The Undeniable Power of Chatbots

The Undeniable Power of Chatbots TW

Since the dawn of the computer age, engineers and designers have had to consider how humans can, and should, interact with new technology. They designed and implemented interfaces that altered our mental models for exchanging information; we had to learn novel symbols, workflows, and behaviors in order to interact with these new platforms. Basically, we conformed to the computer, not the other way around. Yet over the last few years, a new service has emerged that represents a departure from this norm: the chatbot, a digital experience that replicates and automates the medium of human conversation.

Three Benefits of Automated Conversation

Conversation is the new interface. We now spend more time messaging and chatting than on social networking applications. Smart businesses have capitalized on this behavioral shift by supporting chat, messaging, and text channels for marketing, sales, and customer service. However, it’s difficult to scale a one-to-one communication operation. This is where chatbots come into the picture.

As automated chat interactions, chatbots can essentially exist wherever human-to-human dialogue is the best way to exchange information and accomplish an assignment. The best way to experience the benefits of this kind of automation is to focus on the conversations that are already in play with your customers. Oftentimes, this starts with customer service. Here is where you’ll see an immediate impact:

  1. Faster Response Times: Chat and messaging work best when someone can immediately respond, not when customers are waiting in a queue because agents are tied up. With a chatbot, each message is seen and responded to, and your most common questions are quickly addressed. Further, by allowing chatbots to handle initial information gathering, agents are able to join and resolve conversations faster if escalation is needed.
  2. Better Agent Utilization: No one wants to answer the same question over and over again. Chatbots remove basic, low-level questions from the workload. By reducing the number of messages your agents receive, you will increase the efficiency of your support operations and be able to focus on the more complicated questions and tasks.
  3. Data on What Customers Need: Chatbots automatically collect and analyze your customers’ questions and issues. Instead of manually reviewing conversations or asking agents for anecdotal insights, you can review organized and aggregated intent data.

Getting Started With Chatbots

If you think you’re ready to automate and streamline the interactions you’re already having with customers, I recommend starting with these skills to experience the core benefits:

  1. Five to Ten One-Touch FAQ Answers: Focus on supporting your most common questions that can be addressed with one response. You can direct customers to an FAQ article, or deliver a conversational answer directly.
    One Common Workflow: Similar to the above, there are certainly interactions that require authentication or simple lookups from another data source; these aren’t hard to tackle, just usually require manual attention. Verify, authenticate, and pull in data to automate simple workflows. If you’re an e-commerce business, “Where is My Order” or “Return Status” are great, universal examples.

  2. Easy Agent Takeover with Routing: Once a chatbot cannot answer a question or resolve an issue, make the handover process to human support quick and painless. Better yet, ask a few questions just prior to the handover to give agents context for the conversation and route to specialized teams.
  3. Natural Language Processing: Natural language processing and machine learning — the “AI” of conversational AI — make it possible for your bot to understand and respond to customer intent, not specific keywords. This allows the bot to keep up with the way each customer thinks, communicates, and switches topics, ultimately leading to higher understanding and better resolution rates across all conversations.

Want to learn more about how chatbots can transform your customer experience? Check out how Kustomer powers intelligent self-service here.
 

You Must Know Consumer Expectations to Deliver on Their Demands. We’ve Got the Data.

You Must Know Consumer Expectations to Deliver on Their Demands. We’ve Got the Data. TW

Every consumer has a different expectation as to how they believe they should be treated by organizations they do business with. Perhaps I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a full refund and an apology when I feel I’ve been wronged, whereas you wouldn’t be caught dead being so demanding.

But while we all have our minute differences, it is also true that consumer expectations generally shift with the times, and have clear generational differences. This past year has brought a significant amount of changes, and businesses may feel more in the dark about what their consumers are demanding. We wanted to pull back that curtain.

Kustomer surveyed over 550 US-based consumers to better understand what they expect from the customer experience, where organizations are falling short, and how expectations have shifted across generations. According to our research, 79% of consumers say customer service is extremely important when deciding where to shop, and many consumers are more picky with where they spend their money than ever before. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to deliver on consumers’ growing demands. You can download the full report here.

We Must Treat Customers as Humans

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that empathy is of the utmost importance when dealing with customers. As the world has drastically changed, and individuals feel more stress and anxiety than ever before, the potential to brighten someone’s day with a simple support interaction is hugely impactful.

According to our survey, 69% of consumers expect an organization to prioritize their problem if they are upset. Through a combination of sentiment analysis and intelligent routing, your customer service platform should be able to move upset or loyal customers to the front of the line and immediately get them help from the most appropriate agent.

Additionally, 53% of consumers expect a business to know about them and personalize how they interact. To create these meaningful relationships, companies need to adopt technology that allows them to see customer history, issues and behavior in context, no matter the platform. According to Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, the humanity of customer service is often lost in call center environments. “I think that one of the downfalls to old school ticketing systems is that it’s no longer about people. It almost becomes like data entry for those agents that are working on the same thing. It’s how many tickets there are,” said Coleman. “We were never thinking of it in terms of the human beings that are on the receiving end. And I think that’s what Kustomer has really done for us, it’s allowed us to spend the time with the human beings that are on the other line and spend more time developing our team.”

