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​The pros and cons of AI tech in customer service

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been rapidly transforming a host of industries as significant investment, breakthroughs and developments in this area of intuitive technology increasingly ramp up. And customer service is no exception, as the application and integration of AI across this arena is fast being adopted and its capabilities escalated. This means that it is currently revolutionising the way businesses are able to interact with their customers, while paving the way for future commercial success.

From chatbots - such as Freshchat and LiveHelpNow - to virtual assistants, AI-driven solutions offer numerous advantages, but they also come with their own set of challenges. Here, we examine the pros and cons of AI in customer service and how businesses can navigate these advances to provide customer experiences that are memorable, for all of the right reasons.

Getting to grips with AI in customer service 🧠

Before exploring the benefits and drawbacks, it’s important to understand what AI in customer service really encompasses.

In simple terms, AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think, learn and tackle problems just like real people would. In customer service, AI-powered tools are designed to automate often manual, time consuming tasks, analyse reams of data, ‘authentically’ engage with customers (where possible) and make interactions more streamlined and efficient.

The pros of AI in customer service

✅ Speed and efficiency

An area in which AI customer service excels is providing swift resolutions to customer queries. With advanced algorithms and natural language processing capabilities, AI-powered chatbots have the capacity to understand customer inquiries and deliver instant responses. This results in reduced waiting times and improved overall efficiency, while providing companies with the opportunity to deal with more customers on a daily basis.

✅ Round the clock availability

Humans, by law, have set working hours while AI-powered systems can easily operate on a rolling 24/7 basis, providing round-the-clock support to customers in different time zones or when it most suits them. This accessibility ensures that customers receive assistance wherever and whenever they need it, which enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as a business’s overall reputation.

✅ Element of personalisation

AI systems can rapidly analyse and digest vast amounts of customer data to understand individual preferences and behaviours. This paves the way for personalised interactions and communications so that customers are on the receiving end of tailored recommendations and solutions. This will have the extra added effect of making them feel valued and understood.

✅ Managing repetitive tasks

AI excels at handling repetitive, mundane and often laborious processes, in turn freeing up people agents to focus on more complex, higher value and emotionally charged customer interactions and complaints. This leads to a more productive and engaging work environment in which AI can take away the heavy workload and humans are able to concentrate their efforts towards more nuanced tasks.

The cons of AI in customer service

❌ Lack of human touch

While AI can be efficient, it lacks the human touch and empathy that many customers desire. Developing consistent, sensitive and personalised experiences at scale has never been more important. In fact, 47% of Gen Z will walk away from a brand after a single bad customer service experience, so every interaction matters. The success of AI will depend on it helping brands provide reliable experiences for everyone they deal with.

❌ Complex and costly

Implementing AI systems and frameworks can be complex and expensive for businesses, particularly when it comes to smaller companies with limited resources. For many, the initial investment, maintenance and training costs may pose significant financial challenges when it comes to getting AI up, running and commercially viable.

❌ Language and contextual understanding

AI-powered chatbots, although currently coming on in leaps and bounds, may struggle to comprehend complex language structures or grasp the context of certain queries. This can lead to misinterpretation and the provision of unsatisfactory responses that don’t make sense within a given scenario. This can lead to customers feeling frustrated and more compelled to take their valuable business elsewhere.

❌ Potential job losses

The automation of customer service tasks through AI could lead to concerns about jobs being replaced or altogether lost. However, while AI can augment certain roles and handle repetitive admin tasks, human professionals cannot be fully replaced as they are still essential when it comes to providing creative solutions, emotional intelligence and conflict resolution to more complex or fraught issues.

Striking the right balance ⚖

It’s imperative that businesses strike the right balance so AI works in harmony with humans.

Rather than replacing actual people, the key to incorporating AI into a business lies in having them seamlessly integrate. It’s crucial that humans are left to handle empathy-driven interactions, while AI can excel in handling routine queries.

In fact, by automating mundane tasks, AI could provide a better experience for customers and help to address issues such as employee burnout and inefficiency. This will all help to ensure that businesses continue to thrive, while customers receive an enhanced experience.

Overcoming challenges and concerns

👉 Effective training of AI systems

To address the limitations of AI, continuous training and improvement of these systems are necessary, as well as updating them as and when the need arises. This involves modernising algorithms, improving language understanding and incorporating feedback from human employees and customers.

👉 A move towards data privacy and security

With the use of AI, customer data becomes crucial for delivering personalised experiences. However, it also raises concerns about data privacy and security. Businesses must prioritise data protection and be transparent with customers about data usage.

👉 Ensuring the ethical deployment of AI

AI systems should be designed and used ethically in order to avoid biased decision-making while maintaining transparency. Businesses need to establish clear guidelines and regularly audit AI processes to ensure fair and unbiased customer interactions at all times.

The foundation has been set for AI to revolutionise customer service by offering several benefits, such as improved efficiency, personalisation and round-the-clock support. However, it also faces challenges, including regulations, the lack of human touch and potential job displacement.

Striking the right balance between AI and human collaboration is the key to providing the very best customer experiences, while holding on to the best and brightest talent. With proper training, addressing any concerns and prioritising ethical use, businesses can leverage AI’s potential to create an excellent customer service platform for both customers and employees.

Neil Johns has been recruiting mid-senior roles across the contact centre, customer experience, and operations arenas for nearly 20 years, and our wider Customer Contact team can address your junior and volume recruitment or career needs. Whether you're looking for the best talent for your team or the next step in your career, get in touch today.

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