AI-Powered Customer Service: Enhancing the User Experience

edited June 27 in Business

Have you ever had an issue with a product or service that required you to contact customer services? While the customer is always right, at times we may be made to feel like we don’t have the right to talk to an actual human being. Whether it's a broken washing machine, Wi-Fi playing up, or a delivery that failed to materialize, sometimes, customers need the service of the company they faithfully gave their money to. Have you ever called a customer service hotline, to be met with an automated answering machine, then kept on hold, listening to a bland musak track on repeat, until the line eventually goes dead? 

While we may have some customer service horror stories to share, be they with real customer service personnel, or automated services, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve guessed it, today we’re talking AI customer service! As someone who many moons ago worked in telephone customer service, I salute the AI customer support juggernaut. So, let’s jump right in and discover the workings of AI in customer service and how it is transforming customer interactions.

AI and customer service

Customer service AI is a relatively new phenomenon that you may well have already experienced. If you've browsed a shopping website and clicked on live chat, or help, the responses were likely provided by a chatbot. Chatbots and their more evolved cousins, virtual assistants are at the forefront of the AI-powered customer service revolution. On call for 24/7 support and instant answers, AI customer service won’t put you on hold. This new approach to customer service has the potential to address all of your queries and issues by quickly analyzing relevant data as well as customer preferences and behavior. Speed and efficiency may not be words we associate with most customer service encounters, but with AI integration, customer service outcomes can be greatly improved.  

Key AI technologies in customer service

As we touched on above, AI customer service agents come in several shapes and sizes. Firstly, the ubiquitous chatbot. These customer service bots may pop up on your favorite websites and messaging platforms to answer FAQs and handle specific, straightforward tasks and transactions. Secondly, virtual assistants, such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Alexa from Amazon leverage AI and machine learning to understand the context of your questions and provide detailed responses and assistance. 

Within AI customer service systems, Natural language processing (NLP) is the key technology powering personal assistants and advanced interactions. NLP breaks down and analyzes great quantities of natural language data, developing algorithms and models to understand and effectively generate human language.  

Machine learning and predictive analytics are also integral technologies for AI customer service. Machine learning enables computer systems to learn (without being programmed) from the data they are given, by identifying patterns and making predictions and decisions based on the analysis of these datasets.  

AI-powered customer service also relies on predictive analytics, a technology that combines machine learning with data and statistics to predict future outcomes such as future performance. Finally, automated response systems use both NLP and machine learning to provide instant customer service responses. In contrast to human operators, automated response systems constantly analyze their interactions and feedback, improving their responses and adaptability. These technologies anticipate customer needs, determine customer responses and enhance service experiences.

Benefits of AI-powered customer service

From both customer and business perspectives, the increased efficiency and productivity of AI-powered customer services is unbeatable. Queries can be dealt with in a logical, data-oriented manner, delivering results and increasing customer satisfaction. Personalized customer experiences are another benefit of AI-powered customer service. Automated response systems can instantly access and analyze an individual customer’s details, providing proactive support as well as relevant content and products. 

The internet has created a 24/7 global marketplace. Midnight in Ohio is 9.30 am in Chennai, and customers demand round the clock availability and support. Thankfully, AI-powered customer service assistants don’t need sleep, so whatever time it is, they are ready to help. Reduced operational costs are another attractive aspect of AI-powered customer service. After the initial setup and staff required to maintain operations, businesses don’t need to take on multiple employees to answer customer queries.  

Challenges and limitations of AI in customer service 

It’s important to note that we are still in the early days of AI-powered customer service. Although AI models are logged on, plugged in, and learning all the time, there are still certain limitations. Handling complex queries can pose problems, and if the information a customer requires is not in the AI’s data set, there is no way they can provide a correct answer.

From C-3PO to Marvin the Paranoid Android, and even Bender, socially and verbally awkward robots have been the source of many a joke. Current AI models certainly lack the charm of these on-screen roots, and when it comes to customer interactions, they lack human touch and empathy.

Ethics in general are a concern when it comes to AI and all it entails, but for now let’s end with data privacy and security concerns. An issue of note in AI customer service, vulnerabilities in AI systems can potentially compromise customer information, while data storage must be safeguarded in line with GDPR regulations.  

AI-powered customer care success stories

Several big name companies have already embraced the AI-customer service revolution. Microsoft recently announced the introduction of new AI tools for its customer service call centers. While many of their customer support tasks are already automated, the new AI tools can instantly sieve through help manuals and materials to constantly provide better answers. With these AI tools, customer service agents will be able to navigate relevant apps using natural language, and provide correct answers with speed and ease. 

Fintech giant Klarna has integrated AI throughout its operations, including chatbots they claim can handle the same workload as 700 human customer service employees. While AI taking human jobs is definitely a touchy subject, the link above includes an interview with Klarna’s CEO, outlining the efficiency and amazing outcomes the system offers to customers.  

Where do we go from here?

Increasingly human-like interactions will be possible due to constant improvements in natural language understanding. Machine learning will also grow in efficiency, answering bigger and more complicated questions. AI is coming of age alongside IoT (internet of things), which will in turn improve automated customer responses and predictive analytics. Virtual reality, of course, cannot be ignored and will provide increasingly personalized customer service interactions. And finally robotics, in combination with AI may soon mean that the shop assistant you encounter may not be human after all.  

While AI is clearly replacing human workers in some industries, there are certainly emerging customer service positions where employees can harness the power of AI in their work. Whatever industry you’re in, for a durable and highly portable laptop with business-grade security, check out Acer’s TravelMate P series. With a model for every need and budget, the P series will help you to optimize your work while on-the-go or in the office.

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Edmund is an English copywriter based in New Taipei City, Taiwan. He is a widely published writer and translator with two decades of experience in the field of bridging linguistic and cultural gaps between Chinese and English.


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