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Will AI create better customer experiences (or just frustrate people)?

Will AI create better customer experiences (or just frustrate people)?

Technology is the backbone of our business. And, generally speaking, we’re interested in finding ways to use new technology to improve the customer experience, reduce costs and change what’s possible. But occasionally we like to question whether a piece of tech will genuinely deliver the promised benefits – or if we’re just being distracted by the glimmer of a new toy.

Artificial intelligence is – along with blockchain and augmented reality – one of the technologies of the moment. Everyone is talking about it, even if most people aren’t sure what it means – or how it can be used.

AI is often touted as having the potential to transform customer service functions by taking over some of the routine interactions that can jam up contact centres. Is this a realistic vision of the future? Will AI change the way we communicate with our customers? And if it has that potential, what does it mean for our customers?

AI in customer service

There are good reasons why customer experience leaders are excited about artificial intelligence, particularly in the form of chatbots and other self-service technologies.

A chatbot is always on, never gets tired, is happy to work weekends and delivers the same results every day – without ever snapping at customers because their new puppy kept them up all night. Chatbots can handle sensitive information, manage identification and verification processes, prevent fraud and detect patterns in customer behaviour.

Add to these benefits the potential to reduce contact centre demand (and the enormous costs that this entails) and it’s hardly surprising that leading companies are looking to augment their customer service and communication solutions with automated technology and artificial intelligence.

Not the droid your customers are looking for

Robo-assistants might be great for your business, but are they great for customers?

Chatbots can be clumsy, and painfully slow. If you don’t ask the right question, you’ll never get the right answer.

In their efforts to understand, chatbots have to confirm your response in their own language – which typically adds several layers to any exchange. While a customer service agent could listen to a complex query with multiple parts and then decide the best course of action in seconds, a chatbot typically takes far longer. Your contact centre might be saving time, but your customers are losing it.

And this is part of the problem. Is the appeal of chatbots and other AI-augmented customer service tools primarily connected to their efficiency and ability to reduce costs? Are we pushing customers to use tools that are convenient for us, at the expense of the customer experience? Is AI about improving the customer experience, or reducing costs?

All artificial, no intelligence?

‘Artificial intelligence’ is probably an over-used term. It’s used to describe tools that don’t really do any thinking– they just give the appearance of thinking – usually by taking human inputs and returning computed results or actions.

In many cases, the term ‘AI’ can be replaced by ‘software’ with no loss of accuracy. Some examples of AI are no smarter than a search engine (and may actually be slower).

So while technology has the power to enhance the services we offer customers, it must be genuinely helpful – not simply technology for the sake of technology. We all want to meet customer expectations, and keep up with our corporate peers, but our customers will not be thrilled if we put barriers between us and them.

Magical automation

At DocCentrics, we use several different techniques for creating magical customer experiences, but none of these rely on AI. The appearance of intelligence can be created quite simply by combining robust software with customer data.

For example, our customer communications platformallows the use of business rules to define when customers receive certain messages – and what each message includes. So when a customer contacts support, or abandons an order, you can instantly send out a follow-up message, populated with their information and details of their interaction. These communications can be completely automated, so there is very little overhead, but every customer gets a personalised message that makes them feel valued and understood.

If you want to know more about how our customer communication management (CCM) application can support memorable customer experiences, contact our friendly team.