In the immediate future, customer service departments will see a big increase in text-based self-service engagement. In large part, this is being driven by the growing influence of chatbots. As one of the first clear and obvious realisations of AI power in the customer service setting, chatbots are set to have an important few years.
Their existing popularity – amongst both businesses and customers – is likely to increase as a number of high-profile platforms open up to them. While Facebook Messenger is already a popular chatbot platform, WhatsApp is expected to open its service to bots in the near future and a whole host of other social media services will likely follow.
However, organisations looking to adopt and develop chatbot technology need to ensure that they’re implementing high-quality bots. A poorly designed and executed chatbot can do more harm than good. For this reason, many organisations opt to partner with a chatbot specialist that can deliver an powerful, bespoke product.
The clearest ‘next step’ in self-serve’s immediate future is improving the technology’s ability to handle complex enquiries. If the ultimate goal of AI development is the creation of an intelligence that’s indistinguishable (to a customer) from human intelligence, we can expect tech companies and customer service departments to continue making small steps towards this objective over the coming years.
Currently, customer service AI is at a level where it’s able to handle relatively simple enquiries but is unable to respond with any of the human qualities that customer service sometimes requires. For instance, customer service chatbots generally aren’t able to read into the nuance of an interaction and struggle to communicate empathy. However, as AI tech develops, we can expect to see self-serve tools come closer and closer to replicating these human qualities and able to process increasingly complex enquiries.
Self-serve technologies already make customer service employees’ lives easier by reducing call volume in the contact centre and allowing members of staff to focus on more important and rewarding work. However, there’s much, much more to come.
For instance, as AI tech improves, self-serve will be able to assist human agents in resolving customer enquiries and performing complex tasks in several important ways.
- Providing human agents with in-depth detail about a customer, their history, their likes and dislikes, their current mood etc.
- Suggesting possible resolutions to enquiries based on previous successful interactions in the past.
- Managing communications and employee scheduling. Self-serve tools will become better at routing enquiries through the system to ensure that they get to the most suitable agent, in the shortest amount of time possible. They’ll also play a role in managing employee workflow scheduling for maximum productivity.
As self-serve technologies become more popular, powerful and prevalent, the human role will change, too. While some argue that AI-powered self-serve tools will make the humble human agent entirely redundant, we don’t believe this to be the case. As we argued in the point above, AI tech can be used to supplement, complement and enhance human capabilities.
Instead, we believe that the growth of self-serve tools will result in human agents taking on increasingly specialised roles that require considerable training and a high degree of skill.
They’ll be used to process the exceptions and special cases that advanced AI is still unable to successfully handle and will be experts in their field. Employing human agents will remain important because customers deem it so – 45% still believe that calling a company is the fastest way of resolving an issue (Salesforce). In the immediate future, customers will always want the option to speak to a real person.
Developments in machine learning mean that AI is capable of improving itself at a remarkably rapid rate. However, this growth is dependent on one thing – data. In order to refine its algorithms, improve the accuracy of its predictions and become “more intelligent,” AI needs to be fed more and more data.
There are relatively few sources of data that are as useful (in a customer service context) as the scripts for customer interactions. As self-serve use grows, so too does the amount of information available for the development of AI. While human-human interactions can be analysed, it’s far easier to feed the AI systems the written scripts from chatbot interactions. These allow the bot to train itself, eventually resulting in a self-serve technology that’s better able to identify sentiment and intention and better able to serve the customer.
Over the next 10 years, Gartner expects automation to go from being exclusively a commercial process to a personal choice, too.
By this, they mean that customers will begin to automate their own customer service journeys through the use of AI-powered tech, such as virtual personal assistants and chatbots. Eventually, customers will delegate customer service tasks to their own bots and virtual assistants, resulting in a situation in which two AI systems are working to come to a solution on behalf of a customer and a business.
This is expected to occur within the context of a wider AI revolution, in which increasingly powerful AI tools are able to successfully process a diverse array of complex tasks. Virtual assistants will likely play an important role in such a future and, according to Gartner, many experts believe that they’ll take over a considerable amount of day-to-day organisational responsibility on behalf of their human owner.
Over the next few years, the biggest factor in self-serve development will be advances in AI abilities. This will have several consequences for both bots and human agents. However, rather than bots replacing agents, we expect the technology to be used in ways that establish a new, complementary relationship between the two, improving and enhancing the customer experience in the process.