In the bustling realm of ecommerce, keeping up may feel daunting. In a world where customers want quick self-service resources and personalized experiences, AI is transforming how companies execute customer service. It can support service agents, improve business operations, and bring real innovation to the customer service experience.
Rapid, consistent improvements in conversational and generative AI capabilities are already driving significant shifts in customer service. Read on to explore the benefits AI brings to customer service and get tips for using AI in your customer service operations.
How does AI customer service work?
You can use artificial intelligence (AI) to support customer service teams and improve the customer support experience in a number of ways. For example, AI chatbots can reduce response and handle times by responding to customer queries 24/7 within seconds.
Other AI tools can work behind the scenes as copilots to support human agents in providing more efficient and personalized service interactions. They can also predict customer needs and behaviors to provide proactive support and prevent churn.
AI-powered solutions can do this thanks to various technologies, such as large language models (LLM), natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU), and machine learning. As these technologies continue to develop and improve, customer service is poised to become even more efficient, personalized, and proactive. Boston Consulting Group estimates that, when implemented at scale, AI technologies could increase the productivity of customer service teams by 30% to 50% or more.
Benefits of using AI in customer service
- Boosts efficiency and productivity
- Reduces response and handle times
- Increases analysis of customer data
- Improves customer satisfaction and retention
Here are a few ways these tools can benefit customers and customer service teams alike:
Boosts efficiency and productivity
AI chatbots can handle many queries simultaneously, answering routine customer questions without needing a human agent. These bots can be scalable, meaning they can grow with your business or handle seasonal volume increases, and you can deploy them across various channels, such as your website, messaging apps, and social media.
AI can also automate mundane tasks like writing up summaries of customer service interactions or categorizing and prioritizing support tickets. Together, these AI technologies can lighten your team’s workload, help reduce agent burnout, and lower personnel costs as agents become more productive and efficient.
Reduces response and handle times
AI-powered chatbots can answer customer queries any time and within seconds, reducing response times. At the same time, other AI tools allow human agents to access and generate information faster and more efficiently during support interactions, resolving customer issues sooner and reducing handle times.
Reduced response times are a win-win for both customer service teams and customers. A 2023 Salesforce survey found 72% of customers say fast service is an important factor influencing loyalty.
Increases analysis of customer data
AI enables your business to effortlessly collect and analyze consumer data with every customer support interaction, allowing an AI chatbot to provide a human agent with valuable information about the customer’s language, intent, and sentiment, for a more frictionless handoff.
Over time, the data collected during customer service interactions can provide valuable insights into your customers’ behavior, preferences, and common pain points. You can share this data across your business to improve the customer experience, product development, and future customer interactions.
Improves customer satisfaction and retention
Long wait times can be the most frustrating part of the customer service experience, so giving your customers quicker and more efficient customer service interactions can help improve satisfaction. Because fast service is an important factor influencing loyalty, you’ll likely boost customer retention as well.
Predictive AI models can analyze customer data to identify patterns and anticipate customer behavior, allowing businesses to improve the customer service experience proactively. Customer data is also valuable for delighting your customers with more personalized service and exceptional customer experiences.
How to use AI in customer service
- AI chatbots
- Sentiment analysis tools
- Automated ticket sorting
- Self-service options
- Interactive voice response
- Omnichannel and multilingual support
- Predictive analytics
- Personalized support and experiences
From standalone AI chatbots to more robust AI-powered customer service platforms, emerging technologies are changing how businesses approach customer service and the customer experience. Here are eight ways you can use AI tools in customer service:
An AI chatbot is a chatbot that uses generative and conversational AI technologies to communicate with your customers in a way that feels natural and humanlike. Currently, these bots excel at answering routine and repetitive customer questions, freeing support agents up for other work and more complex customer issues.
Sentiment analysis tools
Sentiment analysis tools help chatbots interpret customer sentiment during interactions, allowing them to respond appropriately when a customer is upset or frustrated, for example. In addition, the chatbot can share that information with a human agent if a handoff is needed.
Outside of specific customer interactions, you can use sentiment analysis tools to monitor feedback, reviews, or social mentions to gauge general sentiment among your target audiences, allowing you to identify areas for improvement and respond to customer concerns.
Automated ticket sorting
By identifying keywords, sentiment, and the nature of a customer request, AI tools can create, sort, and prioritize customer support tickets while identifying the best-qualified agent to handle the issue.
