Artificial Intelligence, Competitive Advantage
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(Almost) everything you need to know about AI for customer service so your brand can get ahead of the competition and avoid falling behind.
Artificial intelligence may seem futuristic, but it is already impacting major industries. At the forefront of the AI movement is customer service, which is the number one application of AI being deployed today. But this is just the beginning; the use of artificial intelligence in customer service will only continue to rise. By 2025, 95% of customer service interactions will be supported by AI.
Not only are many brands joining the machine-learning revolution, but 82% of CX professionals say AI automation is becoming increasingly necessary for business success. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with AI for customer service and discover what it can do for your brand.
How is AI used in customer service? Is it safe? Why are so many brands using it? You may be wondering why more companies than ever before are leveraging AI for customer service. Whether you’re already familiar with some of the benefits of AI in customer service, just beginning your research, or are a skeptic, you probably want the hard facts along with reviews from your peers before you build it into your processes.
Thankful pulled the data and spoke with CX experts from leading ecommerce brands to bring you some of the main reasons top brands are using AI to improve customer service, enhance productivity, and double down on customer experience:
Business growth is a mark of success, but it doesn’t come without new challenges; one of the biggest being customer service. As a customer base expands, so does the volume of support tickets and demand for high-quality service.
When brands are unable to scale and continue to meet consumers’ ever-rising service expectations, they'll experience customer churn which will ultimately put the business at risk.
To combat growing pains, top brands are leveraging AI automated customer support. Capable of handling high volumes of tickets with ease, AI increases brands’ ability to support more inbound customer requests without sacrificing the quality of service. These types of AI customer services have enabled many brands to scale and focus on improving their products and customer experience.
The wildly popular accessories brand, Pura Vida, was no stranger to immense growth and highly engaged customers. But when a very successful campaign coincided with their Friends & Family sale, the burden of their ticket queue increased dramatically. With ticket volumes up 147% and a commensurate increase in wait times, Pura Vida needed a solution to effectively scale.
In less than four weeks - faster than they could hire and train more staff or onboard their existing BPO - Pura Vida deployed Thankful’s AI Agent for email support. To further alleviate pressure on human agents, Pura Vida also deployed the AI Agent for AI chat support. This helped Pura Vida reduce wait times by 55% amidst rapid growth!
Whether a brand is experiencing hypergrowth, seasonal spikes, unprecedented influxes, or day-to-day fluctuations, service organizations can count on AI to scale alongside them.
It’s no secret that consumers’ need for speed is greater than ever before. With 89% of customers deeming speed of response and resolution as the most important aspects of service experiences, it’s essential for brands to provide quick support.
Pura Vida is one of many companies using AI for customer service that has seen major reductions in customer wait times. Not only does AI provide responses and resolutions in a matter of minutes, but it also reduces agents’ workload - further decreasing wait times!
This is one of the main reasons why renowned apparel brand, Bombas, implemented Thankful’s AI ecommerce platform and leverages AI Agent, Thankful’s AI automation customer service technology. As a result, Bombas has seen TTFR decrease by 81% and overall time to resolution decrease by 35%!
While agents have a ticket capacity, AI does not. In fact, AI’s performance will strengthen as it collects more data. AI is able to get to tickets within seconds and easily withstand ticket influxes. It is optimal for time-sensitive customer service queries, especially when queues are high and agents are unable to get to them in time. AI’s autoscaling capabilities ensure customers receive quick and high-quality support while simultaneously reducing the pressure your agents are under and decreasing the risk of burnout.
There's often a misconception that more automation in customer service leads to less personalization. But with a robust AI that aligns with your brand, your service organization can provide more personalized experiences — especially on a larger scale.
AI offers the opportunity to bring a customer's full history and profile into play, even with thousands of customers. And because of the amount of data that AI can process in a short period of time, even more, customer detail can be involved in each exchange.
The result? Interactions that are much more individualized.
Learn more about how AI automation can help brands deliver more personalized support at scale here.
How can using AI for customer experience boost revenue and not break the bank? Well, there are a few ways:
1. Lowers operational costs
The sheer number of tickets AI is capable of resolving quickly, accurately, and consistently helps support teams achieve KPIs with smaller budgets.
2. Reduce seasonal hiring
Year after year, brands spend a lot of time and money searching for, hiring, onboarding, and training seasonal staff —only to let them go when the holiday rush is over. It’s a huge investment. But with AI’s autoscaling capabilities, seasonal hiring efforts can be minimized.
