Supercharging the self-service customer experience with conversational AI

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Thanks to technology, the barriers between customers and the brands they interact with have grown thinner than ever.  

So too, however, has their patience for poor customer service. They expect questions to be answered quickly, and their problems solved just as fast; what’s more, they are increasingly looking to achieve this without ever needing to speak to a human.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of the relationship between customers and enterprise will be managed without any human contact. This will take the form of a number of self-service channels including the web, social media and, most importantly, online chat.

Artificial intelligence is poised to play a pivotal role in putting chat at the forefront of this sea change in customer experience. Advances in natural language technologies and conversational AI already allow virtual agents to not only automate menial interactions that would otherwise take up valuable employee time, but also complete advanced actions on behalf of customers.

Whether it’s finding the opening hours for a local post office, or canceling a stolen credit card with their bank, customers have, through chat, the necessary tools at their disposal to solve important product and service-related issue by themselves. The onus then lies on the businesses to make these interactions as frictionless as possible.

Helping customers to help themselves

If implemented correctly, self-service offers an enormous boost to a company’s bottom line by reducing the number of calls and emails received by the support team. Handled badly, however, and it can quickly spell disaster, driving customers away in droves.

In a survey of 15,000 consumers, PwC found that 1 in 3 customers admitted they would leave a brand they love after just one negative experience. Providing the best possible customer experience should, therefore, be top-of-mind for any business looking to get the most from its self-service channels.

Conversational AI offers an elegant solution to this challenge. By automating 100% of all incoming chat traffic, a company gives its customers a dynamic and discursive avenue for self-service; similar in scope to the ‘good old days’ of phone support, but with non-existent wait times and less margin for error.

In the event that a virtual agent is not able to adequately satisfy a more complex query, conversational AI can then intelligently route the interaction to an appropriate human operator (complete with a chat log to get them up to speed), avoiding any possibility of customer churn.

In Norway, the country’s largest bank, DNB, has experienced high levels of success by going all-in with this tactic. By implementing a virtual agent as first-line support on its website, DNB successfully automated 51% of all incoming chat traffic within four months of launch. This helped to drastically improve the quality of life for existing support staff while lowering the barrier to entry for customer self-service - a clear win-win.

It isn’t enough to provide customers with channels for self-service and expect them to be satisfied. Maximizing these channels is key to delivering the kind of positive experience that will make sure consumers stick with a brand for the long haul.

Also published on CustomerThink.

For more on how conversational AI can significantly improve the customer experience for your business, download our 10-page guide.