One thing is clear across the board: consumers expect retailers to know how they’ve interacted in the past, what issues they’ve encountered, and they want organizations to actively make amends. A whopping 76% of consumers expect companies to proactively follow-up and reach out to them if there is a problem. Whether it is a winter storm delaying a shipment, a new safety policy, or a fulfillment issue, proactive outreach is not only a nice benefit, it is now an expectation. Proactive communication can provide even more value when you use it for actions like reengaging unhappy or complacent customers, and building brand loyalty with targeted offers. Make sure your platform can power bulk messaging, targeting specific customer segments based on your unique data, like orders, location, or CSAT. In no time your customer service team will turn from a cost center into a profit center.

The Need for Speed in CX

We’ve all been there. Too much to do, too little time. This turn of phrase is even more pertinent for customer service organizations. Delivering real-time service is inherently difficult without endless resources, especially during peak shopping periods. But it is truly what your customers expect.

Seventy-one percent of consumers believe their problem should be solved immediately upon contacting customer service, but 52% report that they’ve experienced hold times longer than fifteen minutes. That’s a massive amount of consumers whose expectations are not being met.

Luckily, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence (AI), businesses now have the opportunity to provide more self-service options, freeing up agent time for complex and proactive support. In fact, 53% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, meaning AI-powered experiences fulfill their needs. Tools like chatbots are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, with 53% of consumers saying that chatbots improve the customer experience. They can be used to collect initial information, answer simple questions, and direct customers to a help center if human intervention is not needed.

These tools save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low level support. Additionally, 42% of consumers reported that they would be willing to buy a product or service from a chatbot. This transforms AI-powered chatbots from a deflection tool into a revenue generator, with the ability to suggest similar products, or answer questions consumers need clarification on before buying.

To read the full report, including industry and demographic data, click here.

 

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations TW

Artificial intelligence is making a major impact on customer service and shows no sign of stopping. The increased interest is warranted — Forbes contributor Kathleen Walch of Cognitive World said AI is a useful tool that’s improving customer service, enhancing customer loyalty, enabling better brand reputations and allowing customer service agents to focus on tasks of greater value that can bring companies more business.

While all of these benefits are highly advantageous for businesses, making sure customer service staff are satisfied is a critical initial step in the process. Here are four simple ways that AI chatbots can improve work-life for your customer service agents and better streamline agent experience and expectations:

1. Improved Work Efficiencies

One of the many benefits of utilizing chatbots is the ability to shift work expectations of customer service agents. As Chatbots Magazine stated, chatbots are truly the future of engagement. There are many direct questions that can be handled by way of automation, giving customer service staff the freedom to take on the more meaningful conversations within a short period of time.

2. Better Conversations With Customers

When customer service staff can focus on more important cases instead of the simple questions that AI chatbots can handle, agents have a strong role in driving business and loyalty for the company.

3. Enhanced Job Satisfaction

When customer service agents have more time to focus on complex queries and enhance the connection between customers and your company, they may find greater overall satisfaction in their work. With AI chatbots, you also have the opportunity to introduce steady, more enjoyable working hours that create work-life balance. AI-powered bots can handle the low-level inquiries during the traditional “after hours” time frame, which means you don’t have to worry about keeping staff on the clock at all hours of the day. Not only can this help with workplace satisfaction, but it can also reduce overhead costs.

4. Increased Capacity

Realistically, customer service staff can only talk to one customer at a time, making it difficult to handle more than one issue simultaneously. When AI chatbots are introduced, you can alleviate the pressure that customer service agents once felt about long queues. While this is beneficial for agents in terms of streamlined expectations, your company can still meet bottom-line goals and continue servicing all customers that contact you.

Working With Kustomer

Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform is built to meet the expectations of the customers and agents of today. With our solution, you can better manage customer inquiries and high support volume to streamline staff and company expectations. Request a demo today to learn more about our process and services.
 

Questions You Should and Shouldn’t Bring to a Customer Service Agent

Questions You Should and Shouldn't Bring to a Customer Service Agent TW

Customer service agents provide immense value to any business. Not only are they highly knowledgeable resources that consumers can rely on to solve their issues, they also play a role in influencing purchasing decisions and building community.

The digital age, however, has made it easier for companies to rely less on human agents to answer easy questions and instead utilize artificial intelligence to get the job done, and many significant companies like LinkedIn, Starbucks and eBay are on board. The general interest in chatbots is only anticipated to grow, as Business Insider reported that the market size is projected to increase from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024.

The Power of Chatbots

Enabling automated, low-level service via chatbots allows your business to take these smaller inquiries off the hands of your agents, so they don’t have to work around the clock. They are able to focus on the most important cases, playing an invaluable role that drives business and loyalty.

But which questions should chatbots handle, and which should be escalated to customer service agents?

Questions for AI Chatbots

Today’s consumers love convenient interactions. AI chatbots allow for quick resolution without impacting the quality of the experience.

Questions that are simple are ones chatbots can easily handle. CXL Institute refers to these as “Tier 1” questions, which can be interpreted easily by a machine that’s loaded with information in a database. Queries regarding size availability, time and rescheduling for travel booking, as well as specific order numbers can be easily answered by chatbots. Queries regarding information that can be found on your company website are also great for chatbots to tackle, saving customer service agents time and energy that would otherwise seem wasted.

