The holiday season can greatly increase your revenue or put your business in financial distress. Due to the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the customer experience can deteriorate significantly because your customer service team is generally not built for such pressure. This has catastrophic consequences: poor customer experiences threaten €4.3 trillion in annual revenue for businesses worldwide. The customer experience remains an incredibly important aspect, with 1 in 3 respondents saying they would leave a brand after just one bad experience. However, providing a good experience is becoming increasingly challenging; 39 percent of consumers have less patience with online interactions than before the pandemic, and 54 percent feel treated as an afterthought by most brands' customer service. These figures show how important it is for consumers to get a quick and accurate answer to make them feel like a priority when they ask for help. This is especially challenging during the holidays.
The world of customer service has evolved rapidly over the past decades, propelled by increasing high demands from consumers and rapid technological developments. The rise of digital assistants, or virtual assistants, has taken this evolution to a higher level. Generative AI, in particular, made a significant breakthrough last year, with the launch of ChatGPT at the end of November. The arrival of the ChatGPT chatbot was the starting shot for many companies to think about what generative AI could mean for them. When applied to businesses dealing with a high level of customer service, lots of questions, and much repetitive work, it turns out to be a good match. Many customer requests can be answered quickly, but the explosive increase in requests during the busiest time of the year makes it a huge challenge. Technologies like Large Language Models (LLMs) provide a solution.
Evolution of AI in Customer Service
In the early 2000s, the first forms of chatbots were introduced in customer service, but their ability to understand human language and respond meaningfully was limited. Recent advances in customer-focused Natural Language Processing (NLP) and language understanding have led to significant improvements in interacting with these AI chatbots.
The aforementioned improvements include a more refined understanding of the nuances of human language, making interactions with chatbots more natural and meaningful. In addition, there has been a significant improvement in personalization and context awareness, enabling AI chatbots to provide personalized responses, further humanizing the customer service experience. The emotional intelligence of AI chatbots has also become more advanced, with better detection and response to emotions in both the voice and text of customers, making AI chatbots more empathetic. In visual environments, realistic avatars with expressive facial expressions can make communication with AI chatbots more human and facilitate understanding of customer emotions. For example, Meta is currently creating AI chatbots that look like celebrities such as Snoop Dogg.
Customer service representatives are increasingly using AI chatbots as support. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of customer services will use generative AI to increase employee productivity and improve the customer experience. These will increasingly take the form of digital assistants that help employees with their tasks. Perhaps every employee will soon have their own digital assistant to help them perform their work.
Practical Applications and Benefits
The integration of digital assistants into customer service processes allows customers to be helped faster in various ways. Digital assistants are particularly suitable for tasks such as providing basic information, following up on orders, solving common problems, and generating standard reports. They can handle repetitive questions quickly, allowing customers to receive faster responses. By automating these routine tasks, digital assistants contribute to significant speed and efficiency in customer service. Automation can complete 50 to 70 percent of tasks, leading to an improvement in operational efficiency of 20 to 30 percent. It can also shorten the total process time by 50 to 60 percent. This allows customer service representatives to focus their attention on more complex tasks that require more human empathy and decision-making.
Customers want quick and direct access to your customer service through their choice of channel, or they will go to the competition. Digital assistants provide omnichannel support and scalability because they are available 24/7 and can conduct multiple conversations simultaneously across different platforms. They seamlessly integrate different conversations with the same person across various channels in the past and present, offering users a unified experience and enhancing the overall efficiency and scalability of customer service. This ensures that customers can be helped faster.
Furthermore, digital assistants enable businesses to take a proactive approach to customer engagement and retention by using data to predict customer behavior. This allows companies to proactively respond to these predictions, making them better able to understand and meet customer needs. Digital assistants can make personalized recommendations and promote cross-selling, contributing to an improved customer relationship. While helping customers, they also collect data to improve future interactions and promote customer satisfaction.
The Future of Customer Service
The future of digital assistants within customer service looks promising. Companies will embrace digital assistants as supporters of human employees to tackle complex problems. However, AI will not replace people. The digital assistant essentially acts as a back-office employee, and the technology adapts to humans, not the other way around. While automation can efficiently process requests, there are moments when human touch is essential. Recognizing these moments and switching between AI and customer service representatives at the right times will become increasingly important.
You want your digital assistant to be representative of your brand. However, creating the right tone of voice for this assistant is a challenge. Maintaining a consistent and authentic tone of voice is done by training them on company information, letting them work and learn in the same work environment as your employees, and letting them collaborate with your customer service teams.
Digital assistants have transformed the customer service industry and will continue to do so. They offer speed, efficiency, and personalized interactions. Yet, human empathy and human intervention remain essential, especially in complex and emotional issues. The future of customer service will embrace the synergy between human employees and AI colleagues.