The essential AI customer service guide

What businesses need to know

How to leverage AI to enhance customer experience and streamline support operations

Table of contents

  1. What is AI?
  2. How does AI work?
  3. Are chatbots and AI the same thing?
  4. The benefits of using AI-powered customer service
  5. Common misconceptions about AI customer service
  6. Examples of how to leverage AI to improve customer service
  7. How AI is shaping the future of customer service
  8. How to choose the right AI solution for your business
  9. AI customer service is here to stay

AI is continuing to reshape customer service as we know it, and often for the better. Businesses that adopt AI can increase revenue by as much as 10%. So, it’s no wonder that 73% of U.S. companies now use the technology. 

When used correctly, this powerful technology can help you take your tech support to the next level. AI customer service can help your contact center improve overall performance in ways other tools simply can’t. 

At the same time, there’s a lot of uncertainty and apprehension around AI. So, should you even add this new technology to your contact center’s tech stack? Yes, and here’s why:

AI is a critical tool to help your contact center agents work more effectively and improve the customer experience. But what exactly is AI? Does adopting AI mean that your contact center agents will lose their jobs? And how do you choose the right solution for your business?

We answer all these questions and more in this guide.

What is AI?

In the simplest of terms, AI interprets data to solve problems. While AI might have made the headlines only recently, the technology itself isn’t new. Alan Turing, the British mathematician famous for breaking the German “Enigma” code, is considered the father of AI.

Turing developed what became known as the “Turing Test” to determine whether computers could “think” in a way similar to humans. The Turing Test continues to influence AI technological developments to this day.

You probably see examples of artificial intelligence throughout your day. For example, maybe you use a spell-checker to proofread work emails. You might use facial recognition to unlock your smartphone. Or you may see self-driving vehicles during your commute. These are all examples of how AI has become an increasingly integral part of our lives.

How does AI work?

Now that you know what it is, you might be wondering how AI works. AI uses machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to interpret and process data. It’ll look for patterns that engineers have trained it to recognize using algorithms. 

Once the AI recognizes similar patterns in the data, it can generate a statistical analysis to make recommendations and predict future customer behavior. This can be incredibly helpful for businesses trying to understand customer behavior.

Are chatbots and AI the same thing?

In short, not always. There are some conversational AI chatbots, but not all chatbots use it. Traditional chatbots often lack the versatility of conversational AI, relying on strict, pre-scripted responses. 

Conversational AI chatbots can outshine their stiff counterparts because they use a combination of generative models and vector embeddings. This helps them better understand user intent and provide more accurate tech support, even if they don’t use exact keywords or phrases.

The benefits of using AI-powered customer service

So why should your broadband or telecom business use AI? Below are some of the many benefits of implementing AI in your contact center.

The benefits of AI-powered customer service: scalable support, personalized experiences, reduced expenses, increased profitability, prevents burnout

Easily scale your tech support

With the rise of AI, scaling your tech support is easier than ever. With technology such as conversational AI, you can meet increased customer service demands without hiring more staff or forcing agents to increase their workloads. 

This can be especially critical for regional service providers (RSPs) trying to maintain competitive tech support. Nationwide carriers often have large numbers of staff, and that’s just not always feasible for local providers. This can make it harder for regional service providers to respond to service requests in a timely manner.

AI helps RSPs maintain that competitive edge by providing instant access to customers’ frequently asked questions. It’s estimated that AI could handle up to 85% of service requests. If you’re a local telecom or broadband provider, AI software could be just the tool you need to compete in increasingly crowded markets.

Create a more personalized customer service experience

Customers are increasingly demanding more personalized customer service experiences. More than three-fourths of customers are frustrated by the lack of customized interactions with businesses.

This doesn’t have to be the case for your customers. Using AI, you can deliver personalized customer service interactions at scale, whether you’re serving thousands of customers or millions. 

Implementing technology to deliver the personalization customers crave pays off. Research shows that 78% of customers will recommend a business to others if it offers personalized experiences. The bottom line? Personalization is a win-win for customers and your business. 

Reduce business expenses

Implementing AI could help your business significantly reduce operating costs. For example, a study by IBM found that AI could help companies to reduce costs by nearly a third. The same study found that conversational AI chatbots reduce the cost per customer acquisition from five to twelve dollars per customer to only one dollar. 

This is because AI can handle many customers’ routine inquiries. Instead of waiting in a long contact center queue to learn how to pay their bill online, a customer can ask a conversational chatbot that can direct them to your online portal or app. This can significantly reduce call volume and, in turn, operational expenses for your contact center and overall business. 

Increase your company’s profitability

Not only can AI help reduce business expenses, but it can also boost your company’s bottom line. How? Essentially, it boils down to better customer service. AI provides customers access to fast, reliable tech support at any time of day or night. The quality of your customer service is critical, not only for reducing customer churn but also for increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). 