Questions for Customer Service Agents

Live chat is unmatched for some consumers. When it comes to the complex questions, we agree. For example, if a customer is interested in a certain product but wants more information and guidance down the sales funnel, an agent can address doubts, answer these specific questions and help customers make decisions. Questions that can turn into bigger issues based on communication limitations don’t work well for chatbots; customer service agents can provide sincerity in the form of understanding and humility, for example, which can improve the reputation of your business.

But AI chatbots allow you to scale your customer service and rely both on artificial intelligence and human agents to provide a quality experience for consumers. Learn more about how Kustomer can improve your customer service strategy today by requesting a demo.

 

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai to Deepen Intelligent Automation Capabilities

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai TW

Here at Kustomer, we believe artificial intelligence plays an essential role in helping companies scale customer service and efficiently deliver exceptional results. And we aren’t alone. Gartner predicts that 72% of customer interactions will involve technology such as machine learning and chatbots by 2022. That’s why we are excited to share that Kustomer is acquiring Reply.ai to deliver even deeper intelligent self-service and agent assistance to our customers.

As a long-time partner of Kustomer, Reply is able to seamlessly integrate their tools into the Kustomer platform and help brands efficiently scale without compromising quality of service. The partnership furthers our commitment to integrating Kustomer IQ, our artificial intelligence engine, throughout the customer journey, while providing some powerful benefits to businesses and customers.

Reply is ranked as one of Forrester’s Top 10 AI Providers for Customer Service Automation, leveraging sophisticated machine learning models to power incredibly accurate self-service chatbots and deflection tools. With an astounding 40% average deflection rate, Reply, now a part of Kustomer IQ, can successfully resolve nearly half of all initial customer communications without the need for live interaction with a service agent. And with 67% of customers preferring self-service over talking to a company representative, deflection tools are not only a win for businesses, but also for customers.

With Reply now a part of Kustomer IQ, our customers will save thousands of hours spent answering simple questions, so they can focus on the most important cases that have a much larger impact on business and loyalty. At a time when customer service teams are being asked to do more with less, our suite of AI tools can tackle your growing queue of inquiries around the clock, while drastically minimizing costs.

We are so excited to welcome co-founders Omar and Pablo Pera, and the entire Reply team of world class data scientists and engineers to the Kustomer Krew. With Reply’s engineering offices in Madrid, this acquisition will also expand our presence in Europe and accelerate our growth in the region.

It goes without saying that we’ve always been committed to revolutionizing customer service. Today’s acquisition of Reply marks one more step in that journey.
 

What Customers Can Now Expect From Kustomer IQ

Chatbots

Built within Reply’s natural language processing engine, these best-in-class chatbots feature visual flow builders and templates for easy one-time creation and deployment across multiple channels and languages, providing effortless experiences by connecting customers to the right information.


 

Knowledge Base Deflection

An enhanced deflection widget can be embedded in forms, email, and chat, and features a powerful information retrieval system in which a semantic search engine and answer extractor not only provide relevant articles and content, but the exact answer to a question.


 

API Access

The platform can plug into third-party APIs to leverage a company’s most critical customer data points when deflecting. For example: a chatbot can answer the question “where is my order” or “when does my policy expire”.
 

Agent Assistance

Relevant answers and subsequent actions can be suggested to agents based on historical behavior, user text and conversation context. Actions include routing or auto-tagging conversations, as well as responding with relevant templated content.


 

Analytics Dashboard

Deflection success rates are measured and chatbot behavior can be evaluated, with functionality to support custom events, set conversion goals and segment audiences.

With Kustomer and Reply now joining forces, we are excited to announce the immediate availability of Kustomer IQ Plus, delivering new ways to interact with customers through chatbots and sophisticated AI capabilities. Please get in touch to learn how to get started or watch our latest ondemand webinar.
 

Kustomer Acquires Automation Technology Company Reply.ai, Accelerating Kustomer IQ’s Intelligence Platform To Help Companies Effectively Scale Customer Service

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai TW

Reply is the first acquisition for Kustomer, reinforcing Kustomer’s commitment to AI and machine learning capabilities throughout the customer journey. With Reply, Kustomer will now offer enhanced chatbot and deflection capabilities through its customer service platform.

New York, NY – May 14, 2020 — Kustomer, the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences, announced today it has signed an agreement to acquire Reply.ai, a customer service automation company founded in 2016 that helps companies scale intelligent customer service without compromising experience. Reply leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning models to improve agent efficiency through self-service chatbot and deflection capabilities. This announcement comes on the heels of the expanded roll-out of Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence engine embedded across Kustomer’s CRM platform. With Reply, Kustomer can provide even deeper intelligent self-service and assistance via Natural Language Processing (NLP) based chatbots, enhanced omnichannel customer deflection and machine learning based response suggestions. Madrid based Reply will also accelerate Kustomer’s European growth by significantly increasing its presence in the region.