It saves time and money while also helping brands maintain both the quality of service and their support team culture. That’s why Blenders, one of America’s fastest-growing sunglasses brands, sought out a true AI solution. With Thankful’s AI Agent onboard, Blenders’ was able to reduce their 2021 seasonal hiring projections by up to 68%. This enables them to sustain the team culture they have cultivated while continuing to provide high-touch service during peak seasons.
3. Prevent agent burnout and churn
Turnover is costly, especially for the customer service industry which has a churn rate that is more than twice the national average. Implementing AI for customer support alleviates the pressure and repetitive strain placed on agents, reducing burnout and ultimately turnover and the expenses that come along with it.
4. Better service brings in more revenue
Exceptional service sells. Brands that get it, get it. Brands that don’t, don’t. By 2025 40% of customer service organizations will become profit centers, so it will pay off to be a brand that gets it.
It’s a given; nobody wants a negative service experience. In fact, 67% of customers will actually pay more to ensure they receive great service. And if they have a positive experience rather than a negative one, they will be likely to spend 140% more.
Customer-centric brands are seeing firsthand how delivering good service positively impacts their bottom line. More and more companies are starting to follow suit - prioritizing their support strategies and investing in technology that will elevate CX.
There is a lot of talk about how AI automation enhances service experiences; shorter wait times, increased personalization, and 24/7 support, to name a few. But customers aren’t the only ones benefiting from automation and artificial intelligence. The adoption of AI automation in CX is also transforming service interactions and the overall work experience for support teams.
So, how can AI improve customer service experiences for agents? Here are 5 of the ways. 👇
Repetition in any workplace leads to boredom which leads to distraction and ultimately unproductivity. Not to mention, it can be agonizing doing the same thing over and over again.
Agents spend nearly 90% of their time repeating answers to the same questions, so it probably comes as no surprise that repetitive strain is rampant among support teams. Here’s where AI automation comes in. While it’s draining for humans to tend to the same task over and over again, AI can handle high volumes of routine issues with consistency and ease. Thankful’s AI Agent, for example, can fully resolve 50+ of the most common ticket types such as “return order” and “exchange item”.
Anyone who has worked in customer service knows how stressful it is. Support teams work tirelessly to meet ever-increasing customer demands for quick and personalized service. over half of customer service agents feel burnt out on a daily basis.
Dealing with customers day-to-day is a challenge in and of itself, but that pressure further intensifies when service query volumes spike. With an AI Agent taking on high volumes of repetitive ticket types and scaling to allow elasticity when it’s needed most, support teams will be able to stress less.
For more information on how to reduce burnout in your service organization, download The Ultimate Guide To Beating Customer Service Burnout.
Using AI automation for redundant tasks allows agents to put their time towards higher-level customer queries. So rather than spending the bulk of their time handling track order and pause subscription requests, support reps can solve more particular customer queries and provide more meaningful experiences.
Higher-value service interactions are more rewarding and 79% of agents say their skills improve from solving these queries. As a result, they are able to deliver even better service. Everyone wins!
With AI taking on large quantities of repetitive and transactional ticket types, agents will have a greater bandwidth to take on projects beyond their day-to-day responsibility of tending to service queries. It is exciting and empowering to reps that are interested in applying their skills and expertise in other areas. It can open up opportunities for growth and advance career trajectories upwards.
How an employee feels about their job goes beyond the work itself. Healthy team culture is imperative; in fact, cultural fit is important to 97% of employees.
Building and maintaining a strong team culture requires effort and commitment no matter the industry, but it can be particularly challenging in customer service. Between a turnover rate that’s over twice the national average and the challenges that come with recurrent seasonal hiring, a solid support team culture is hard to establish.
With great leadership and a talented team, Blenders was able to cultivate a standout team culture. But it became difficult to uphold the agents’ high standard of team morale while hiring and training seasonal staff for hypergrowth and peak seasons. To minimize seasonal hiring efforts while maintaining both the quality of service and their support team culture, Blenders started evaluating AI tools for customer service.
After deploying Thankful’s AI Agent, Blenders’ was able to reduce their 2021 seasonal hiring projections by up to 68% and year-round hiring effort by 51%. This enables them to sustain their strong team culture while continuing to provide high-touch service during peak seasons and hypergrowth.
By leveraging an AI automation tool, service organizations have a greater ability to scale. This allows brands to allocate less time and effort to hiring, onboarding, and training new and temporary staff. The focus can be shifted to cultivating a strong team culture and retaining top talent.
In customer service, there is a common misconception that the impact of AI on jobs is negative and that will replace human agents. However, this is not the case - nor should it be the goal.
