Your Guide To AI Automation in Customer Service
(Almost) everything you need to know about AI support automation 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 automation and discover what it can do for your brand.
Why TF Are Top Brands Using AI Automation For Customer Service?
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.
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:
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, their customers will start to 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.
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.
Faster Response and Resolution Times
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%!
Alleviates Pressure on Agents
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.
Personalization at Scale
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.
Reduce Costs and Boost Revenue
How can using AI for customer experience can 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 quickly, accurately, and consistently resolving 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.
How TF Does AI Automation Help My Customer Service Agents?
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. 👇
Ways Your Customer Support Team Benefits From AI Automation:
Cuts down on repetitive tickets
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.
Frees agents to focus on what they do best
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!
More opportunities for growth
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.
Sustains team culture
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.
AI Automation and The Future of Work
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.
What TF is The Difference Between AI Automation and a Chatbot?
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:
1. Communication Channels
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.
3. Level of Understanding
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.
4. Customer Context
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!
8. Human Touch
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.
When TF Is My Service Organization Ready To Implement AI Automation?
✋ Hold up! Before investing time and resources into any new technology, it’s important to determine if it’s the right solution for your business and confirm you’re set up to maximize the benefits. AI customer service automation is no different. Ensuring your service organization is actually ready for AI automation is essential if you want to get the results you’re looking for.
So how TF do you know when it’s the right time for your business to implement AI?
Signs Your Customer Service is Ready for AI
1. You have a helpdesk software
With a helpdesk in place, AI offers both speed and precision for resolutions. If you do not yet have a helpdesk, it’s a step you’ll want to take before implementing AI.
2. Your policies are standardized
It is imperative to have standard procedures for handling customer issues. Without established protocols, AI will not be able to function effectively.
3. You have high volumes of repetitive ticket types
You need a big enough problem for AI to solve and consistent responses with which to help solve it. Repetitive ticket types are perfect for AI: unlike human agents, it can quickly handle large amounts of repetitive requests without burning out or getting frustrated. It also allows your human agents to focus their time and energy on providing more meaningful experiences.
4. You have a high volume of tier 1 customer support tickets
Tier 1 tickets, such as order tracking or account-related inquiries, are ideal for AI because they can be handled with speed and precision.
5. Your agents are overwhelmed
When agents get burnt out, they’re more likely to get frustrated and make mistakes. It can also contribute to an increase in wait times, making customers even more impatient. AI can help alleviate pressure on agents while ensuring customers are receiving the quick and accurate service they expect.
6. You experience spikes in ticket volume
If your ticket numbers soar during certain times, it can be hard for agents to keep up. AI helps by scaling and responding just as quickly to 1,000 tickets as it does to ten. This enables you to provide your customers with quick and consistent service, even when there is a huge influx in tickets.
7. Your data is structured and accessible
If the answers to your customers’ problems are written on scraps of paper or exist as a PDF, then AI solutions will not be as useful. The data must be stored in a database that is accessible via API or webhooks.
8. You’re excited about what AI can do for your business
Like any technology implementation, willingness and excitement are essential for long-term success. Whether your business is new to AI or you’re ready to level up your AI solution, it’s important that your team is ready to hop on board. The more you are willing to opt-in, the more you will get out of the technology, and the more your CX will improve!
If your business meets the readiness requirements 👉 It’s go time!
If your business has yet to meet the readiness requirements, the good news is that you’re heading in the right direction! To keep moving forward, follow the steps outlined in the AI Readiness Playbook and track your progress with the AI Readiness Checklist.
The more you know about the AI implementation process the more you can set your service organization up for success, so download the complete AI Readiness Kit today!
How TF Do I Implement AI Automation?
Key Steps For Integrating AI Into Your CS
1. Revisit Your Policies
The most advanced AI solutions will align response flows to your brand and policies. Before starting the process, take a deep look at your policies and ensure they are meeting your customers’ needs. The more customer-centric your policies are, the happier your customers will be.
2. Choose the best AI partner
Integrating AI customer support automation into your business is a process, and having a third-party partner can ensure that you stay on the best track. The right company will guide you through the planning and implementation; providing expertise on how to best optimize AI for your business. For best results, you will also want a partner that can align their AI customer service solution with your brand to ensure customers receive responses that follow your policies and brand tone.
3. Link to the right processes
It doesn’t make sense to put your AI in charge of unique tickets or resolve problems that haven't happened before. AI customer experience automation is best-suited for repeat tickets like shipping and returns questions, password resets, and tracking help.
So be sure to understand when and when not to use AI. Double-check that you have airtight standard processes in place. Because if you put AI where it doesn’t belong, it could create more work and errors for your agents to clean up.
4. Make the experience frictionless for customers
Customers want a smooth experience, from hopping on your site to buy new shoes to ticket resolution. Your AI should interface well with your customers and your platform. Any automation should feel personalized. Customer experience should remain number one throughout the process.
There's no sense in achieving a fast implementation at the risk of losing customers or lowering CSAT scores. Pace your execution to allow customers to have a seamless transition.
5. Remain personal
Through text analysis, AI collects data to better understand each customer, and recommend products or helpful guides. So even with automation, customers can feel cared for and valued.
6. Build trust between AI and agents
AI is meant to augment human agents. Your support team should know why you've chosen to implement AI, know all about the AI system and its basic functionality, the purpose behind it, why it is being utilized, and how their roles might change for the better.
7. Refine your strategies and processes
The right AI partner and technology will enable you to easily test strategies, processes, and promotions. For optimal success, pinpoint your focus and create clear procedures and responses. This nuance includes naming conventions; establishing distinct terms for different actions and promotions will increase veracity for both your AI Agent and human agents.
8. Test, evaluate, and adapt
The benefits of AI automation in customer service are high: faster response and resolution times, improved customer satisfaction, greater consistency, and reduced costs. Implement with a clear plan to ensure you maximize its capabilities over time.
Continually test the system, evaluate how consumers respond, and make adjustments. For the best success, find an AI partner who will walk with you every step of the way.