“We believe artificial intelligence is essential to helping today’s enterprises scale customer service and efficiently deliver exceptional results. We recently rolled out Kustomer IQ to meet the growing need for companies to have access to the power of AI, and with today’s acquisition, we continue our investment in bringing self-service tools and intelligence capabilities to our clients,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “Reply has built deflection and self-service chatbots that help companies effectively deflect initial customer communications at an astounding rate of 40 percent. This means that almost half of all initial customer communications can be successfully resolved without requiring live interaction with a service agent, bringing greater efficiency to the entire customer service function. We are excited to welcome co-founders Omar and Pablo Pera and the entire Reply team of world class data scientists and engineers to the Kustomer Krew.”

The Reply suite of tools include deflection capabilities that look at historical and contextual data, continuously improving over time, as well as deflection widgets that can be embedded in forms and email, and features a powerful information retrieval system that extracts relevant answers to customer questions from a company knowledge base. Reply also features a platform to build chatbots that can be deployed across multiple channels and languages, and agent-assist tools that suggest relevant answers to messages and subsequent actions, such as routing or auto-tagging conversations.

“We are excited for Reply to join Kustomer and share its mission to make customer service more efficient, effective and personalized. As a long-time partner of Kustomer, we are able to seamlessly integrate our deflection and chatbots technologies into Kustomer’s platform and help brands more cost-effectively increase efficiency. We look forward to working with Brad and the entire team,” said Omar Pera, Co-Founder of Reply.

“By leveraging advanced AI capabilities and Kustomer’s robust CRM platform, combined with self-service deflection tools, Kustomer is uniquely built for the needs of today’s enterprise companies,” adds Birnbaum. “Since 2015, we have been committed to revolutionizing customer service and today’s acquisition of Reply marks one more step in our journey.”

For more information about Kustomer, visit www.kustomer.com

About Kustomer
Kustomer is the omnichannel SaaS CRM platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences. Built with intelligent automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of any contact center and business by unifying data from multiple sources and enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.

About Reply.ai
Reply.ai helps brands scale customer service by providing AI-powered solutions that instantly resolve common customer questions on chat and ticketing channels. The two core products, Deflect for Ticketing and Deflect for Chat, reduce consumer frustration and deliver 24/7 personalized service, ultimately increasing self-service effectiveness and support team capacity. Reply’s customers, like The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas, Vail Resorts, Honeywell, Glovo and Paula’s Choice, rely on Reply for innovative and industry-focused solutions to customer service problems. Reply was founded in 2016 by former Google and CERN engineers and is headquartered in New York City and Madrid, Spain.

Media Contact:
Cari Sommer
Raise Communications
cari@raisecg.com
 

Top 8 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know

Man in coffee shop with iPhone

Consumer expectations are changing daily, and technology has a lot to do with this. The digital age has made customers expect instant gratification; when technology makes just about any information available at the click of a button, more and more people are turning to their devices for answers. With this technological transformation comes many up-and-coming trends that companies can get behind to transform their business and cater to the expectations of the customer. After all, Gartner research predicted that 85% of consumer interactions will occur without interacting with a human face-to-face.

Does this mean that companies should rely solely on artificial intelligence to run their business? No, but they can certainly benefit from using it as a supplemental tool.

In 2020, it’s all about enhancing the digital customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at the current trends in customer service that can help you run your business and satisfy consumers:

8 Current Trends in Customer Service

Keeping up with what’s new in customer service can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most in 2020. Here are eight we recommend weaving into your business strategy:

1. Taking Care of Every Customer by Promoting a Strong Company Culture

Customer service has always been dedicated to taking care of the customer. But at NRF 2020, Alex Genov, the manager of research and user experience at Zappos shared the importance of shaping the company culture of your business to reflect the customer care you want to provide. More speakers at the event detailed how they refer to their customer service employees as something more encouraging, such as “brand ambassador.” Empowering the customer service agent is one way to get the positivity flowing through the customer journey.

2. Make Your Customer Service Options Mobile-Optimized

Today, everyone you know has a smartphone. And if they don’t, it’s rather shocking.

With so many people using devices that bring convenience right to the palm of their hand, it’s advantageous for your business to make sure its website works on mobile. Specifically, it’s critical that your customer service options are optimized for mobile: according to a Gartner survey of nearly 9,000 customers, the most preferred device for issue resolution was the phone at 44%.

The more channels your customers have to reach you, the better their odds of doing so and feeling satisfied with your ability to communicate.

3. Building Strong Customer Connections

Making the customer feel as though they’re a part of a community when they purchase your products or services is a great indication of strong customer service. This builds brand loyalty and advocacy and strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the business. When customers trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable and confident reaching out to your customer service representatives if something goes wrong.

4. Taking the Omnichannel Approach

This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2020. Often confused with multichannel support ‚— or offering customers more than one option for contacting your customer service representatives — omnichannel support is guaranteed consistency in customer service as they shift from one channel to the next, so conversations are picked up right where they left off. With the right technology, your business can achieve an omnichannel approach with ease.

