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Implementing AI in customer service

From quick responses to comprehensive answers, customers hold high expectations for customer service. Any delay or miscommunication can lead to dissatisfaction, impacting their customer experience and your brand image. This need for businesses to provide high-quality service is where AI customer service can play an important role. By integrating AI-powered customer solutions, businesses can augment the efforts of human customer support agents, efficiently handling repetitive and common questions. This approach ensures that human agents are available to tackle more complex and unique customer issues, side-stepping the burnout that comes with a high-volume of unvaried tickets.

According to a 2023 survey, 73% of shoppers believe AI can positively impact the customer experience. If you’re a tech company with a known bug in your app, it can take some time before your technical team comes up with a fix. In the meantime an AI customer support chatbot can identify this common query and provide a helpful response to impacted customers, sparing human agents from the repetitive task of responding to the same issue again and again. AI customer service is not just a futuristic concept but a practical solution with countless use cases.

This article delves deeper into AI customer service, exploring its capabilities and benefits, valuable AI customer service tools on the market, and best practices for building a customer service strategy at your company that leverages AI.

What is AI customer service?

AI customer service is a technology-driven approach to managing customer interactions, using artificial intelligence to automate and optimize the customer support process. This strategy uses machine learning, natural language processing, and other AI technologies to understand, respond to, and resolve customer inquiries.

By handling routine questions and providing quick responses, AI customer service frees human agents to focus on more complex issues, ensuring a more effective and personalized customer experience.

AI customer service use cases

There are a range of AI customer service use cases, each offering unique benefits to both businesses and customers. These applications range from direct interactions to analyzing customer feedback, improving how customers interact with your business.

Chatbots

Chatbots provide instant, round-the-clock responses to customer questions, reducing wait times and improving customer satisfaction when it comes to common queries. For businesses, they offer cost-effective support, enabling scalability by handling large volumes of inquiries, without hiring additional customer support agents. This improves operational efficiency and ensures a consistent level of service for customers, fostering loyalty and trust.

Sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis helps businesses understand customer emotions and perceptions through their interactions. This AI technology scans customer feedback, detecting positive, negative, or neutral sentiments. For businesses, this offers valuable insights into customer satisfaction and areas for improvement, leading to informed decision-making. Customers benefit from a more empathetic, personalized service experience, as businesses can tailor their responses and services to better meet customer needs and expectations.

Multilingual support

This feature allows AI systems to understand and respond in multiple languages, making customer support accessible to a wider customer base. Providing customer service in multiple languages enables businesses to cater to a global audience, breaking language barriers. It not only enhances customer experience by providing service in their native language but also expands the market reach for businesses.

Self-service resources

Self-service resources powered by AI allow customers to find solutions independently, often through FAQs, instructional content, and interactive tools. This empowers customers with immediate, anytime access to information, reducing the volume of routine inquiries for businesses. It improves customer satisfaction by providing quick and easy access to information while enabling businesses to allocate their customer service resources more efficiently.

Request routing and prioritization

When your team is flooded with an endless stream of support requests, it can be difficult to know where to start. AI in request routing and prioritization helps by intelligently directing customer inquiries to the appropriate channels or agents on customer service teams, based on complexity and urgency. This streamlines the support process, ensuring that critical issues are addressed promptly. For customers, it means faster resolution of their concerns, while for businesses, it leads to improved agent efficiency and better management of customer service resources.

Gather customer insights

AI can analyze vast amounts of data from customer interactions to identify patterns, preferences, and areas for improvement. This capability helps businesses tailor their products, services, and customer experiences. Customers benefit from more personalized and relevant experiences, as businesses can use these insights to improve product offerings and customer service strategies.

Sales recommendations

Beyond providing customer support, AI can serve as a sales person for your business. A chatbot on your website can provide pop-up product recommendations or app upgrades to website visitors. AI can also analyze customer data and behavior to suggest relevant products or services, delivering suggestions to inboxes with marketing automation tooling. This personalized approach improves the customer shopping experience, making it more relevant while boosting sales for businesses.

