6 ways customer service AI is transforming support chat
For businesses of all sizes, the demands of customer service are higher than ever before. According to McKinsey, two-thirds of millennials now expect to access real-time customer service. Meanwhile, 75% of the wider population wants to have a consistent cross-channel service experience. How can businesses close this gap? With customer service AI!
Delivering this level of customer service would previously have required heavy investment in support staff. However, thanks to rapid advancements in AI support tools, businesses are now able to service customers without calling on human agents. This is because customer service AI can power chatbots and virtual assistants, create a personalized support experience, translate between languages, detect fraud, and provide a summary of the customer support interaction, and lots more!
Understanding how this technology is changing the support landscape is an important step toward improving CX, boosting customer retention, and increasing CSAT. In this blog, we’ll take a peek at the history of customer service AI, understand the benefits of AI in customer service, and take a look at what the future holds. Let’s dive in!
A brief history of customer service AI
While AI tools have only made the news in recent years, various forms of artificial intelligence have been used in customer service for decades.
The origins of AI in customer service can be traced back to the mid-1960s when the first chatbot, ELIZA, was created to simulate human conversation. Though primitive, it showed the potential for computers to engage with humans.
In the 1980s and 1990s, advances in NLP (Natural Language Processing) and machine learning led to more sophisticated AI systems. A search engine known as Ask Jeeves (later rebranded to ask.com) encouraged users to ask questions rather than search for simple phrases. However, tools in this period were still very limited in their capabilities.
As we entered the new millennium, the adoption of big data, neural networks, and cloud computing took AI technology to the next level. By 2009, Get Satisfaction had launched the first AI-powered social customer service.
How customer service AI became popular
The big breakthrough for customer service AI arrived in the mid-2010s. Up until this time, artificial intelligence was at the margins of society. After Facebook added chatbots to Messenger in 2016, however, the popularity of virtual support agents took off.
The phenomenon of customer service AI we see today has been built on recent advances in machine learning and generative AI. These technologies have enabled a wide range of new use cases and upgraded existing virtual assistants with better conversational skills.
In the context of customer support, this means that bots can provide a similar level of service to human customer support agents, while also supporting real agents in doing their work.
As customer service AI technology has become more widespread, the outlook of consumers has changed. Fun fact - 50% of all consumers miss communications from businesses, regardless of the communication channel used. Even if we don’t consider those who miss business communications, research by Netomi found that 65% of people have higher expectations for customer service now than they did five years ago. Another study reveals that 47% of consumers have increased their use of digital channels for contacting businesses within the last 12 to 18 months.
These trends in customer experience have further incentivized businesses to adopt new AI technology.
Machine Learning vs AI: What’s the difference?
Here’s a comparison of Machine Learning vs. AI:
AI (Artificial Intelligence): An umbrella term that refers to the ability of computers to mimic human intelligence and perform tasks that humans can do to a similar or greater level of accuracy. (Source) AI can sense, reason, and adapt.
ML (Machine Learning): According to AWS, “ML is the science of developing algorithms and statistical models that computer systems use to perform complex tasks without explicit instructions. The systems rely on patterns and inference instead.” (Source) The performance of ML algorithms improves as they are exposed to, and learn from, data over time.
Today, AI is receiving plenty of attention in the media. For this reason, many organizations have pivoted their marketing to include “AI features.” This is because GPT and other large language models are used to power intelligent customer service tools, including chatbots with conversational AI. Remember that the definition of true intelligence is debatable: machine learning allows apps to appear intelligent when they are making predictions based on experience. For instance, sentiment analysis and voice recognition are both based on detecting patterns.
For leaders tasked with improved customer engagement, understanding the varying capabilities of AI customer service platforms is crucial.
Virgin Mobile UAE improved their CSAT with Sendbird Desk.
Why customer service AI is a must-have for your company: 6 benefits of AI-powered support chat
Perhaps the biggest influence of customer service AI can be seen in support chat.
Instead of being able to offer only live conversations with human agents, businesses can now deliver self-service for routine queries with AI for customer service. For complex cases, or when customers do get through to an agent, that staff member is supported by intelligent workflows. Let’s explore the multiple benefits of customer service AI.
1. Increased efficiency in support teams
The key to great customer service is finding satisfactory outcomes in the shortest possible time. However, cost pressures make it difficult for businesses to reach the optimum standard.
AI technology can help customer support teams run more efficiently, resulting in better performance with the same resources.
AI-powered chatbots can be trained with your existing knowledge base to answer FAQs. Research shows that one-third of customers find that these bots are “highly effective” at resolving their queries, and 62% of consumers would actually prefer to interact with a bot rather than wait for human agents.
AI-enhanced chat solutions can assist with collecting information about technical issues ahead of time, which means that human agents have to spend less time on each query.
2. Enhanced customer experience
More than half of consumers say that customer experience plays a pivotal role in their buying decisions — and AI-enhanced support chat can drastically enhance CX.