Research shows that nine out of 10 customers will make an additional purchase from a brand if the company provides good customer service. It’s much easier to sell to a current customer than a new one. So, it’s no wonder AI could help increase company profits by as much as four trillion dollars

Prevent contact center agent burnout 

The average turnover rate for contact center agents is a whopping 45%, much higher than other industries. Burnout and subsequent turnover are often due to time-consuming, repetitive tasks and a lack of reliable resources for resolving customer service issues. 

AI can be a powerful tool to combat high agent turnover by automating manual, repetitive tasks. This allows agents to focus on other things that require human expertise. Additionally, AI tools can help guide agents as they handle unfamiliar customer service requests, increasing agent confidence, minimizing frustration and improving employee engagement

All of this can pay big dividends for your business. Companies with engaged employees have a 233% higher customer loyalty rate. When used correctly, AI can be critical to retaining customers and employees. 

Common misconceptions about AI customer service

Despite its many benefits, misinformation about AI continues to persist. Here are a few common myths that often hamper businesses from adopting AI.

Myth one: AI is too complex for businesses to implement

Reading about machine learning and natural language processing can be confusing, but that doesn’t mean that adopting AI technology is. 

You can often implement the right AI solution quickly and easily. You only need to copy and paste a few lines of code into your website. Once you do that, your contact center is ready to hit the ground running with new tools to help it deliver a faster and better customer experience

Myth two: AI will completely replace customer service jobs

While this technology can do many things to help improve customer service, AI can’t completely replace humans. Your contact center agents still play a vital role in the customer experience. According to the National Customer Rage survey, the number one frustration among customers is the inability to speak with a human agent. 

Instead, AI will be just one of many tools in your contact center’s toolkit. AI can streamline business processes so agents can work faster and be more productive.

Myth three: AI creates a poor customer service experience

There’s a persistent myth that the rise of AI will worsen the customer experience, but nothing could be further from the truth. 88% of people expect your business to provide customer self-service options. Yet, most customers also say they can’t resolve tech issues with their provider’s current self-service offerings.

With AI, your company can create a more streamlined customer service experience. When connected to a knowledge base, the right AI solution can provide accurate answers to customers’ questions 24/7. 

Examples of how to leverage AI to improve customer service

Check out the following examples of how you can use AI to improve your customers’ tech support experience. 

Provide a better customer self-service experience

Did you know that eight out of 10 customers try to resolve tech support issues independently before reaching out to your contact center?  Customer self-service tools such as interactive tutorials and conversational AI are no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for a successful customer service strategy. 

However, most companies aren’t delivering the quality customer self-service their customers expect. This can be detrimental to the success of their business since 96% of customers leave after just one bad service experience.

The prevalence of lackluster self-service provides your business with a unique opportunity to differentiate itself from competitors. AI tools can give customers step-by-step instructions to guide them through various service issues. Additionally, they can send them links to other resources, such as video tutorials, making it easier than ever for customers to access support in their desired format. 

Tailor your strategy to the needs of Gen Z

Gen Z is rapidly transforming customer service, and companies need to pivot quickly to ensure they can meet their demands. Gen Z, also known as "zoomers," were born between 1997 and 2012. 

They grew up in an era of smart devices, streaming and instant everything. They want immediate response times to service requests, and they don't want to have to pick up the phone. 

This generation has a whopping $360 billion in spending power, making them a too-powerful customer demographic to ignore. So, how can you create a service experience that meets their high demands?

Thankfully, this tech-savvy generation fully embraces technology such as chatbots. Almost a third of zoomers say it's their preferred channel for accessing customer service. Incorporating AI can be a great way to tailor your customer service strategy to these digital-natives.

Create an omnichannel customer service strategy

Omnichannel customer service is another non-negotiable part of your customer retention strategy, and AI can once again help you deliver. 

But what exactly is omnichannel customer service? Omnichannel customer service refers to a unified platform that serves as a knowledge base for agents and customers. Both parties can access the information they need through their preferred service channel, such as email, SMS, chatbot or a mobile app.

This is better organized and more efficient than traditional multi-channel support models, which allow access to support through various disconnected channels. These channels are siloed and may have inconsistent answers to various tech support questions. 

AI can help support your omnichannel support strategy by further personalizing these customer interactions. Additionally, AI-assisted omnichannel support can serve up answers to customers instantly on their preferred channel at any time of day, making service quick and convenient. 

Improve agent onboarding

Creating a strong contact center agent onboarding program is critical to reducing employee retention. If agents have a poor onboarding experience, they're most likely going to start browsing recent job postings on Indeed.

Many onboarding programs are plagued by outdated training resources, lengthy courses and a lack of access to reliable information. This can make the training process longer and increase agent burnout if they can't quickly help customers with tech support requests.

With AI, you can onboard agents faster and help them hit the ground running as they guide customers in resolving product or service issues. You can use AI to coach new agents through appropriate responses and it can even serve up relevant resources to send to customers about a particular topic. 

Early research on using AI for agent training is already showing promising results. One study found that using AI can improve new agent performance by 14%. If you're looking for tools to enhance your agent training, you may want to consider adding some form of AI to your tech stack.

Offer multilingual tech support

Offering tech support in the customer’s preferred language is key to creating personalized customer experiences. For example, a customer in Quebec might prefer to access self-service tutorials in French instead of English.

