The Emergence of AI in the Customer Service Industry
Whether online shopping or trying to get answers about an insurance billing question, customers have likely gotten assistance from a new source: artificial intelligence (AI). One study showed that 88 percent of customers had an interaction with a chatbot in 2022, with an estimated 1.5 billion people using chatbots around the world.
With the global chatbot market expected to surpass $994 million by 2024, it seems likely that the use of AI in customer service will become more prominent over the next few years. Companies need to weigh the benefits of incorporating AI into their workforce, determining how it can be utilized alongside customer service teams to support their customer base.
AI Usage Promises Big Benefits
AI can benefit the customer experience, creating efficiencies for both companies and customers. It can also create more personalized content for customers during their user journey and lead to greater financial savings for companies.
Efficiency is a key part of effective customer service. Shorter hold times have been shown to directly enhance customer experience. Chatbots can also operate 24/7, allowing customers to access the information they need when they need it — without forcing companies to staff a call center 24 hours a day.
Customers expect personalized interactions, which benefits companies that provide them. Seventy-two percent expect the businesses they buy from to know their interests and wants, and 78 percent said receiving personalized content from a business made them more likely to make a purchase.
Enter AI. The technology can quickly access historical data, including past purchases and chat history, and consult similar user profiles based on factors like demographics or spending habits to guide the customer journey and recommend products and services users may want. Studies have shown that this practice can lead to a 10 percent to 15 percent revenue lift for businesses.
Greater efficiency and increased personalization for customers can lead to a better bottom line for businesses. One report found that chatbots could save businesses and consumers a combined 2.5 billion hours. Allowing chatbots and AI to take on some of the customer service workload can lead to big savings for companies.
Using AI Solutions to Support a Customer Service Team
Despite the benefits of using AI in customer service, relying solely on chatbots isn’t the best strategy for customer support teams. One study found that older generations, despite being reliant on online shopping, didn’t find chatbots beneficial to their overall experience. Eighty-five percent of those over age 65 wanted to talk to a customer service representative over the phone — with only 16 percent willing to use a chatbot or other app to communicate with a business.
Even users who are comfortable with chatbot technology don’t perceive them as the best option for every interaction. Research shows that users are willing to turn to chatbots for simpler tasks but prefer working with a human agent for tasks they consider to be more complicated. Some industries, like healthcare, require customer support workers to respond to challenges with a deeper empathy than AI is currently able to provide.
Chatbots and other AI are unlikely to replace all customer service representatives. Instead, AI is a good candidate to replace the entry-level customer service jobs that employers are struggling to fill. Human agents can then be upskilled to handle requests that require additional expertise. This allows for a blended approach that mixes human expertise with the efficient nature of AI.
Jaci Stephan is a regional client solutions manager at Aston Carter, a company that delivers world-class professional talent, staffing services, workforce solutions and consulting to help business tackle today's challenges.
Raymond Rosa is a client engagement manager at Aston Carter.
Related story: ChatGPT Won’t Replace Retail Customer Service Agents
Regional Client Solutions Manager Jaci Stephan began her career with the Allegis Group family of companies in 2003, before transitioning to Aston Carter in 2020. During her tenure, she has held a variety of roles, from recruiter to client solutions manager. Her time in recruiting and sales was largely tied to commercial and skilled trades, and she has worked across multiple divisions to support Aston Carter’s Managed Solutions offering.
With nearly 20 years of experience in BPO and call center industries, Raymond Rosa has supported multiple verticals from healthcare, sales, technology and general customer service. He joined Aston Carter in 2020 as a client engagement manager where he has continued to focus on streamlining processes, performance management and leadership development.