5. Focusing on Self-Service Opportunities That Benefit Your Business

Many customers are confident in their ability to navigate your page and figure out the answer to their problem without feeling the need to contact customer service. While we do encourage having additional options like chatbots and live agents, one way customers can answer some of their own queries is through your Knowledge Bases (KB) or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

As explained by Knowledge Owl, a KB and FAQ page are similar pieces of collateral that are each considered a self-service option that, giving your customer service agents a break from the repetitive questions that tend to flood their inboxes.

Building these pages up on your website can enable effortless self-service. Just make sure customers are directed strategically back to your customer service agent as needed

6. Be Responsive on Social Media

Just like owning a smartphone, most consumers have a social media presence on one or more channels. Not only are they using these platforms to communicate with family and friends, share pictures and laugh at memes, they’re also turning to social media as a way to connect with brands from a customer service standpoint. Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at social media management company Sprout Social, told Business News Daily that brands should focus some of their customer service efforts on social media to satisfy their customers.

“Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using [and] … focus their engagement efforts there,” Cuttica said. “A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer.”

7. Using Chatbots to Your Advantage

Contact forms are becoming less attractive to consumers. Why? Because they want fast, convenient service when they have a question or problem that needs to be solved. Chatbots are a great way to get the conversation started with customers without resourcing your agents to stand by every time a customer enters your site. Chatbots can pull information from knowledge bases to serve answers up to customers. Plus, they can be used to answer low-level support questions and provide 24/7 support, saving agents thousands of man hours.

8. Continuing to Utilize Live Support

Remember: While chatbots are highly advantageous, that doesn’t mean that AI should replace your talented human resources. Your business can benefit from bringing both together to increase scalability and drive efficiency across all customer service channels. AI can automate manual tasks and provide initial information about customer problems, giving agents the information they need to solve customer problems without compromising quality. This makes customer service more convenient for customers and can even improve your engagement and satisfaction scores over time.

Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?

Customer service technology can help you incorporate these new trends into your current strategy. Kustomer enables you to deliver effortless, personalized customer service, powered by intelligent insights and unified data.

Understanding how to deliver on growing customer expectations can be challenging without the right tools. That’s why we’ve created our Buyer’s Guide to provide the resources you need to evaluate potential partners, measure your success and pick the perfect customer service software solution. Request a demo today to schedule your 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service Without Losing the Human Touch

Customers have high expectations when it comes to the level of service they demand from brands. While the American Express Customer Service Barometer found that Americans are willing to spend up to 17% more on businesses with excellent customer service, the top reason most customers switch products or services is because they feel unappreciated by the brand. In fact, 33% of Americans are inclined to switch to a different company after a bad experience.

Unfortunately for companies, the cost of human support is high. Introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into operations is one way companies can control costs while improving their service abilities and maintaining the human touch that makes customers feel appreciated and valued.

What Is AI Customer Service?

While AI and machine learning may at first appear to threaten the customer service industry, they actually have the power to make customer service agents’ jobs less time-consuming and more fulfilling.

Integrated AI can instantaneously retrieve the data an agent needs, while the agent or support team deals directly with the human side of customer service. This eliminates the need for human agents to run multiple systems simultaneously to address customer inquiries. Rather than employ agents to work 24/7 in a call center, AI can be used to field and classify calls and messages so human agents are then able to work more reasonable shifts with increased efficiency and reduced physical and mental stress.

Through intuitive machine learning that constantly works to improve itself, AI allows companies to be present to the very best of their abilities along every step of the customer journey.

How Are AI and Machine Learning Being Used in Customer Service?

There are plenty of reasons why AI and automation should be loved, especially when it comes to customer service capabilities. Here are a few ways the technology is already being used:

Chatbots

Everyone has had the experience of needing a simple question answered by a brand, only to dread having to jump through customer service hoops just to get someone on the phone who may or may not have the answer. Conversational chatbots can make these conversations more seamless. Not only do conversational platforms help cut costs, they also can help your customer service scale and enable your agents to have more meaningful and productive conversations. By using chatbots to aid your live chat operations, your business will be able to engage customers in real time without the need for an around-the-clock staff.

Amazon, for instance, uses chatbots that leverage the data the company collects on all of its customers and their past orders. By allowing chatbots to access information about the customer’s past preferences, you can have the chatbot interact with customers up to the point where an agent is needed. Once the conversation is transferred to an agent, they can pick up where the chatbot left off.

Eventually, you can train your chatbot to not only acquire customer information, but also recommend the actions customers and agents should take next. If a customer simply needs a common question answered about a product they already purchased, the chatbot can direct them to a FAQ rather than contact an agent. This saves the human agent’s time and allows them to make better use of it dealing with more complex customer queries. All chatbot interactions can be automatically tagged in your AI system so they’re easy to track and reference, and can be used to improve future recommendations.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to handle the necessary, but routine tasks that keep support agents from interacting with customers in meaningful ways. By taking care of low-priority, mundane tasks, RPA helps customer service agents reclaim time in their days that would be better spent handling high-value customers or fully addressing complex questions without feeling rushed.

RPA works across multiple systems to track user actions within an application to complete and perform tasks ranging from automatically replying to emails to routing conversations. The improved efficiency from saved time on menial tasks also saves companies money. Aside from cutting costs, RPA has the power to increase revenue by speeding up the rate at which customers are able to make purchases through your company.

