AI: an overhaul and optimisation of customer service

DigitalGenius answers the questions of Innovation News Network, exploring how AI will modernise customer service – both the operations and occupations of the future.

With the digital transformation of all sectors underway, interconnectivity, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence (AI) are playing a central role in the shift towards tailored, automated and interconnected services. Despite much debate over the logistics of legislation which will see AI become commonplace, its benefit to retail and other sectors will oversee a complete overhaul of customer service. US-based DigitalGenius is focused on merging the practical aspects of AI into customer services, harnessing deep learning algorithms in order to increase the quality and efficiency of customer services communication. DigitalGenius answers the questions of Innovation News Network, exploring how AI will modernise customer services – both the operations and occupations of the future.

What are the current limitations of traditional customer service operations and how can AI address these?

As more and more companies become mobile-friendly, engage on social platforms, and open the lines of communication well beyond a 1-800 phone number, their customer service teams are being inundated with massive amounts of inquiries from many channels. As an alternative to hiring more staff, AI tools are helping representatives field repetitive customer questions more efficiently. For example, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) in the UK was tasked with supporting their residents with critical services, such as:

  • Housing;
  • Community planning;
  • Safety; and
  • Transportation.

With the goal of accommodating around-the-clock demand, they added AI to their customer service operations. The results show AVDC’s customer service waiting times decrease by 50%, with a heightened response accuracy rate of 90%. This is something they’re extremely proud of and excited about.

AI will see a range of changes across businesses and society, whether that be investments, socio-economic changes, and ethical and legal action in regard to AI. In the remit of socio-economic change, many professional roles will be created, transformed, or lost. How are these issues affecting the hesitancy to adopt AI and apply it across a range of sectors?

AI has taken on this illustrated misconception of a scary, job-stealing robot with a mission to lead the world. Hollywood’s animated depictions of this advanced technology is unsettling to most, but the interesting aspects of this technology require a deeper look into how it’s substantially assisting employees to complete their work tasks more efficiently than we’ve ever previously seen.

Take the customer service industry, for example. Contact centres were among the first to adopt AI capabilities and were widely noted as one of the jobs that would “disappear” in the wake of AI. Yet we’ve seen AI radically transform contact centres by handling repetitive inquiries, ultimately allowing customer service agents to better assist those customers that truly require a human touch. Once we evaluate the actual, practical applications of AI across various sectors, that scary Hollywood image of robots dramatically evolves.

How can we adapt for this change? And what needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition?

The first step in adapting to the industry changes AI is spearheading is to attempt to better understand and appreciate its helpful capabilities and to look at the previous practical applications of this technology.

We’ve worked closely with European travel experiences company Travelbird to augment their customer support experiences. They’re seeing the benefits first-hand. Fiona Vanderbroeck, chief traveller officer at Travelbird, says: “AI unlocks time for our travel agents to serve our customers and travelers. AI serves up the best possible answer to the agent, who can then send it to a customer. It saves time and creates more time for personal, interesting interaction.”

In the case of Aylesbury Vale District Council, residents services team members are now able to respond to inbound inquiries within three to five minutes, compared to eight minutes before the implementation of AI in their contact centre – and the system continues to learn from every interaction.

How would you like to see the ethical and legal issues around artificial intelligence are addressed? Can this be done without hindering the research and development of AI technologies, their marketability or the uptake?

It’s important to differentiate between the “robot-driven” AI we see in Hollywood films – and what’s helped drive some of the algorithmically-derived social media scandals of 2018 – from the sort of practical AI that actually exists now in enterprises to the benefit of all.

Ethical AI requires a heightened awareness of user data protection, no matter how it’s being applied, yet AI can’t simply be a catch-all term that puts everything from Cambridge Analytica to Amazon to the customer service improvements that our technology enables in the same general basket. I’d like to see that we carefully consider how AI is being used – to what benefits and purposes – and, simultaneously, submit it to a strict test that considers its privacy, data protection and long-term societal impacts. I think we’ll find that the most practical AI, that’s not currently hogging the headlines, will pass this test quite well.

How can citizens expect to see AI develop over the next couple of years, potentially beyond the area of customer service?

Within customer service, we’ll start to see “conversational process automation”, in which there’s a seamless, AI-driven integration of conversations with backend systems and processes into the contact centre. This means that when a repetitive ticket comes into a contact centre, for instance, a generic refund that agents have to process over and over, day-in and day-out – that refund will be completely automated through multiple, disparate systems and it will never “touch” a human at all. It will be lightning-fast and completely invisible to the end customer.

This end-to-end case resolution of common repetitive journeys without human intervention will further free agents to focus on higher-level conversations, while lowering the costs of contact centre operations.

There’s a host of equally innovative and “non-scary” applications of practical AI in virtually every realm of business, government and retail. The future looks bright and quite transformed – in most cases, very much for the better.

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