Don’t Diss the Tech: Best Uses of AI in Customer Service and How Attitudes Toward AI Have Changed

chatbot image AI Illustration 132610258 © Microvone

Don’t Diss the Tech: Best Uses of AI in Customer Service and How Attitudes Toward AI Have Changed

Machine learning based tech is becoming more sophisticated with virtual influencers, robot assistants, AI making appointments by phone. Talking tech, it may seem ironic to mention feelings. Remember it is humans that this tech is meant to support. Building on our article, Human and Machine are Best Together, I wanted to discover how attitudes toward AI have changed. I connected with respected pros in the sector for their thoughts and best uses of AI in customer service. 

Best Examples of AI in Customer Service and CX

The best people to comment on how AI impacts CX and QA are those who work with those challenges regularly. I reached out to two pros: Shep Hyken, a widely respected customer service expert, writer and speaker; and Jeremy Watkin, Manager, Product Marketing at 8×8, Customer Think Advisor and Board Member of CX Accelerator.

I asked Shep Hyken, for an example of effective use of AI in the space. He answered:

“When it comes to customer service, AI is usually thought of as a self-service chatbot to help customers get answers to basic questions. However, I’m seeing smart companies use the chatbot to support the customer service rep (when interacting with a customer). The rep can type in the question – the right way – to get the best and most accurate answer for the customer. Furthermore, the “machine” can identify the customer, look at buying history and compare this customer to others who have the same questions and issues. This allows the AI to give even more insight to the support rep, often making suggestions on better ways to support the customer. And based on the customer’s history and similarity to other customers, the “machine” can often predict what the customer will need next.”

Where to Begin

There are many tools currently available both for customer facing and agent facing AI. It can be daunting to know where to begin. Early adopters have done some of the troubleshooting already, making it easier for companies that have not yet embraced AI. 

I asked Jeremy Watkin about his experience with attitudes toward AI in the sector, and a best use example. He answered: 

“There’s a ton of intrigue around AI among contact center and customer experience leaders. While there are certainly good use cases, success stories, and perhaps just a bit of hype around chatbots, I see the biggest impact occurring behind the scenes. The combination of natural language processing and machine learning can help contact center agents find answers to their questions quicker, reducing both the time to full proficiency of new agents and wait time for customers. These applications can also more easily spot trends in your customer experience and coaching opportunities for your agents. If you’re looking at AI for your customer experience, start with technology that will help your contact center agents deliver better customer service more efficiently and then work from there.”

Attitudes Toward AI

Though I love the genre, scifi is partly to blame for fear of AI domination and robots going rogue. Those fears are not the main barrier of adoption. Job loss, invasiveness, costs, difficulty of implementation and impersonal experience have fueled resistance.

Technology moves very quickly and knowledge eases fear. As more companies incorporate AI, and more customers are familiar with it, attitudes toward this technology have also evolved. 

Pega did a study in 2017  indicating the public was equally split. It showed ⅓ being comfortable, ⅓ uncomfortable and ⅓ undecided on consumer facing AI. That study also revealed that though most consumers (84%) were already engaging with AI, only 34% knew it. 

Jumping to a recent 2019 report by Genesys, sentiment is improving: “…70% have an upbeat attitude toward new workplace technologies involving artificial intelligence (AI), such as chatbots, robots and augmented reality”. 

The report said some have concerns about job loss and AI causing future changes, but the majority are unafraid. 

The World Bank’s World Development Report 2019 called fears of AI taking over jobs ‘unfounded’: “Instead, technology is bringing opportunity, paving the way to create new jobs, increase productivity, and improve public service delivery.”

In the customer service space AI tools offer speed, self-service options, better metrics, more data analyzed, reduction of repetitive tasks, reduced costs and freeing employees for nuanced tasks.

Deloitte’s 2019 Global Contact Center Survey backs that up, calling AI a ‘strategic priority’ and identifying 3 specifics: “1) customer engagement automation (i.e., self-service), 2) customer service representative assistance (i.e., next best action), and, 3) advanced operational and strategic analytics and insights.“

AI Fears vs. AI Benefits

AI Adoption

This data is encouraging for the future of AI adoption, however, there is a caveat. AI isn’t exactly everywhere yet. The same Genesys report revealed: “Among U.S. respondents, 68% say they are not yet using tools that leverage AI; surprisingly, there is not a noteworthy difference between large and small companies.”

AI and the Near Super Future

There are numerous TED and events talks on AI. I found an interesting, future facing one by Jeremy Gutsche for Trend Hunter. He brings up the point that it is no longer sufficient to simply say AI. As with any evolving technology it has begun to reveal layers of usage and type. He mentions ANI: Narrow, AGI: General and ASI: Super.

Gustche is looking toward the near future of 7-15 years to a time of AGI. By general he means that “one system could actually do pretty much anything that a human  could.” With AI’s ability to learn at a faster speed than humans, it has the potential to exceed human intelligence sooner than we might think.  

I was blown away by the example that if every human on earth, all 7 billion plus, completed one calculation per second it would take humanity 305 days to do what IBM Summit can do in 1 second. Now, those are the kind of stats that make some shake their heads in disbelief and others reach for a sedative.

Work With AI

Ignorance won’t make AI go away or slow it down. Knowledge is power, even for us slow moving humans. After all, it is human ingenuity that created AI. Being informed about it helps us to work with it. Even if we individually choose what level of AI we allow into our lives, there are governments and businesses that will require us to use it to engage with them.

What level of AI you choose to adopt for your business and where to first implement it is up to you. 

Where will you begin?