Paying for translation services to translate self-service resources into various languages is expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, resources can quickly become outdated as companies such as Apple or Google release multiple software updates in a year. 

Once again, AI can rescue your agents and customers by providing resources in various language options without waiting weeks for someone to translate the documentation. This saves your company time and money while helping customers quickly access the tech support they need. 

Looking to transform your customer support with the help of AI?

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How AI is shaping the future of customer service

The future of customer service includes AI, and it’s already changing the customer experience as we know it. Below are some ways AI will continue to shape the tech support experience. 

More teams will adopt AI

AI isn’t a passing trend. By 2025, nine out of 10 customer interactions will involve AI. AI technology can help businesses provide a better customer support experience and decrease contact center agent turnover, all while reducing business costs. With so many benefits for customers and companies alike, the adoption of AI will only continue to grow. 

Humans will work side-by-side with Artificial Intelligence 

While more contact centers will adopt AI technology, it doesn’t spell the end of customer service jobs. More companies will use AI-centered training to onboard new agents faster. Additionally, it will handle many of the repetitive tasks that contact center agents don’t like. Future contact centers will use AI to augment agent performance, not replace them. 

Customer service will become increasingly personalized

Broadband and telecom companies that provide personalized experiences will rise far and above the competition. With AI, companies can provide personalization at scale. Contact centers can use AI to understand a customer’s history with the company and predict future behaviors. All of this will help curate a better, more personalized customer experience.

AI will help drive digital adoption

Customer self-service is an increasingly popular form of tech support. AI can effectively guide customers through troubleshooting common service or device issues. As more customers have positive experiences with AI, digital adoption will increase. Additionally, call volume will decrease, reducing case burdens for agents.

Customer support will be critical for cross-selling and up-selling

AI technology can turn your contact center into a cross-selling and up-selling powerhouse. With personalization, AI can target customers with offers that are the most relevant to them. For example, if a customer buys a new Google Pixel phone, your AI software could suggest sending them a 10% off coupon for a phone case or other compatible accessory. 

When you consider that it’s 68% cheaper to sell to a current customer than a new customer, AI technology is too powerful a tool to ignore. 

How to choose the right AI solution for your business

AI provides so much opportunity and potential for your contact center. But how do you choose the right solution for your business? Here are a few things to consider when evaluating which AI tool to add to your tech stack. 

1. Keep customers’ needs front-of-mind

Before you book any demos, ask yourself: “what do I want AI to help my customers with?” For example, do you want the tool to help customers with simple questions regarding their account, or does it need to be able to assist customers with complex tech support inquiries? Or maybe it needs to do both.

Consider your customers’ most critical pain points. Do they need help setting up a new device or starting a new account? Also, consider how you want to serve this technology to customers, such as through an app or website. 

2. Evaluate your contact center’s needs and goals

When it comes to choosing AI customer service software, every company’s needs are different. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Take time to reflect on your short-term and long-term goals. 

You’ll also need to consider how the tool fits your overall customer service strategy. How will you use it to improve customer support? Do you need a tool that can provide customer self-service for complex tech support issues? Or does the tool need to be accessible remotely for your new hybrid customer service strategy? Taking the time to answer these questions can help you narrow down potential fits for your specific needs.

3. Consider the ease of implementation

When researching potential AI customer service tools, you’ll also want to consider how long it’ll take to get the new software up and running. Some solutions take longer than others.

For example, do you need to copy and paste a few lines of code into your website, or does it require a complete website overhaul? Can you afford to have self-service down for a few days, or do you need something that you can implement almost instantly?

4. Ensure that your AI-based customer service is accessible

Did you know that one in four Americans has a disability? That’s why it’s critical to ensure your AI customer service tools are WCAG 2.0 compliant. Otherwise, you risk alienating 25% of your customer base. 

The good news is that when the tool you use is designed with accessibility in mind, it creates a better experience for everyone. To get the most out of your AI, ensure it’s accessible to all customers, regardless of ability. 

5. Attend a product demo

You wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it first. The same is true for any product you buy for your contact center. Sign up and attend a product demo to see the tool in action, and ask questions to assess if this tool meets your contact center’s and customers’ needs. 

Some questions you may want to ask during a product demo include:

  • How long does integrating the AI into your website or self-service portal take?
  • Is your AI prone to hallucination?
  • What makes you better than your competitors?
  • How does your AI connect to your knowledge base?
  • What is the training process for your AI?

Asking good questions helps you understand how this software aligns with the needs of your business. When you’re researching potential AI software, don’t skip this step. 

AI customer service is here to stay

AI customer service tools are rapidly reshaping the customer experience, often for the better. The use of AI in contact centers will only continue to increase. By leveraging the information in this guide, you can better understand how to effectively implement AI in your customer service strategy and find the right tool for your company’s needs. 

Want to know more? Download the AI integrations white paper to start enhancing your customer support today.

Are you looking to learn more about AI and its potential to transform your contact center? Download our white paper on how AI can take your omnichannel customer support to the next level.