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AI is Coming to Dinner

This holiday season, the must-have dinner guest at holiday parties for customer experience professionals is artificial intelligence (AI). Everyone’s talking about AI – especially self-service chatbots – singing its praises as perhaps the most compelling, cost-effective, and cure-all topic for this year and years to come. But what if AI is not (yet) all it’s cracked up to be? Is it time to put AI at the head of the table in your 2019 plans – or still run some pilots from the proverbial “little kids table”? And where do you start to get the most from this sparkling object that’s captivated the C-suite? Especially when you have a gazillion other things to do.

What customers are saying about AI chatbots

AI use for customer service isn’t as widespread, or welcome, as one might think. The recent Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark reveals that only eight percent of global consumers had used an AI enabled service channel like chatbots for their most recent service interaction. Satisfaction with AI is low, with only 27 percent of users giving a 9 or 10 rating out of 10.

AI has yet to mature, and consumers agree. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said chatbots and virtual assistants need to get smarter before they are willing to use them regularly, and 66 percent disagree that chatbots make it easier to get issues resolved.

Where to start with AI in the contact center

This early customer feedback doesn’t mean that AI won’t add great value to the customer experience. Here are some ways to make AI a success for you and your customers.

Start with a focused pilot. Test and learn quickly, then iterate and expand from there. It’s a good idea to keep AI initiatives narrow, as overly broad deployments are likely to fail. AI algorithms require industry or use case specialization and very large volumes of data to be effective. If it is used for general or low volume service areas with multiple exceptions, the customer is bound to quickly get frustrated with AI service and need a live agent. When considering a pilot, consider common, straight forward use cases that already have high first contact resolution (FCR) and low average handle times (AHT). For example, helping a customer redecorate their bedroom is a bad fit, while rescheduling the delivery date for the new bed they already purchased could be a great fit.

Creating success with chatbots

Consumers report that using online chat with live agents is convenient, quick, and requires a minimal amount of effort. It’s no wonder they are more satisfied with chat – at 44 percent being highly satisfied – than with all 10 other channels evaluated in the CX Transformation Benchmark.

How can you create similar success with chatbots, while avoiding the pitfalls of low containment rates, i.e., frustrated customers? When using self-service, the same study found that 39 percent of customers had to reach out to customer service again to get their question answered or problem resolved.  

Chatbots can help increase containment rates if you use them to resolve structured self-service use cases. Match the right chatbot to the right types of customer interactions – like matching the right tool to the right job. Use bots to quickly resolve inquiries by answering simple and direct questions, and customer satisfaction is likely to go up.

Chatbots can also improve the agent experience. When chatbots are used to quickly authenticate the customer, gather relevant information and answer basic questions, this can optimize agent productivity and enable them to focus on meeting nuanced and unique customer needs.

How to prepare for an AI-infused customer experience future

Given today’s rapid innovation around AI and a growing demand for efficient and effective AI tools, future-proofing with an open, cloud native customer experience platform is key. Open cloud platforms like Salesforce and Platinum Salesforce partner NICE inContact CXone, give you the flexibility to easily add one or multiple new AI partners to deliberately test early use cases.

Regardless of whether AI features prominently in your 2019 planning or will take a first-time seat at the “little kids table”, it is sure to be one guest everyone on your customer experience team will be talking about.

Chris Bauserman is the VP of Product & Segment Marketing at NICE InContact.

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