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Artificial Intelligence in Customer Care: Will Machine Learning & Co. Eventually Replace Human Service Experts?

Ranjeet Walunj

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Thanks to lightning-fast information processing, artificial intelligence and supercomputers promise a more effective service than any human service expert could possibly ever offer. On the other hand, an excellent customer care experience is characterized by personalization and empathy, based on emotional intelligence. We’ve been looking at the latest trends in artificial intelligence and been thinking about where the journey in customer care might take us.

 

 

Terms such as artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, deep learning or machine learning sound rather heavy – too inaccessible, in any case, for the average user of everyday technology to be able to envision something specific. Google finds this as well and has created a very interesting website with A.I. Experiments where everyone can try out entertaining showcases of artificial intelligence (AI).

 

Progress in Research Combined with a Sense of Practicality

 

Applications such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant show us in more or less impressive ways the fact that AI is beyond the showcase phase. However, anyone who believes that the aforementioned examples are merely nice gimmicks overlooks the fact that we are at an exciting stage: Like never before, technology companies are investing in artificial intelligence, whilst at the same time the findings in research and development are progressing at a remarkable pace. Therefore, we don’t take a risk by predicting the breakthrough of AI on a broad front by the end of the decade.

 

Gartner lists AI and advanced machine learning as number 1 in their current top 10 strategic technology trends. So what should we expect from AI in the area of customer care? Some customer experience visionaries assume that supercomputers can, for example, replace call center agents sooner or later. In addition to the aforementioned examples of AI from our everyday life, supercomputers like Watson from IBM do amazing things. With algorithms modeled on human learning, the supercomputer lets Siri & Co. look tame in comparison. IBM itself assumes that Watson will definitely replace human service experts sooner or later.

 

Can Artificial Intelligence also be Empathic?

 

Against this thesis it is argued that customer care functions most effectively when human beings and machines are combined. Whilst supercomputers work more intelligently through AI, they cannot convincingly understand a person’s emotional intelligence. However, the ability to show empathy is the key to truly superior service, especially when in contact with customers who are dealing with difficult questions or a serious problem for customer care.

 

IBM Watson may be the best invention since Google to efficiently solve customer enquiries. In order to understand their anger and realize what they really want, the emotional intelligence of human support experts and contact center agents is essential to remain calm and sensitive in heated service talks, which occur from time to time.

 

Closing Gaps in Exchange of Customer Care Information

 

The customer experience still continues to suffer from the fact that information required to solve a problem is not available. In order to precisely find the information with which they can answer a customer request, support experts require access to the data scattered throughout a company. This can prove to be a great challenge in times of large amounts of data: Wherever gigabytes of data are daily collected and processed, people can no longer search for existing information, and then use it to solve a problem.

 

This is where supercomputers like Watson have major advantages, since they are specialized in searching for millions of disordered data records in a sensible and extremely quick manner when looking for a required detail. With a well thought out integration into the customer care process, Al can close the gap between questions and answers. At the same time, computers like Watson are becoming more intelligent with every new piece of information and can effectively support human service experts. For customer care organizations, the question is not of how Al can replace human competence, but rather how it can complement humans in a meaningful way. From the customer’s point of view, this will help to reduce the time needed to solve a problem while service experts can focus on empathically communicating with customers and providing a truly personalized and individual service experience.

 

Conclusion: Al will support customer care organizations in solving customer queries much more efficiently. In crucial situations, however, the human touch will continue to be important. In order to understand customer problems and recognize what they really want, the emotional intelligence of human support experts is essential. Are you already counting on artificial intelligence in customer care? Please write to us and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up with the latest developments from B2X.

 

Ranjeet Walunj is the Chief Technology Officer at B2X.

 

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