Benefits of AI customer service

AI customer service is changing the way businesses interact with their customers, offering numerous advantages that enhance both the customer experience and operational efficiency. For instance, a 2022 report found that AI-based ticket classification and the automatic routing of customer contacts to the correct agent can reduce agents’ daily workload by up to 1.2 hours. Here are five key benefits that highlight the importance of integrating AI into customer service strategies.

24/7 customer support

One of the primary benefits of AI customer service is 24/7 support. Chatbots and automated assistants can interact with customers at any time of the day, providing immediate responses to inquiries. This continuous availability improves customer satisfaction, ensuring help is always at hand, regardless of time or time zone differences.

Costs

AI customer service reduces operational costs for businesses, allowing companies to scale support operations without having to hire more staff. By automating routine tasks and responses, companies can manage a larger volume of customer interactions with fewer staff. This efficiency cuts down on labor costs while also reducing the resources needed for training and managing a large customer service team.

Reduces agent burnout

AI helps in reducing agent burnout by taking over repetitive and mundane tasks. Agents are then able to focus on more challenging and rewarding aspects of customer service, such as handling complex queries and providing personalized support. This improves job satisfaction and employee retention among customer service agents and also better quality interactions with customers, as agents are less likely to be fatigued or overwhelmed.

Enhanced customer experience

AI customer service tools can tailor interactions based on customer history and preferences, leading to a more personalized experience. This customization makes customers feel valued and understood, improving their overall experience with your brand and reducing customer churn.

Data-driven insights

AI systems excel at processing and analyzing large volumes of data. This allows businesses to gain deeper insights into customer behavior and preferences, enabling them to make informed decisions about product development, marketing strategies, and overall customer service improvements. These insights are crucial for businesses looking to adapt and thrive in a competitive space.

Challenges of AI customer service

While AI customer service offers numerous benefits, it also presents challenges that businesses need to navigate. Understanding and addressing these potential drawbacks is critical for implementing an AI customer service strategy.

Difficulty with complex queries

AI systems can struggle with complex or nuanced customer queries, often requiring human intervention for resolution. This limitation can lead to frustration for customers expecting quick and accurate responses. It highlights the importance of integrating AI with skilled human agents to ensure comprehensive customer service.

Implementation

The implementation of AI customer service systems can be resource-intensive, requiring significant investment in technology, training, and integration. Businesses must carefully plan and execute the deployment of these systems to ensure they align with existing processes and meet customer service objectives. It’s also crucial to manage expectations and prepare for the challenges that arise from integrating AI into existing workflows.

Customer engagement

Maintaining personalized and empathetic customer engagement can be challenging for some AI systems. Unlike human agents, AI may not effectively handle situations that require emotional intelligence or deep understanding, potentially impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty. AI algorithms are still undergoing improvement to enhance their ability to understand and respond to emotional cues.

Adaptability to changes

AI systems need constant updates and training to keep up with changes related to your products and services. For instance, a support bot on your site needs to be fed relevant information about new product lines and recent pricing changes. This ongoing requirement for adaptability can be a challenge, especially for rapidly evolving industries, and requires a commitment to continuous learning and development of the AI system.

Privacy and security concerns

Implementing AI in customer service raises concerns about data privacy and security. Businesses must ensure that these systems comply with data protection regulations and maintain high standards of security to protect sensitive customer information. Additionally, they must transparently communicate with customers about how their data is being used and safeguarded.

AI customer service tools

AI customer service tools leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing to provide efficient and personalized customer experiences. Below are five AI customer service tools to consider, each with unique features and capabilities.

1. Help Scout

Help Scout offers a human-centric approach to customer service, providing a unified platform for email, live chat, help centers, and more. Its standout features include AI Summarize and AI Assist, which streamline customer communication. AI Summarize offers concise summaries of email threads, aiding in understanding customer contexts quickly. AI Assist helps polish replies, ensuring they align with the brand’s tone. These tools assist in both customer-facing and internal support functions, improving overall support quality​​.