Agent Specialization

In the past, automated phone systems performed data dips, moving customers through a phone tree where they were asked to “press 1 for a current reservation,” “press 2 for reception,” “press 3 to make a new appointment” or something similar. The flaw in this system is that the information collected was never handed off to the agent, and the customer would have to repeat themself once they were connected with a human. AI eliminates this unnecessary process — if a customer is calling about a product that’s discontinued, for example, there might not be a need for a human agent to talk to the customer only to relay that same information. This saves time for both parties by supporting your human customer service agent and saving the customer from exasperation.

Using AI to capture information about the customers and pass along only the absolutely necessary parts of that information allows agents to have more meaningful conversations and become more knowledgeable about the areas of the business that matter.

If a customer still wants to talk to a human even after discovering their product is discontinued, the agent can immediately begin the conversation by offering recommendations for other products the customer may like. AI doesn’t eliminate the need for humans, as many people incorrectly assume when they hear talk of using AI in customer service. Instead, it augments the human team and allows them to be better at their jobs.

Monitor Support Operations

When you use AI to monitor support operations, you can predict when conversations may start to turn from positive to negative. This insight allows managers to intercede accordingly, and no longer requires them to randomly audit customer service calls to regulate quality.

AI can also help monitor which responses result in reopened tickets. If response A, for instance, tends to resolve inquiries quickly, but response B results in the ticket repeatedly being opened, the system can recommend you eliminate response B in order to set your agents up for success. Managers and executives can use the data generated by AI to oversee customer service operations in a more clear, efficient way, improving day to day operations for everyone involved.

What Are the Advantages of Automated Customer Service?

Customer satisfaction is directly linked to the service experience, and so it’s important to make sure the customer journey is as seamless as possible. Integrating AI into your customer service isn’t about replacing humans. Rather, it is about arming your customer service agents with the information they need to have purposeful conversations with your customers, and using data to personalize your customers’ experience with your brand.

Incorporating AI customer service not only improves your relationships with your customers, it builds trust and increases brand loyalty. This means more repeat customers, and more word of mouth referrals for your business.

When you build an incremental strategy to roll out AI in your organization and optimize according to data collected, success is sure to follow. Using AI to build a more complete view of a customer’s relationship with the brand helps companies meet high expectations for exemplary service, and come across as anything but artificial.

Kustomer Offers AI Business Solutions

The Kustomer platform stands out among customer service solutions for the comprehensiveness of available customer data and its business process automation that is driven by branchable, multi-step workflows and custom business logic. Kustomer IQ is a groundbreaking new service that integrates machine learning models and other advanced AI capabilities with the Kustomer platform’s powerful data, workflow and rules engines to enable companies to provide smarter, more personalized, automated customer experiences with increased efficiency.

Kustomer IQ integrates machine learning, natural language processing, predictive analytics, deep learning and multi-dimensional neural network mappings as a part of its AI suite. Natural language processing involves the interactions between computer and human language, and dictates the extent to which computers are able to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data. Natural language processing is used along with text analysis, computational linguistics, and biometrics in sentiment analysis, also known as opinion mining, which helps companies keep a finger on the pulse of their target audience’s interests and values.

Companies that employ the AI suite are then able to use their own data to train Kustomer IQ’s predictive machine learning models, automatically customizing them to address their own business needs. With each new interaction and piece of data, these models learn and self-tune increasing their predictive accuracy and improving the decision making of both the models themselves and the customer service organizations using Kustomer.

Through Kustomer IQ, companies will be able to automate manual, repetitive tasks and essential processes of their customer service experiences. In addition, Kustomer IQ changes the way companies manage knowledge during a service inquiry by surfacing relevant insights and predicting future outcomes to enhance customer self-service, facilitate real time intervention through recommendations, and streamline proactive outreach. By automating everything and providing the right information at the right time, Kustomer IQ frees up agents to focus on more complex and emotional customer interactions, resulting in reduced costs and faster resolution of calls.

Features of Kustomer IQ include automated conversation classification, queues and routing, customer sentiment analysis, automatic language detection, suggested agent shortcuts, customer self-service, conversation deflection and workforce management. If you’re interested in learning more about Kustomer IQ and how it can help elevate your business’s customer service capabilities, download our ebook, explore our website and get in touch today.

Kustomer offers real-time, actionable views of customers, continuous omnichannel conversations, and intelligence that automates repetitive, manual tasks to make personalized, efficient and effortless customer service a reality.

 

To Bot or Not to Bot? Neither, Start with a Strategy

By Mark Kersteen from Kustomer and Maggie Lin from Solvvy.

Customer service automation is the hot topic of conversation these days, and more specifically, how bots fit into the mix. While intelligent automation is core to both Solvvy and Kustomer, we encourage our customers to not simply take an automation-centric or bot-centric approach, but to first take a step back and identify what your key goals are.

We’ve seen companies jump the gun and add a bot because they felt like everyone else was doing it, only to find it delivered sub-optimal/disappointing results.

In reality, not everyone is using a bot—but many are experiencing mixed results. In our recent webinar, 67% of participants shared that they aren’t using any bot technology today and 72% of participants who have tried a bot have experienced issues.

