A lot of people are talking to computers. They just don’t know it.
After digging into some research, one Forbes author concluded that up to 84% of consumers had been helped by machines. Yet around half had no idea they weren’t speaking with humans. How is this kind of relationship possible? You can thank the ubiquitousness of artificial intelligence (AI).
AI — Helping Professionals Get Work Done
Though AI has gotten quite a bit of press in recent years, it isn’t as new as you might think. Harvard University reporting places the beginnings of AI squarely in the middle of the 20th century. However, as a piece from The New York Times notes, it’s taken until now for AI to become mainstream. Quite honestly, AI’s integrated into nearly everything we do, right down to turning off lights before bedtime via connected devices.
What makes AI so enticing? Above all else, it’s a way to achieve tremendous efficiency while reducing errors. That’s why many executives are open to incorporating AI into all departments, such as people-heavy HR. Let’s face it: AI-powered software, programs, and solutions don’t get tired. They don’t need breaks or PTO. They don’t quit, either. Instead, they keep performing their algorithms and, in the case of machine learning, get smarter.
Consequently, AI’s been tapped to improve a multitude of business goals, especially the goal of improved, exceptional customer experiences.
Conversational AI — A Boon to Customer Relations
It’s no surprise that many corporations struggle to find the right customer service balance. Trying to meet consumer demand for immediate (and accurate) help can be challenging. Moreover, customers are notoriously fickle when it comes to service expectations, especially after the pandemic of 2020. During Covid, many grew increasingly brand-agnostic, leaving them less likely to hand over loyalty. Yet, organizations aren’t always equipped with the people power to satisfy customers’ expectations.
This is where AI, and especially conversational AI, can lend a helpful hand. Companies across the world are leveraging conversational AI to lift up their customer experience operations.
What is conversational AI? It’s any programming that allows machines to interface with humans in a language-based context. For instance, chatbots are a prime example of conversational AI because they fuel a comfortable person-to-software interchange. In other words, they feel and sound natural, right down to the pauses between responses.
Conversational AI has many applications within the context of customer relations management. Below are just some of the ways that it’s paving the way for improved connections between buyers and brands.
1. Improves customer self-service.
According to Kate Leggett, vice president, and principal analyst at Forrester, people like to feel empowered. This desire spills over into their customer service experiences—and becomes a reason for organizations to try self-service. “Self-service delivers personalized engagement, increases customer satisfaction, and reduces operational costs by deflecting common customer inquiries,” says Legett.
How can you be sure that your self-service mediums don’t feel clunky or robotic, though? Choose a conversational AI system that effectively leverages machine learning and natural language processing to offer a seamless user experience.
Contact center solution, Five9’s Ellen DePodesta explains how advanced Conversational AI systems, such as Intelligent Virtual Agents, set the stage for exceptional self-service. According to Depodesta, “Virtual agents improve outcomes by quickly moving customers through the process to identify and resolve the reason for their call.” She adds that with the proper conversational AI programming in place, customers can enjoy fewer friction points, improving their overall experience.
Bottom line? Giving customers choices about how to resolve issues (with a bit of help from AI) helps them feel more in control. Additionally, it takes the burden off customer service employees to deal with matters that are easily fixed. In the end, all stakeholders end up happier.
2. Levels the playing field.
You can be sure that giants like Amazon use AI throughout the shopping and fulfillment experience. Nevertheless, conversational AI isn’t limited to the “big players.” Any organization can try AI.
With many conversational AI providers on the scene, nearly any business—including startups—can experiment with adding AI to their sales and support toolkit. Yes, larger businesses may be able to afford enterprise-level systems. Still, more minor, emerging technologies are competitively priced to remove barriers of entry into the conversational AI marketplace.
This gives a serious advantage to startups with great ideas and limited capital seeking good conversations with customers. Being able to invest in affordable conversational AI software allows them to appear larger. Plus, it gives companies the opportunity to serve up exceptional customer results without padding the payroll.
3. Acts in an assistive capacity.
Though CNBC concludes around 27% of young workers fear AI will take over their jobs, AI isn’t an either/or proposition. In fact, conversational AI software can serve alongside human customer service representatives. This allows agents to conduct work faster and gain an edge over the competition.
Consider a customer service agent taking a live call. During the exchange, a conversational AI program could transcribe the dialogue in real-time. Consequently, what the caller says could be analyzed by the AI software for immediate action.
As an example, pretend a customer tells the agent that she wants to know the business’s refund policy. The AI software could then fetch information about refunds, so the agent doesn’t have to move from screen to screen. Instead, the answer is right in front of the agent. Shaving off even one or two minutes from calls leaves agents able to help more people.
Conversational AI — The Future of Customer Engagement
Every year, businesses are finding more ways to integrate conversational AI into their best practices. Even now, researchers have experimented with technology that can transform conversational AI bots into virtual faces. In other words, the bots start to take on visual attributes that make them seem more normalized and lifelike. The hope is that this anthropomorphism of conversational AI solutions enables even stronger customer and brand interplays.
There’s no doubt that conversational AI has already moved the customer experience forward. As it continues to evolve, companies and their buyers will become the beneficiaries of this emerging technology. No one can tell exactly how far conversational AI will go, of course. Nonetheless, it’s bound to become a primary differentiator between companies.
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