Visionaries in the field of artificial intelligence in customer service see radical changes on the horizon, with a tipping point lying just a few years in the future. And if the prognostications of these experts—Zendesk partners Rick Nucci of Guru, Mike Murchison of Ada, and Mikhail Naumov of DigitalGenius—come to pass, AI will upend how customer service teams work in ways that will have far-reaching ramifications for companies across the globe.
“Customers are going to expect more communication channels, more availability, more languages—faster, better service,” says Naumov, author of AI Is My Friend. “Companies are looking for ways to adopt technology to keep up with that level of increasing customer expectations.”
And, as Naumov, Murchison, and Nucci see it, this is just the beginning. Here are some trends these experts see coming to pass within the next few years.
AI will bring about a renewed focus on the human element
AI will give agents more time for “white glove” work, Nucci says. “The best companies will realize that good service does truly differentiate,” he says. “There’s a huge focus on the human aspect of the customer support experience and empowering customer support professionals to create amazing experiences for their customers. One day we’re going to look back and say, ‘Wow, the way a customer service person spends their day is fundamentally different than it was five years ago.’” And Nucci isn’t alone in this belief: companies are already reporting that AI is helping them save time, whether through automation or improved knowledge content.
Companies are making the connection between automation—for example, a chatbot that serves customers a self-service page that answers a common question—and better customer outcomes. “When customer-oriented companies look to buy new customer-experience software, they’re thinking about, ‘How are we going to reduce the wait times to get access to high-quality help? How are we going to reduce the resolution times?’” Murchison says. “It’s less about the agent experience and more about the user experience. Because of the benefits that automation is now capable of providing, customers are looking for tools that they can apply today, themselves.”
Companies will dump deflection tools in favor of full case/ticket resolution tool
“A lot of companies today think of deflection as stopping tickets from happening, but actually what is going on is it’s pushing those challenges down the road,” Naumov says. “But a lot of those customers end up coming back and creating those tickets anyway, but this time they’re much more frustrated with the company and the brand.”
The rise of the automated customer service team
With the advent of automated customer service teams, organizations will field groups dedicated to wielding AI in ways that continually improve the service companies offer their customers. Think of these teams like an internal support group dedicated to helping the greater customer service organization reap the benefits of AI. “This will be a non-technical team that is responsible for applying AI to improve the customer experience and drive efficiencies,” Murchison says. That’s a trend backed by research firm Forrester’s findings. “Having a successful AI-driven customer service or sales program will depend on the processes that support a blended AI approach,” says Daniel Hong, vice president and research director of Forrester. “Humans will play a critical role in the ongoing optimization of AI.”
Every company on the planet will have some sort of machine learning tool
As a result, Naumov says, customer service will shift into proactive mode. “Instead of waiting for tickets and issues to arise, machine learning will enable companies to catch issues before they occur, thus improving brand loyalty,” he says.