How the Customer Experience Will Change in the Age of AI
Artificial intelligence and automation are poised to reshape how businesses interact with customers in the coming years as technologies mature and consumer demand for faster and more conversational service increases.
“Like it or not, AI is becoming way more sophisticated and able to interact with us in ways that we deem acceptable — and it will continue to do so at a lot faster pace than we’ve ever seen before,” says Noah Boudreaux, the executive vice president of data center sales and operations at EATEL Business.
During a recent Tech Park Academy event at the Louisiana Technology Park, Boudreaux gave an overview of the state of AI and how it offers new possibilities for business and the customer experience. Here’s a look at some of what he shared.
Changing Customer Demands
Boudreaux, who has led several technology firms in the Baton Rouge area, says customer experience strategies are shifting to meet changing consumer needs — namely that they expect much more when it comes to consistency and speed. “It’s almost assumed you’ll be fast in getting back with customers today,” he says.
At the same time, customer service interactions are rapidly becoming more conversational, with consumers increasingly bypassing traditional support channels like phone, email or web forms and choosing messaging platforms that offer more immediate digital feedback.
“People are expecting to use their mobile devices and interact almost instantaneously to get a response if they’re having a support issue, if they’ve made an order or if their service is progressing,” he says.
Chatbots and Beyond
Boudreaux says chatbots are playing a larger role in assisting the customer experience. While AI-based chatbots are gradually becoming more sophisticated, he says they still have strengths and weaknesses.
“The utilization of chatbots and AI to assist in the customer experience is progressing, but it’s not quite where you think it would be quite yet,” he says.
Boudreaux says the majority of current bots are fairly effective at one-step tasks such as content delivery or answering frequently asked questions. But they are far less effective when handling more complex jobs for customers like product research and consultative purchases.
Boudreaux says one of the barriers that developers must overcome is creating bots that can efficiently access and analyze vast amounts of back-end product and customer data while simultaneously keeping up a human conversation.
Boudreaux says some of the most effective applications of AI and chatbots are being supplemented by actual humans who can step in when necessary and assist a customer.
These “agent-augmented” systems essentially allow chatbots to work on frontline customer service tasks, but with support from others, such as a company’s salesforce, marketing reps or other customer service professionals.
As an example, Boudreaux cites software developed by IMImobile, which is building customer service chatbots designed to handle easier tasks, such as ID verification, while allowing customers to seamlessly interact with a human counterpart when necessary. He says the company has implemented one such system at a utility; it can autonomously set service times for repairs while seamlessly directing customers to human agents for more complicated requests.
“It can really take a lot of burden away from your traditional call center, so those agents can focus on areas that are too complex for the chatbot to handle,” he says.
Tech Park Academy is a monthly seminar hosted by the Louisiana Technology Park that offers talks from talented, knowledgeable professionals who have invaluable information to share. These events are accompanied by a catered lunch, which is included in the ticket price of $10.