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The good and bad uses of AI

(Image credit: Image Credit: Razum / Shutterstock)

Providing the very best customer experience continues to be a top priority for nearly every single business. Businesses are keen to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technologies thanks to their promise to transform the customer experience, increase operational efficiencies, and drive cost savings.

But while AI has the potential to dramatically improve the customer experience, there are always lessons to be learned, and some potential drawbacks to be aware of. Newton’s Third Law states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”—so for every ‘good’ application of AI, businesses also need to consider the ‘bad’, and ensure the technology isn’t having a detrimental effect on their business.

The rise of the bot

There is no doubt that AI chatbots are transforming, and will continue to transform, the customer experience, especially in consumer-facing and services industries. According to research by Salesforce, 53 per cent of service organisations will use chatbots within 18 months—a 136 per cent growth rate that highlights the leading role chatbots are playing in service delivery.

And there are obvious reasons why businesses are deploying chatbots. First and foremost, an AI chatbot can support a company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They don’t get tired, they don’t need breaks, and they’re at their best when performing mundane and repetitive tasks.

Interacting with an AI chatbot is now the norm. While customers were initially hesitant to interact with chatbots, today, 40 per cent of customers say they don’t mind whether a human or a chatbot answers their questions—as long as they get an answer fast.

While AI chatbots are a great addition to the customer experience armoury, they shouldn’t be used for everything—AI chatbots do have limitations. They are best suited to perform simple tasks, like answering FAQs on social media. Chatbots shouldn’t be used to give personal or emotive advice—having chatbots deal with more complex scenarios will only harm the customer experience. Businesses must understand where they can use chatbots, and where they can’t, to ensure they are getting the best out of this technology.

Choosing the right channel

AI can also be used to ensure agents are communicating correctly. Again, because of AI’s ability to process information, it can automatically and accurately classify different types of customer interactions. This includes analysing data and pushing customers to the right agent based on urgency, as well as determining which communications channel is best to engage.

This type of AI helps call agents deliver the best possible experience. But just like with chatbots, the human touch is also required to get the most out of the technology. For example, AI may determine if it is best to communicate with a certain customer via email. But if the agent needs to have a personal discussion, then email isn’t the best communications medium to interact with the customer. Agents need to use their knowledge and expertise to ensure they aren’t being dictated by AI, but rather, empowered by it. 

Real-time transcripts, real-life results

Another application of AI is to help drive better sales. AI can be used to read transcripts from sales calls, identify topics that were discussed, and pull out specific insights from these calls to help coach sales agents and drive improved sales performance. By highlighting and identifying important information, businesses can easily replicate practices by successful salespeople, and ensure the whole business is consistently delivering the best possible experience. Not only will this allow businesses to make superior customer experience the norm, but it will also provide a competitive advantage that can help businesses grow.

While AI can pull out specific insights based on conversations salespeople have had with customers (or potential customers), not every customer interaction is the same—which means not every insight can, or should be, applied in the same way. In this instance, AI should be used to advocate best practices, rather than create strict or rigid processes.

Coping with compliance

Delivering a good customer experience also means complying with the relevant rules and regulations. While regulations like GDPR are generally applied across industries, there are verticals, like financial services and insurance, that are bound to their own unique and strict regulations. Businesses need to ensure sales agents aren’t failing to comply with any rules and putting the business in jeopardy.

For businesses operating in these highly regulated industries, AI can be used to automatically detect compliance risks in any conversation. This helps to scale compliance review and the supervision process, and simplify an often-complex task. Using AI also reduces costs as well as organisational risk.

For businesses in these highly regulated industries, this kind of assistance with regulation compliance is a welcome addition. It is up to each individual business, however, to assess the impact that the application of AI will have on their compliance processes. Businesses shouldn’t be implementing new technologies just for the sake of it—that applies to all technologies, not just AI.

The Jekyll and Hyde of AI

AI represents an exciting opportunity for businesses to deliver a superior customer experience, enhance performance and increase efficiency. Yet many view AI as a technology that threatens to replace humans—especially those working in services industries.

However, I view the overall aim of AI as a complement to human work rather than a replacement. And there are several ways the technology can be adopted to improve both the employee and customer experience, without putting workers out of a job.

For example, when chatbots are applied to answer standard FAQs, it simplifies the customer experience and allows agents to move away from answering some of the more repetitive or mundane queries. But chatbots can also take away from potentially high scoring customer satisfaction calls and prevent agents from having regular conversations with customers, conversations which can be valuable interactions. By implementing sentiment analysis, agents will be able to obtain valuable insight to assist them with delivering a better customer experience. This in turn can achieve increased employee motivation, as agents are aware of the calls they need to be involved in, and have the motivation to deliver a better resolution.

Ultimately, businesses shouldn’t be blinded by the AI hype and buy into the technology just to say they are using it. Businesses should be investing in AI to enjoy the benefits it can bring, such as a better customer and employee experience, improved efficiency, and cost savings. To do this, businesses need to ensure they fully understand the processes they want to improve and why—and implement the technology accordingly. Without this understanding, businesses will miss out on a technology advancement that has the potential to transform their business for the better.

Sahil Rekhi, Managing Director, RingCentral EMEA