Consider the first interaction. AI chatbots are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means response times drop to zero, and customers can get help for routine queries whenever they need it.
Smart support systems can also draw on customer data to enable personalized customer interactions that take account of individual circumstances, problems, and preferences. This ensures that suggested solutions are relevant to each customer.
Similarly, AI support solutions can use smart routing to direct customer queries to agents with specific knowledge or training. Such systems are capable of taking into account the priority level of each ticket, too.
In some cases, AI systems are able to use data analytics to predict likely issues before they even arise. This gives service agents a head start in resolving customer questions. Tools like ChatGPT can also create summaries of previous conversations so that agents can quickly get to the crux of the matter.
3. Reduced costs in providing customer support
An obvious advantage of utilizing AI for customer service is the reduced investment required in human customer care teams. Businesses with even the most bare-bones contact center can now offer fast omnichannel responses to support requests using AI solutions.
4. Improved scalability
In their early days, many startups rely on a small group of individuals to handle support queries. Over time, this becomes less and less feasible. Even businesses with established customer service teams can find themselves caught out by sudden growth, seasonal spikes, and the associated jump in demand for support.
AI support systems allow businesses to cope with sudden spikes in customer requests. Airbnb is a perfect case study here. At certain times of the year, such as during the holiday season, the site experiences flurries of activity from people looking for somewhere to stay. The platform utilizes an AI-powered chatbot to offer booking assistance on demand.
5. Multilingual support
For any business that ventures into new markets, providing satisfactory multilingual support is always a challenge. But with the support of AI (and chat available on a localized mobile app!), it’s definitely possible.
Intelligent chat systems now use NLP to read incoming messages and provide accurate real-time translations. In addition, chatbots can be programmed to operate in multiple languages, while maintaining brand consistency.
Booking.com is a standout example of what is possible. This travel comparison site offers support to guests in 43 different languages, with the help of intelligent support software.
While most AI systems are currently more fluent in English than in other languages, this is likely to change rapidly.
6. More data-driven insights
The value of customer service AI doesn’t end when customer queries are resolved.
To keep driving customer satisfaction upward, it is essential for customer service teams to learn from past interactions. Archived support conversations provide an ideal reference point, providing a vast amount of data from real customers.
Analyzing chat conversations would normally be a painstaking process. But with the help of AI support tools, customer service leaders can unlock valuable insights almost instantaneously.
Analyses of customer interactions can also be used to train intelligent virtual assistants. For instance, the AI support system developed by Delta Airlines keeps track of common questions and uses this information to fine-tune its responses.
Such insights can be enriched further by combining conversations with existing CRM, sales, and product data. The resulting intelligence can assist executives with decision-making — both in customer service and other areas of the business.
How to use AI in customer service to provide more personalized, streamlined support experiences
In spite of the benefits, some companies are still reluctant to hop on the customer service AI support train. In part, this is because developing these tools from scratch is no easy feat.
For this reason, many businesses are turning to platforms like Sendbird for plug-and-play solutions.
SmartAssistant is Sendbird’s new GPT-powered chatbot that is designed to streamline customer service for online businesses throughout user journeys by addressing user inquiries in real time. SmartAssistant is now integrated into Sendbird's Salesforce Connector, further enhancing its capabilities.
This integration enables seamless access to SmartAssistant's AI-powered support directly within the Salesforce interface. By bringing the power of AI-driven responses to the fingertips of your support agents, this integration accelerates query resolution and enriches customer interactions.
Sendbird Desk delivers mobile-first customer service
Sendbird Desk can help you build a better customer support experience where your customers are: in your app! Our flexible, feature-rich chat API allows you to customize the user experience, and differentiate your support experience from that of competitors. Plus, your agents can be productive on day one with our ready-to-use agent dashboard and customizable SDK for seamless in-app customer support.
Seamlessly connect chat to your existing CS and CRM
Providing the flexibility to work with any CRM or contact center solution, Sendbird makes it simple to import existing data into your support process.
Through our integration framework, Sendbird will create tickets in your existing solution from customer chat inquiries, so that your agents can respond in real time from an embedded Sendbird agent chat window. For example, Sendbird’s Salesforce Connector integrates Sendbird Chat with Salesforce, so that agents can have productive customer support conversations right within their Salesforce instance.
The future of AI in customer service
It's an exciting time for the customer service domain. Technology in this field is evolving quickly, providing new ways to enhance customer care.
Companies that are willing to embrace new support tools will gain long-term competitive advantage and loyalty. In particular, the proliferation of AI in customer service is likely to change the face of consumer support over the next five years. For forward-thinking businesses in every industry, this presents a huge opportunity.
However, while customer service AI will handle a growing proportion of routine inquiries, human agents will remain critical for complex issues requiring emotional intelligence and creative problem solving. The future role of AI will be to act as an assistant — collecting data, providing recommendations, and qualifying leads — while empowering human staff to focus on building relationships.
Talk to us today to discover how Sendbird can transform your support solutions with customer service AI!