2. Gorgias

Gorgias is an all-in-one customer service automation platform designed specifically for e-commerce. It handles customer inquiries through various channels like email, live chat, and social media from a single dashboard. The integration with platforms like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce streamlines viewing order details and managing refunds or cancellations. Gorgias employs a range of AI features, to support both customer agents and customers—from AI-powered auto responders and AI spam ticket detection to AI article recommendations and ticket prioritization.

3. Zendesk Advanced AI

Zendesk Advanced AI is an add-on for the Zendesk Suite, enhancing customer service with a set of AI tools. It includes features like Intelligent Triage, Advanced Bots, AI-powered intents for bots, Intelligence in the Context Panel, and Macro Suggestions for Admins. These features enable automated request classification, efficient agent assistance, and improved customer interaction, reducing agent onboarding time and increasing cost savings. Zendesk Advanced AI is designed to streamline the customer service process, making it more efficient and effective for businesses.

4. Freddy AI by Freshdesk

Freddy AI by Freshdesk enhances customer service efficiency by offering a suite of tools designed to streamline ticket handling and response processes. Its capabilities include an Assist Bot that automates conversational flows and immediate responses, Auto Triage for efficient ticket categorization, and automated suggestions for solution articles and pre-made responses. Additionally, it features a Thank You Detector to distinguish between actual queries and expressions of gratitude, optimizing ticket management.

5. Kustomer

Kustomer is an AI-powered customer service CRM platform that offers a range of features to improve customer support. It includes a Chatbot Superbot for scalable, code-free support and personalized customer experiences. The platform supports customer understanding with a unified view across all channels, delivering hyper-personalized service. Additionally, it leverages data-driven support to anticipate and address customer needs proactively, minimizing inbound support volume.

How to build an AI customer service strategy

Developing an AI customer service strategy should be a consideration for businesses looking to improve efficiency and heighten customer satisfaction. This strategy should focus on integrating AI tools effectively, while ensuring they align with business goals and customer needs. Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Assess current customer service capabilities

Integrating AI in business should be approached with intention. Begin by thoroughly evaluating your existing customer service processes. Identify pain points, areas that require faster response times, or where query volumes overwhelm staff. This assessment will help pinpoint where AI can be most beneficial, setting a foundation for your AI strategy. Consider both the strengths and weaknesses of your current system.

2. Define specific goals and objectives

Set clear, measurable OKRs for your AI implementation. These might include goals like reducing average response times, increasing first-contact resolution rates, or improving overall customer satisfaction scores. Having specific targets helps in choosing the right AI tools and measuring their impact effectively. Ensure these objectives align with your broader business goals for a cohesive strategy.

3. Choose the right AI tools

Select AI business tools that align with your identified needs and objectives. This could range from chatbots for handling routine inquiries to AI systems for sentiment analysis and customer behavior prediction. Ensure the tools are scalable and adaptable to changing business needs. Also, consider the pricing, long-term viability, and support for these tools.

4. Integrate with existing systems

Ensure that the chosen AI tools can seamlessly integrate with your existing customer service software, CRM systems, and data analytics platforms. Smooth integration is crucial for maintaining data consistency and providing a unified customer experience. Evaluate the compatibility of these tools with your current infrastructure to avoid integration issues.

5. Train your team

Provide comprehensive training for your customer service team on the new AI tools. This should include how to use the AI systems effectively, understanding their limitations, and knowing when to escalate issues to human agents. Continuous training and updates are essential as AI technologies and capabilities evolve.

6. Ensure compliance and privacy

Maintain strict compliance with data protection and privacy regulations. Ensure that the AI tools are configured to handle and store customer data securely, respecting privacy laws and maintaining customer trust. Regularly review and update your privacy policies and practices in line with evolving regulations.

7. Evaluate and adjust strategy regularly

Regularly review the performance of your AI customer service strategy. Use metrics and feedback to assess whether the AI implementations are meeting your set objectives. Be prepared to make adjustments based on performance data and evolving customer needs. This ongoing evaluation will help ensure the strategy remains effective and relevant.

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