So, what can we take away from this? It’s important to see the big picture and identify where automation can add value, rather than implementing point solutions like bots and hoping they make an impact. We’ve all been there–it’s easy to get swept up into adding a piece of technology just because it’s what everyone else is doing.

In this post, we’ll tackle a key goal we’ve frequently seen from our customers: how do we increase agent productivity to improve our overall customer experience? We’ll share how intelligent automation can effectively support this goal in two ways by 1. increasing efficiency for customers and 2. increasing efficiency for agents.

Increasing Efficiency for Customers

Empowering customers to resolve questions on their own means agents handle less repetitive questions (and less tickets). This translates into getting back to customers faster and focusing on high-value questions that require the human touch. Increasing efficiency doesn’t have to be complicated. Depending on where you are in your support team maturity, ways to improve include investing in content, intelligent self-service, and end-to-end automation.

Content
While it seems obvious, when companies are scaling quickly, a lot of focus is given on agent enablement versus customer enablement. But, at the end of the day, customer enablement helps agents at scale. In an organization where customer interactions are often 1:1, investing in content is 1:many and scales with the business. Taking the time to create help center articles can save your support team hours of copy-pasting a macro that should be public to customers. Publishing content that helps customers find answers on their own frees up your agents to deal with more complex questions.

Intelligent Self-Service
Investing in content is step one. Intelligent self-service is the next step to making it easy for customers to discover this information. With intelligent self-service, it’s important to understand the underlying technology used to determine user intent. A lot of bots fall short here because they are keyword-reliant or rules-based and ultimately aren’t able to understand the context of a question and the relationship of words unique to a specific business. Self-service eases the workload for agents, but if a bot is falling short of expectations, it can create friction when a customer reaches an agent and has to repeat their question.

End-to-End Automation
The ability to fully automate repetitive transactions is a huge opportunity in customer service. These could be questions around order lookups, returns, refunds, and subscription changes. By handling these types of questions without an agent, support teams can direct attention to complex questions and take on proactive initiatives that scale. The interface for end-to-end automation can be guided steps, or it could be a bot in a chat window. Whichever way you deem the best customer experience, it should be clear that it’s not a human and that it is an automated experience.

Increasing Efficiency for Agents

We’ve spoken with agents who have expressed anxiety about chatbots or other technologies taking over their roles. It’s totally natural to be wary of new technology, but our answer has always been clear: We don’t think there’s anything to worry about. In fact, there’s a whole list of ways that bots and automation can assist agents and make their lives easier. Bots can take over the boring, repetitive, and mechanical tasks that drive agents up the wall, freeing up their time to focus on the interpersonal connections and more emotionally complex tasks that likely attracted them to the profession in the first place.

Conversational Forms
Just because it looks like a bot and acts like a bot, doesn’t always mean it’s a bot. Conversational forms are robots in disguise. When a customer opens the chat window, they’ll feel like they’re chatting to an immediately available agent. The conversational form will start asking the customer questions. These include important queries for identification—name, email address, phone number, shipping info, and whatever else is necessary—as well as more quantitative questions, like asking them to describe the issue they’re having. This way the customer gets the instant feedback they expect on chat, and the agent can jump into the conversation with all the info they need.

Suggested Responses
The scariest thing about pursuing a chatbot strategy is the lack of control. Once you switch on that feature, there’s nothing standing in between your customers and an algorithm that may not always provide the best experience. Enter suggested responses. This system works like the suggested text feature on your phone, but just for service. A computer processes the conversation and generates answers, but instead of sending them straight to a customer, the agent gets them first. This speeds up their reply time, and the system can also learn from the agent’s choices to become smarter. The more agents use the system, the better it gets at helping them, so you can be certain that automation is helping your experience, not holding it back.

Further Uses for Automation
There is a whole world of automation-enhanced solutions to everyday problems for your organization—and the majority of them work behind the scenes. Using an automated system to suggest tags, categorization, macros, and helpbase articles for your agents can save tons of time, and can be much simpler to set up and operate than a customer-facing chatbot. Assisting your agents’ everyday workflows and reporting may not be glamorous, but it can have a massive knock-on effect towards streamlining your experience and increasing efficiency. As Peter Johnson, Kustomer’s VP of Product, summarized in our recent webinar: “Automation is not just about helping the customer, it’s about helping your support organization scale, and identifying areas the product team can improve.”

Final Thoughts

If we can leave you with one bit of advice to take away, it’s this: before pursuing a bot or automation strategy, do your homework and consider your options. It’s crucial to have a strategy, and that you don’t just jump right in. As Kaan Ersun, Solvvy’s SVP of Marketing, advised on our webinar: “Number one, define a strategy, and figure out where the bot can be useful to you, where it won’t work, then pursue new opportunities. Start with the big picture, then move towards implementation.”

Look at the data available to you, and use that to define your strategy going forward. Take some time with your reporting, and see what the most common issues are and where customers are asking for support. Once you start spotting patterns, those can dictate where you’ll go next. Maybe something as simple as an updated help page or self-service tool can cut your service volume in half? If your agents are constantly doing the same things over and over again, solve for those issues first. If your goal is to increase efficiency, then you should be focusing on finding the best method, not using chatbots for their own sake. By looking at the patterns within your support organization, you can start identifying issues that are holding back your experience to dictate your strategy, which is great practice as a whole. That’s the best way to figure out how automation will fit in.

