The concept of automation in customer service has been around for what feels like an eternity, but until recently it’s been hard-pressed to become an actual reality.  The version we saw depicted in movies was too far-fetched.  The version we did get to experience – like interactive voice response systems — was faulty more often than not, and universally annoying to the end-user.  But today’s intelligent automation is making us all stop and think – has the future finally arrived?

Intelligent automation technologies like chatbots and virtual assistants have quickly grown to become an integral part of many businesses. Whether used for internal processes or customer-facing support, armies of chatbots are supporting employees and customers worldwide, enabling new levels of efficient and personalised service.  Here are just a few ways intelligent automation is beginning to finally fulfil its promise:

Delivering Self-Service Capabilities Consumers Want

The expectations of digital savvy consumers continue to grow and part of that is the desire for brands to have strong self-service tools.  According to a recent study, 78% of consumers would choose a channel other than a phone call if they knew they could get a resolution to their issues on the first attempt.  For seemingly quick fix issues, like password resets, for example, most consumers don’t want to call into a call centre – they just want the issue resolved.  Intelligent automation technologies are helping consumers quickly scour knowledge-bases – either through search bars or chatbots — to find answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Making Human Agents More Efficient

There has been some speculation that with the rise of AI, the jobs of human agents are in jeopardy.  Hollywood has certainly had their fun with the concept.   The truth is that AI solutions are designed to complement the human agent – not replace them.  These chatbots can help increase agent efficiency by offloading simple, redundant, and low-touch queries, leaving the agent to handle more complex and interesting service requests.  The day-to-day of an agent may shift slightly, but for the better.

Creating More Personalized Experiences

Automation and personalization are two concepts that haven’t generally gone hand-in-hand, but that’s all changing.  As AI technologies become smarter and more intuitive, they have the power to provide agents with information about customers – including past activity and any available personal information.  Having the ability to draw from this customer profile, AI technologies can arm agents with information including what the problem or question likely is, the solution to their query, services they may need or products they might like based on their history and other customers like them.  Not only can AI solutions provide that customer information, but they can do it in a split second – instantly helping agents create an interaction unique to that customer.

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Provide Data Driven Insights to Continually Improve

One of the best things intelligent automation is doing for brands is something that isn’t seen by the customer at all.  AI technologies are helping brands improve their customer service strategy by collecting communications data from every interaction, extracting valuable insights.  Using data analytics, brands can identify areas customers are continually having issues and take steps to adjust accordingly – improving future interactions.

While AI is starting to make a serious impact on customer service, we’re only at the beginning.  Relatively speaking, the technology is in its infancy, but will continue to mature and show success in more and more use cases.  The key, however, will be how and in what capacity organizations leverage it.  AI implementations should be purposeful and strategic.  Not every situation is AI appropriate.  AI’s purpose, at least for now, is not to replace the human agent, but augment the team by taking on lower level tasks and helping make their human counterparts smarter about their customers and brands smarter about their business.   For any digital CX platform, AI-powered or otherwise, the customer experience must be seamless, convenient, and provide a level of personalization that shows the customers that their business is appreciated.  It’s an old-world concept, with a new-world twist.  The successful marriage of the two is the real future of customer service.