A good AI solution should augment human agents. When they work in tandem, it's a dream team. By removing repetitive and transactional tasks, AI automation frees agents to work on highly complex or consultative tickets as well as help with larger-scale projects. They will be less susceptible to burnout. Instead, they'll have more opportunities to contribute their skills and vast knowledge to the company - adding even more value.
The future of AI in customer service is bright for agents; it can change their role and the state of CX for the better.
Let’s face it: chatbots for customer service aren’t cutting it. They deflect customers rather than resolve their problems, cannot deeply personalize communication, do not provide support via email (the most popular channel!), and often leave customers feeling frustrated rather than cared for. And don’t forget; even the best chatbots for customer service are incapable of empathy and lack the ability to connect with customers.
To meet customer expectations, brands need to be delivering efficient customer-centric support every time. A high level of service needs to be sustained as companies grow, change policies, and evolve their strategies - so their tech needs to be enabling rather than limiting. That’s why many leading companies are leaving the bot life behind and are seeking out AI solutions for ecommerce.
Unlike a chatbot, well-trained AI can actually perform tasks, tailor communication to customers’ individual needs, and fully resolve queries. Thankful’s AI Agent even provides empathetic and human-like service experiences, so customers feel valued and taken care of. With the right partner, brands can align AI with their policies, processes, and brand voice - elevating the entire service experience.
When CX professionals think of automated support, chatbots likely come to mind. After all, it was one of the first automation tools to be widely used in the customer service world. So when new automation technology enters the scene, “how TF is this any different than a chatbot?” is a commonly asked question.
Enter: AI Agent.
If you don’t know what TF an AI Agent is, you can get a quick rundown here or watch this quick video. 👇
Now that you know what an AI Agent is, you may be wondering how TF it is different from a chatbot. And if that question is not on your mind, you’ll still want to keep reading; the more you know about conversational AI solutions the more equipped you’ll be to get your brand ahead!
So, what TF is the difference between a chatbot and an AI Agent? Let’s break it down:
Live chat is the primary communication channel for chatbots. However, some can engage with customers via SMS and in-app.
An AI Agent provides service across every text-based support channel - even email! In fact, email support is one of the things an AI Agent does best. With an AI Agent onboard, your customers can receive quick and easy support no matter how they contact your brand.
A chatbot works outside of the helpdesk, whereas Thankful’s AI Agent operates within your helpdesk just as a human agent would. By communicating with your existing ecommerce engine and business processing tools, an AI Agent receives, understands, and even takes action on support tickets - all without human intervention!
Learn more about how Thankful integrates with your specific helpdesk and business processing tools here.
When it comes to understanding your customers, a chatbot uses chat buttons or keyword detection to recognize service requests.
Thankful’s AI Agent not only analyzes freeform text, but it uses best-in-class Natural Language Processing to go beyond surface-level intents and understand each individual customer’s contact reasons, motivations, and even sentiment. With the deep ability to understand what customers want, Thankful’s AI Agent is able to deliver the service they need.
While a chatbot does not retain information on individual customers, an AI Agent never forgets a customer or their history with your brand. After all, context is key!
An AI Agent doesn’t retain all that customer context for nothing! It dynamically changes engagements according to customer sentiment, geography, LTV, contact history, and dozens more parameters. Interactions are tailored to each individual customer for truly personalized service experiences that chatbots are incapable of delivering.
Chatbots are most commonly leveraged to deflect customers; redirecting them to a self-service tool. An AI Agent, on the other hand, performs tasks. Just like a human agent, it takes action to fully resolve over 50 types of service queries.
It’s no secret that customers don’t like being passed around from one agent to another (and another and another). A transfer extends wait times and they’re forced to repeat themselves - further prolonging the service experience.
Whether support tickets are handled by human agents or an automation tool, handoffs are bound to happen every now and then; and when they do the process should be quick and easy. That’s why an AI Agent, unlike an AI chatbot, is designed to seamlessly escalate queries to human agents. Conversations pick up right where they left off - customers won’t even know a transfer occurred!
A chatbot presents as technology, but an AI Agent can present as either a human or technology. You read that right; an AI Agent delivers experiences that are so human-like that your customers will think they’re communicating with one of your human agents!
TLDR: chatbots and AI Agents both automate support, but only an AI Agent can deliver the accurate, personalized, and empathetic full-service experiences today’s customers demand.
With more and more brands leveraging automation tools for customer service, it is important to remember that not all technologies are created equal. If your current tech is not providing the quality of support your customers expect, consider looking into more advanced solutions to avoid falling behind your competition.