More and more companies and organizations are making use of AI for customer service. With more AI tools becoming more easily available, it has become easier to shift to or to work with AI. Now, indeed, AI has revolutionized customer service, and more importantly the management of customer relationship.
Not so long ago, futuristic sci-fi movies portrayed customer service in sleek and crisp images either in a utopia or a dystopia. The future which was only imagined in the 1950s is becoming more and more real. The major cities in the 60s saw buildings with floors dedicated to answering mails and customer service telephone calls, and, of course, needing a lot of manpower to do those. Then large office computers became available as personal computers for a home setup, then it can be brought anywhere, too, as a laptop. Phones also became mobile. Wires became a virtual global web, making it possible to be connected to any office, people and conversations anywhere in the world.
Wishing for AI
Having such a powerful tool on hand makes one imagine how great it would be if such a device could talk to you and do tasks for you. How great it would be if it can process things for you, even do your work for you. Now, it is, or, at least, learning to do what you wish.
In business, gone are the days when a product is built from on high and dictated to the market. Now, the market dictates businesses on what product they should be making, how should they be doing it－and, if the market is not happy, have them do something about it, on-demand. Such great shift has caused industries to stop and rethink their approaches, how far should they go and how urgently do they need their wishes for a sci-fi future.
The beginnings of AI
There was no birth of an AI. There were only beginnings, little streams of ideas, some tinkering (see here for a very short history). Then, while others are still starting to think about it, there it was, already beginning. In their research in 1955, M. Minsky (Harvard University), J. McCarthy (Darthmouth College), N. Rochester (IBM), and C. Shannon (Bell Telephone Laboratories) coined the term “artificial intelligence.” Britannica defines it as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” A familiar definition that already appeared in Minsky and McCarthys 1950s research. They described it as any task performed by a machine that would have previously been considered to require human intelligence. “The workshop, which took place a year later, in July and August 1956, is generally considered as the official birthdate of the new field.” (See Forbes, 30 December 2016.)
Compared to what we are seeing now, Minsky and McCarthy’s is still a broad definition. Such broad definition covers “general AI,” i.e., what we usually imagine as AI. In other words, that of sci-fi movies. What we are seeing in development and in use today, on the other hand, fall under “narrow AI.” Here, intelligence is understood as “the efficiency with which you acquire new skills at tasks you didn’t previously prepare for.” In other words, the efficiency to learn new tasks and develop skills to do them.
What we are seeing right now are iterations of AI being taught new skills, developed to be more efficient. But while scientists, engineers, and researchers are still working on it, why is it so relevant to us? Why are we already talking about it, making use of it as though it is already a finished product? Well, you may still have to imagine decades, a century perhaps, for a fully autonomous AI, achieving its ideal singularity. Right now, though, is a good time to join in teaching AI.
Access to technology, communication devices, even AI, at least the popular versions of them, are not exclusive to anyone. In relation to these, what we have now is a digital economy. In all those activities in the global landscape of the digital economy, AI is taking so much information, learning a million things per second. If you own a business, the worst case for you is a future when autonomous AI would not recognize you. We have seen how AI and algorithms love to share newly learned information: your business should be one of those.
AI for customer service, CRM: an infographic
Taking part in teaching AI is a sure way of making your business ingrained in AI’s memory. In customer queries, later on, AI could easily recommend your business, as though from top of mind. Making use right now of AI could make this possible. One business aspect where you can use AI, and also already really take advantage of it, is customer service. Through AI customer service, algorithms can learn about your business faster. Aside from using AI for customer service, you can go higher and inject it into your CRM. This allows for AI’s deeper learning, not only about your business but your customers’ behavior patterns as well in relation to your business.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) and customer relationship management (CRM) software are paving the path to that future.” (See MIT Technology Review, 17 September 2020). Already we can observe how customers are getting used to AI－how conveniently and comfortably they converse with chatbots. One way, for example, for businesses to reach and stand out to customers is to understand the principle of mobile-first. Make it possible for customers to reach you as soon as they think of your business or organization. If they have to go somewhere or access a computer, then they wouldn’t just bother to reach you. By being there on their device you could be available for them anytime, anywhere.
Here are some more ways you can use AI for customer service.
Conclusion: From customer servicing to business growth
With the above, we have seen how AI has really revolutionized customer service. Beyond that, we can expect－and already seen, in fact, by companies who adapted early－a rapid business growth. The shift to digital-first is also worth mentioning here. For example, some companies have set up digital or online access to their products and services during the pandemic. People had to stay indoors to stay safe. Those companies became available even, and with special access, to people having to stay in the safety of their homes. So, if you haven’t done yet, consider a digital-first service for your products’ availability and customer concerns.
For all these, though, you need to plan. You need people to design or develop your chatbot, your AI functions, and algorithms. Then, you need a trained staff or a team to guide your chatbot, work together with AI, or train robots. In the meantime, as AI learns, it needs human agents. And so, to make use of AI for rapid business growth, a company needs the right people. You need to have a staff or team who’d be efficient in working with AI, so AI can also learn faster.
Further, since we are looking at business growth through AI and customer service, one more important thing. Make sure to build a strong relationship between your business and the public. You need to be able to guarantee that the AI tools you developed are safe, accurate, and ethical. At the end of the day, your customers are still humans, not robots. Make sure to still be human-centric. AI should just be a tool, not the focus, in nurturing and managing customer relationship and growing your business. Your nurturing your customer experience will in turn nurture your business and sustain growth.
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Ivan Deligero is a contributing author at StratAccess. He likes deep dives into the bottom of things and sharing discoveries and strategies towards desired goals. His years of exposure in different industries have led to a deeper insight into organizational structures and operations, as well as the importance of process improvement. In his free time, he also reads and writes about some recent thoughts in philosophy.