations and lower costs for companies and quick responses for the customers. We had the AI technology back in 2001 when ABN AMRO, the Dutch bank released financial services bots to answer common FAQ as well as was hailed as a ‘pioneer in computerised wealth management’.

Today these messenger bots are setting shop amongst all the tech-friendly companies, and AI has already seen a boost in customer service prevalence. From ordering flowers to purchasing airline tickets to getting financial advice, the demand for actual reps is plummeting, thanks to chatbots. The growth of chatbots will surely disrupt the way we interact, the way we deal with our everyday troubles, no doubt about that.

But AI can also do much more than traditional customer service reps, bots aren’t only providing service to customers when they ask for it but even when they don’t realise they need it.

Instead of just waiting for the upset customer to tune to customer support, companies are offering solutions that proactively prevent the need for customer service.

With the clear benefits AI offers companies – by both lowering customer service costs and speeding up responses – the adoption of this tech as a customer service norm is inevitable.

Will the human customer support die untimely death?

With companies like IBM and its cognitive system Watson which is focused on improving customer service through machine learning, a career in customer service is slowly dying. Or maybe only a fewer jobs will be left in this department. With AI becoming aggressive day by day, it is also going to play a crucial role rather dominate in the banking sector.

There’s no doubt that people prefer speaking to other people. But it’s not as though we always prefer talking to a human representative. In fact, we often prefer self-service. And this is where AI can excel.

With a combination of machine learning and FAQ, a lot of customer support inquiries can simply be prevented by knowing what customers need before customers turn to support – a win-win for everyone.

With any luck, those frustrating phone calls to providers should become a thing of the past.

But will everyone be able to accept the AI? Not necessarily. You have your own opinions but trust, now is the time to make sure you save your job to earn your living during the times of AI, when AI will rule in almost every major industry. And why not! If you don’t, it might get too late for you and we don’t wish to say but you might end up sitting at home unemployed!

(With inputs from Ayush Garg).

Avatar for Vivek Kapadia

An IT graduate and a journalist by profession who loves coffee, humans and computers. Global affairs, tech and music are some of the topics that get me talking. In my free time, you will find me either with a book or a guitar.

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