With the right groundwork, you can be certain that when you do start to explore and use new technologies, your efforts will be a success—and will make a meaningful difference for your customers.

The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation

84% of the attendees of our recent webinar, The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation, consider Customer Experience Automation a priority for their strategy going forward. What options are available for the automation-minded company, and will a bot deliver amazing service AND make you breakfast? Well, not quite. We got to the bottom of these questions on air, and you can too from the recap below.

Watch the recording here.

Peter Johnson, Kustomer’s VP of Product, and Kaan Ersun, Solvvy’s SVP of Marketing, are both authorities on bots, automation, and using intelligent technologies for better service and support. They discussed the pros and cons of the solutions out there, and made some suggestions for picking and enabling more intelligent service.

Is Automation a Priority?

To kick things off, we started with a poll to take the temperature of the audience. We asked, “Is adopting a customer experience automation solution, such as bots, a priority for you / your organization?” The results were surprising—the majority of respondents were actively pursuing an automation strategy. Here’s the breakdown:

Yes, this year: 40%

Yes, next year: 32%

Yes, within 2 years: 12%

Not a priority: 16%

Terms You Need to Know

To level-set, PJ and Kaan laid out an overview of the terminology they’ll be using when discussing this complicated technology.

While “intelligent” technologies have existed since Roman times, the term “Artificial Intelligence” came into use in the 1950s—though truly intelligent products just started becoming widely available over the last handful of years. Machine Learning is a more specific application, referring to the ability of machines to advance their program and “learn” from their mistakes without additional programming. A good example is the recent Google AI that beat a world champion at Go. Deep Learning is an even more advanced subset, describing computers that use algorithms that mimic the neural networks of the human brain—meaning they can learn on multiple levels without human supervision.

Bots—Are They All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

But how are these advancements being used on a practical level today? Bots are already taking on a variety of service and service-adjacent tasks within the enterprise, from Digital Marketing and DIY Service, to use cases involving virtual assistants. However, these experiments are still in their early stages. While they may help scale your service, they require a lot of effort to build, and lack customer understanding and the ability to deliver a quality, memorable experience. When you look at the cost and effort to build one versus the level of experience they provide, the math is a bit off.

As PJ put it:

“You’ve probably contacted or been contacted by a support system that tried to act like a human being, but clearly is not. One of our best practices is not to try to seem human, because it can really hurt your brand image and experience.”

On top of that, they aren’t exactly plug-and-play. Service teams have to create replies for every possible input, and they need to be customized for the relevant terminology and details of your business. Actually integrating them with your existing data systems can be a headache, plus they need ongoing maintenance every time you add a new feature or product.

Who’s Using Bots?

Bots may not be the tech overlords they’ve been billed as (yet), but other applications of automation and intelligent systems can supe up your support. And, it’s probably not too late. In our second poll, we learned that most attendees haven’t started using bots yet:

We asked, “What has been your experience with traditional bot technology in your CX operations?” and these were the results:

We use a bot today and love it: 9%

We use a bot today and have encountered some issues: 12%

We use a bot today and have encountered many issues: 12%

I don’t use any bot technology today: 67%

From Bots to Conversational Experience

Before you start experimenting with bots, it’s good to know your options. As Kaan recommended:

“It’s key to have an overarching, holistic automation strategy first—then you can deploy bots as point solutions.”

Bots are a part of this strategy, but not the only focus. Instead, you can also use automation in conjunction with other integrations and platforms to create a stronger experience. Conversational forms look like a chat, but can be used to gather customer info and issues before handing off to a more capable agent to handle the issue. A system that automatically suggests responses to agents works the same as a bot, but uses the added layer of human oversight to learn the right way to respond by tracking your agents’ decisions. And automation is useful for suggesting tags, categorization, macros, helpbase articles, and assisting workflow and reporting—all things that can speed up your experience and make it more efficient, without directly interacting with customers.

As PJ summarized: “Automation is not just about helping the customer, it’s about helping your support organization scale, and identifying areas the product team can improve.”

Kutomer and Solvvy work together to make conversational experience a reality. If you submit a question to Solvvy and can’t find the answer, you can choose to instantly open up a chat in Kustomer and get the answer. Kustomer’s conversational form then collects your personal information, then connects you with an agent who knows your whole customer history.

Where to Begin?

Where do you start the process of using automation or bots strategy if you haven’t already? Kaan had some advice: “Number one, define a strategy, and figure out where the bot can be useful to you, where it won’t work, then pursue new opportunities. Start with the big picture, then move towards implementation.”

Adding to Kaan’s advice, PJ suggested going straight to the data: “First thing: Look at your reporting, and see where you have the highest level of support volume. Look for patterns, see which questions your customers are asking, and what the most repetitive tasks are for your agents?”

If you’re taking a wide-angle approach and carefully planning your strategy, instead of leaping head first into messing around with a bot, your initiatives are much more likely to be a success.

You can always watch the recording HERE, and for more great insights into service, experience, and technology, follow Solvvy and Kustomer.

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