We are living in an exciting era for technology advancements. Artificial intelligence (AI) AI is paving the path for better, more efficient customer service. But as with any cultural shift, there are misconceptions around it that’s making some technology leaders hesitant in deploying AI.
In recent years, AI’s reputation in customer service has been somewhat dubious. It’s a consequence of poorly implemented AI solutions that rather than resolving an issue, get in the way. We have all had a situation or two when an AI-based application has left us frustrated. It may have been an interactive voice response (IVR) that doesn’t understand us no matter how many times we repeat the phrase. Or a virtual agent that answers with an endless essay to a simple yes/no question.
The good news is, AI is evolving fast and bad customer experiences can be avoided with a well-implemented AI strategy. This article demystifies the most common misconceptions about virtual agents in customer service.
Misconception #1: Customers don’t want to speak with a machine
This may have some truth to it. But only if we reword the phrase to “customers don’t want to speak with a flawed machine”. A deep dive into customers’ motivations shows that what really matters is that the issue is solved fast and easy. ContactBabel lists the main drivers for a customer when speaking with a company:
- UK- based employees
- Issue / question solved first time
- Short queue time
- Polite and friendly employees
- Issue handled by one employee
- A choice of ways to communicate
- Long opening hours
Did you notice that “speak to a human” is not on the list? That’s because, despite the common misbelief, speaking with a machine is not a dealbreaker. As long as the service ticks all the boxes above. A virtual agent can meet all the requirements with ease and, in some situations, may provide better results than a human agent.
Misconception #2: Virtual agents aren’t reliable
Earning customers’ trust can be a lengthy process when it comes to AI technology. It’s in our nature to trust humans over machines because it’s the way we were born. But as AI evolves, so do our beliefs. The best way to build trust is to deploy virtual agents that can maintain a natural conversation flow and have a human-like presentation.
If we look beyond our beliefs and focus on hard facts, this misconception is easy to demystify. The reliability of a human being is significantly more variable than the reliability of a machine. Before a response is programmed into a machine it’s double, triple or sometimes even quadruple fact-checked. But a human agent can be tired and at the end of their shift or just isn’t feeling their best. This creates a risk of human error.
Misconception #3: The machine doesn’t understand me
A virtual agent doesn’t have an answer for every question. It doesn’t understand every phrase or a slang word. Yet, most machines learn, and from day-to-day interactions can improve customer experience over time.
The website of a car dealer is a good example. A customer may ask a question in the chat “Do you service jags”? Now, a human mind can figure out that the word jag means Jaguar. But a virtual agent doesn’t know that, unless it’s programmed to. And so, it replies “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that”. This can irritate the customer, especially if it happens more than once. As a result, the company risks losing the customer altogether.
This can be avoided by giving the virtual agent an assistive learning capability so it can flag slang words and different types of dialect. Then, if 100 out of 1,000 customers use the word “jag”, the word can be integrated into the machine’s intelligence.
Misconception #4: Virtual agents decrease CSAT
Some are afraid that if you make a virtual agent part of the customer journey, customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) will decrease. We can assure you, there is no need to worry. Data shows no proof that a well-implemented customer service AI application would negatively impact CSAT scores. Of course, if you implement any technology badly, and without a clear strategy or intention, it will have an impact on user experience.
But we’re talking about doing things properly here. It’s way more likely that your CSAT score will increase, rather than decrease, when you have a good AI strategy in place.
Misconception #5: Virtual agents are stealing our jobs
AI can significantly improve productivity and efficiency by taking over more data-oriented and quantitative tasks. Without a doubt, they bring hefty cost savings for organisations. But it doesn’t mean they replace humans. Instead, they complement human agents.
Customer service is an emotional field and always needs a touch of humanity at some level. And so, just like any other dream team, virtual agents work best in collaboration with their human peers who better understand emotional input. That’s why solutions like interactive voice response (IVR) work so well. They integrate the work of human and virtual agents to provide quicker response and resolution times while still delivering emotional intelligence when needed.
Are some of the most tedious and repetitive tasks going to be taken over by intelligent AI? Probably yes. But let’s be honest, wouldn’t you rather focus on work that is stimulating and motivates you to develop new skills?
What’s not to love about customer service AI?
Virtual agents provide tons of benefits for businesses, from operational efficiencies to cost savings and improved data gathering. And despite the common misconceptions around customer service AI, customers benefit too. Let’s look at a few ways virtual agents can make customer experiences better
- Virtual agents are available 24/7, giving customers the ability to contact a company whenever it best suits them
- Customers can communicate on their preferred channel and even switch between the channels
- Queue and resolution times are shorter because virtual agents are much faster at providing the right answer
- Virtual agents are continuously analysing data to further improve customer service
It’s a win-win situation for the customer if you ask us.
Contact the BrightCloud Group team today to talk more about designing a thoughtful customer service AI strategy.