AI in Customer Care: It’s Not Just About Chatbots

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Guest article by Matt Zelen is Chief Customer Officer at Act-On Software, a marketing automation provider.

 

Artificial intelligence is increasingly being deployed in customer care – a phenomenon people often associate with chatbots. But in B2B, these automated conversational assistants that pop up on web pages and in applications are just one part of the picture, with AI advances transforming an array of post-sales activities and experiences.

Consider that by 2020, according to an oft-quoted Gartner projection, intelligent automation will manage 85 percent of customer interactions. In the B2B world, this means dramatic changes across the customer service spectrum – from on boarding to ongoing care to the renewal process. Machines can now identify patterns in customer behaviour and help determine courses of action to make the customer engagement as successful as possible.

And what about the other 15 percent of customer interactions that are managed by humans? One of AI’s most powerful attributes is its ability to predict when a customer relationship is running into trouble, giving companies advance notice to engage with high-touch service.

Thus, it’s apt to think of AI not as a replacement for human customer service – computers will never be a substitute for human empathy – but as a super-smart assistant. The assistant supports an organisation’s need to be more effective and efficient in mobilising the right resources to assure customer success while also maintaining personalisation.

 

 

Here’s how AI can specifically help in the three stages of customer care. In all three, the magic of AI is its ability to predict success or failure based on the patterns of similar customers with similar use cases in the past.

On boarding: The first step for any company should be to deeply understand what value its product offers and how the customer measures ROI. Then, AI can be used to see if customers are implementing the product in the intended way and when they’re not.

Upon determining that an implementation is veering off course, the AI system can recommend the best way to proactively engage with the customer -- whether that’s high touch or electronic outreach -- based on signals in the customer’s actions or behaviours. And if electronic is determined to be the right choice, the system can show the best route. For example, it can get as granular as showing that the best way to attract a certain buyer’s attention is through a LinkedIn message rather than an email.

The AI system then can learn from how successful the method of outreach was or wasn’t and incorporate those insights in future interactions.

Optimisation: After on boarding is complete, companies need to know whether customers are continuing to derive optimal value from the product. Are there behavioural changes suggesting otherwise? What is responsible for them? Has an advocate for the product changed jobs?

 

 

The AI system can pick up on this digital trail of clues and initiate a conversation with the customer through the channel that works best for them.

Renewal: Based on information from the previous two stages, the AI system can segment customers into a variety of buckets – such as likely to renew, uncertain or at risk, as well as other factors such as the customer’s profitability to the company – and recommend best next steps.

All of this allows companies to maximise their human customer service resources. They end up with an automated, intelligent system that addresses the majority of customer needs, but also a talented team that knows how to deal with more complex situations.

It’s worth noting that another benefit of AI in customer care lies outside customer care itself: The knowledge gained about how customers work with the product can then provide a feedback loop to the entire organisation on the features customers are using or need, thus influencing the product roadmap.

AI is an invaluable tool in enriching the customer relationships that businesses work so hard to develop. Just as on the pre-sale side, intelligent automation can have a profound impact on companies’ efficiency and effectiveness in promoting satisfaction throughout the customer journey, in ways that go far beyond chatbots.