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How AI is changing the chat channel

Last updated 22 January 2024
Customer Experience

Taking customer service to the next level by acting on customer information and requests with conversational AI

Let’s face it, today’s digitally-native consumers are simply too busy to spend vast amounts of time dealing with menial customer service interactions. Work and life commitments mean that what free time they do have is precious, and if they absolutely must interact with their bank or insurer, their issues need to be resolved as quickly as possible in order for them to be satisfied.

This shift in expectations, brought about by the always-connected nature of modern society, means that the sun has finally set on the traditional notion of chatbots that flooded the market less than a decade ago - and has now dawned on the age of the virtual agent.

In a recent report published by ReMark, it was revealed that consumers are beginning to soften in their attitudes towards artificial intelligence in the provision of customer services, especially when benefits, such as faster response times and 24/7 availability, are clearly demonstrated. This was particularly evident amongst Gen Z and Millennial groups who, when posed the question of whether they always prefer to interact with a human in a customer service setting, responded in the affirmative only 43.4% and 44.8% of the time, respectively.

As consumers grow more accustomed to interacting with artificial intelligence, so too must technology improve to meet their expectations. Unlike the lowly chatbot, virtual agents harness the power of conversational AI to enable businesses and organizations to go beyond answering basic questions. In addition to 24/7 immediate information, a virtual agent can empower customers to resolve issues and requests automatically, on their own and all from within a single chat window.

Self-service, convenience and the death of chatbots

Whether comparing the price of insurance policies or shopping around for a new broadband provider, the modern consumer plays a pivotal role in their own customer journey. With a clear preference for taking care of their own needs, they know what they want and just want to get it done - without wasting a second.

The customer self-service economy is already a well-established term. It has been around for a long time and has grown steadily ever since people began booking their own fights and ordering books online. However, digitizing customer experiencehas also elevated the expectations that customers have towards self-service. Today, consumers are, more than ever, relying on their own agency to get things done, without ever needing to interact with a single human in the process. Why? Because the digital age - and artificial intelligence in particular - has made it more convenient to take on certain tasks without the need for middlemen.

Countless online platforms and software solutions have been developed to reduce the friction of specific transactional tasks, but due to the rise of chat and instant messaging as a preferred channel for communicating with brands, there is a growing divide between organizations and their customers. Chatbots have, thus far, attempted to mend this divide, but since they are often limited to matching keywords in questions with probable answers, they have revealed themselves to not be the best solution to meet the expectations of modern, digital customers.

Taking action with a virtual agent powered by conversational AI

The commonality between disparate channels of customer service is that consumers dislike needing to share the same information more than once and that they show a strong aversion to having to contact a company multiple times.

Conversational AI, through its inherent nature of being built on a strong foundation of natural language understanding, offers a way to not only eliminate these frustrations but both meet and exceed the expectations of self-service customers. As the underlying technology of virtual agents, conversational AI it makes it possible to recognize context, concepts and meaning in a chat-based interaction, instead of relying on a user’s ability to hit the right keywords to articulate what they want. Combined with the ability to leverage user authentication, a virtual agent can interpret this understanding and take action on behalf of a customer (i.e. transfer money, update a mobile data package, purchase an insurance policy, etc.) helping to ensure immediate gratification.

As the relationships between companies and their customers continue to change, people will want to be increasingly in charge of all aspects of those interactions, not less. Being able to understand and act upon those requests with minimal friction is a serious game-changer that will lead to a more efficient use of resources and, ultimately, delighted customers who will reward a brand with their loyalty.

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