Will AI be the Savior of the Customer Experience?

By: Alan Coleman

In the past few months, there has been a lot of talk – and it has to be said, also a lot of hype – around how artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data analytics will transform our lives. The idea behind this is that organizations are increasingly able to gather vast amounts of data about their customers from a multitude of online and offline sources, and that analyzing this data with the help of AI algorithms will ultimately help them understand, and even predict with accuracy, what their customers want, enabling them to anticipate and address each customer’s specific needs and to fulfill each customer’s expectations, every time.

Taking this further, and also with the help of AI, organizations are hoping that they will be able to automate some standard customer interactions, providing a faster and more straightforward customer experience while saving time and resources. We’ve already seen the impact of natural language technologies such as Alexa and Siri, and communicating with a chatbot may eventually become the new normal rather than the exception. According to a recent survey by BriteBill, younger customers especially are more open to interacting with automated systems. In the survey, half of Generation Z respondents – that’s the current generation of 16-22 year-olds – said they would like access to a chatbot for bill inquiries, and a third agreed that chatbots are a good alternative to traditional customer care lines.

So, the future is looking bright. However, organizations must tread carefully to ensure that automating a percentage of their customer interactions is compatible with the equally important goal of providing a truly personalized customer experience. Technology on its own is not always the answer: When it comes to handling some of the more complex inquiries and customer issues, at least for now, a helpful human will still provide a better customer experience than a robot. If communications service providers become too technology-oriented, they may risk alienating their customers. The key therefore is to automate where the benefits are clear, but to not get swept away by technology for technology’s sake.

The reality is that AI is still very much in its infancy and telecoms providers are only just starting to apply these technologies to customer relationship and customer care scenarios. We are also talking about AI here rather than Artificial General Intelligence or AGI – which is technology that will be much more human like in how it interprets facts and sentiments, but is still only being developed and even further away from being applied in real-life scenarios.

In most cases when it comes to the telecoms industry, AI is currently used to support live human-to-human interactions between a customer care representative and the customer. While the conversation between the service hotline and the customer is happening, the AI algorithm gathers and interprets all the data that a provider holds about the customer, such as the customer's history, his usage pattern, current price plan and other information. This is then presented to the customer care representative in real time with suggestions on what offers the customer he is talking to might be interested in, or what issues he might need to solve. By automating the data gathering and analysis, AI thus provides a consolidated overview of the relevant information, intelligently summarized, with the best action suggestions based on previous learnings from other customer interactions.


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