Self-service is an integral part of the customer experience. In fact, many customers attempt to find self-service resources before contacting a customer service rep. AI can enhance the self-service experience for your customers.
For example, AI writing assistants can help you create knowledge-base articles or content for your FAQ page, while AI chatbots can assist customers on their self-service journeys by helping them quickly and easily surface relevant data and answers to their questions.
Interactive voice response
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems use AI to answer incoming customer calls and understand voice replies, simultaneously providing customers with self-service options, automating call center interactions, and routing calls to the right customer service agent or department.
Omnichannel and multilingual support
You can deploy AI chatbots and other AI-powered customer service systems across various communication channels, including chat boxes on your website, email, and social media. AI tools can also track, consolidate, and summarize multichannel interactions linked to a support ticket, offering continuity and deeper context to human support agents for a more seamless and integrated customer service experience.
In addition, most AI chatbots have multilingual capabilities, meaning they can speak to your customers in their primary language.
Predictive analytics are AI algorithms that analyze customer data to anticipate needs, behavioral patterns, trends, and potential issues. Predictive models can anticipate when a customer might need a refill or when they are likely to encounter issues, for example, which can help you proactively improve the customer experience.
Personalized support and experiences
With access to customer data on past service interactions, browsing or purchase history, and preferences, AI tools can help personalize customer support experiences and solutions in real time.
Additionally, these tools can anticipate customer needs and behaviors to provide proactive solutions that can help foster more customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Offering customized product recommendations, promotions, subscription reminders, or other solutions can help customers feel seen and valued.
Tips for using AI in customer service
- Identify where AI can add the most value
- Choose the right AI solution for your needs
- Start small and scale gradually
- Understand data privacy and ownership policies
- Understand current limitations and risks
- Monitor, measure, and maintain systems
Here are a few tips that can help set you up for success while navigating the challenges and limitations of using AI in customer service:
Identify where AI can add the most value
Start by looking at your customer service data to identify areas where AI can help you automate tasks, improve efficiency, or provide better support. For example, you could use AI to create a chatbot that answers FAQs or develop a sentiment analysis tool that helps you identify and address customer complaints.
Choose the right AI solution for your needs
A variety of AI tools are available, so it’s important to choose one that’s right for your business. Consider factors such as your budget, the complexity of your customer service needs, the “out of the box” readiness of the solution, and whether you can integrate it with other essential business systems.
Start small and scale gradually
Because many technologies powering AI customer service solutions are still relatively new and rapidly improving, starting with a small project or a specific use case will allow you to understand how AI-powered tools work in addition to their challenges and limitations. Once you’re comfortable, you can identify other high-value areas for expansion.
Understand data privacy and ownership policies
When using third-party AI solutions, carefully read their policies to ensure the provider implements robust data security measures, offers complete transparency of its data ownership practices, and adheres to data privacy regulations.
Understand current limitations and risks
As an emerging technology, AI customer service solutions still have several limitations and potential risks. There may be factual inaccuracies in the information generative AI produces, and biases in the data or algorithms used to train an AI system can surface when using these tools.
Plagiarism and copyright infringement are also concerns for AI-generated content, meaning human oversight is needed to ensure its accuracy and originality.
Monitor, measure, and maintain systems
Regularly measuring the performance of your AI systems and tools will help ensure that you’re getting the most out of your investment, mitigating potential risks, and keeping up with technological improvements.
AI customer service FAQ
Is AI customer service good?
AI-powered solutions for customer service can bring real value to your business when used effectively. AI tools can improve human agent productivity and efficiency, while AI chatbots can support customers 24/7 across time zones and multiple languages. That said, the quality of AI-powered solutions varies by provider, so it’s important to do research.
How much does AI customer service cost?
The cost of AI tools and solutions varies widely depending on the specific solution and the scope of implementation. Some tools, such as AI chatbots, are ready to use “out of the box,” with monthly subscriptions starting at less than $100 per month, but they can also be built from scratch, which requires a more significant investment.
What are the challenges of using AI in customer service?
As a rapidly developing technology, AI customer service chatbots are not yet adept at handling complex customer issues, making human oversight crucial for ensuring the accuracy and quality of AI systems’ output. Integrations with other internal systems can be challenging and costly as well.