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How to Use AI for Customer Service

Rachel Nizinski, Appian
December 20, 2023

Customer service is an art—and a science. It isn’t just a transactional function. It's also a relationship building activity that’s deeply tied to physiological responses in our brains. And the stakes are high: these interactions shape the neural architecture of customer loyalty.

So can you use AI for customer service? Let’s explore that question.

The psychology behind customer service.

When a customer experiences great service, their brain releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin, creating positive associations with the brand. Conversely, poor service triggers a stress response, leaving a lasting negative impression.

As businesses strive for successful legacy modernization, integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into customer service has emerged as a key initiative. 

But there’s still one question on everyone's mind: 

Can AI, driven by algorithms and data, replicate the human empathy and emotional intelligence needed for exceptional customer service? 

[8 experts weigh in on the future of AI. Download their insights in the 2024 AI Outlook.]

Benefits of AI for customer service.

Imagine a world where automated call answering services don’t just understand what you’re saying but can actually  resolve your issue without endless requests for more information or making you wait on hold for a human. Or, on the employee end, one where you don’t have to sift through hundreds of emails or input repetitive manual data to complete a customer request. 

Customer service can benefit from AI in a few key ways:

Better customer insights from better data.

AI leverages vast amounts of data to extract meaningful insights into customer behavior, preferences, and pain points. Analysis of historical data and real-time interactions generates insights that can be used to improve customer satisfaction and proactively address potential issues.

More personalized experiences and customer interactions.

AI enables organizations to create personalized customer experiences by understanding individual preferences and behaviors. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants use natural language processing to engage in conversation, providing fast and tailored solutions. This level of personalization creates a stronger connection between the customer and the brand.

Reduced manual work for faster service.

AI plays a crucial role in automating simple tasks, allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues that require emotional intelligence and nuanced understanding. When AI is embedded in a wider process automation platform, workflows run more smoothly, response times are reduced, and efficiency is maximized.

[Want to learn how to revolutionize productivity with Appian's enterprise-ready AI architecture? Watch the webinar.]

How to use AI for customer service.

While the AI frenzy has only recently captivated the mind of every business, executive, and board member, AI has been used in customer service for decades.

And the recent influx of support for AI initiatives is pushing businesses to discover new ways to transform customer experiences with hyper-personalized interactions and instantaneous service.

Businesses are using AI for customer service to:

Streamline resolution with automated ticketing and routing.

AI streamlines the ticketing process by automatically categorizing and routing customer issues to the most appropriate department or agent. This ensures that customer queries are directed to individuals with the relevant expertise, leading to faster and more effective problem resolution.

AI can even go a step further by predicting potential issues based on historical data and patterns. Customer support teams can then proactively identify and address problems before they escalate to prevent customer dissatisfaction and demonstrate a commitment to excellence service.

Reduce manual work with AI extraction and classification.

Customer service teams slowed down by emails and paperwork can use AI to pull and categorize relevant information from documents and emails and provide quick summaries—sometimes even with suggested responses or next steps. This reduces the hours a day that customer service agents spend on manual work so they can focus on personalized service and complicated requests.

Generate data insights to better understand your customers.

AI can sift through vast amounts of data to extract actionable insights, identify areas for enhancement and innovation in products or services, and understand individual customer preferences. This allows businesses to offer highly personalized product or service recommendations to enhance the customer’s shopping experience and increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

It can even help businesses understand customer sentiment by analyzing customer feedback and interactions across various channels, such as social media, emails, and chat, and give businesses data with which to gauge customer mood—crucial information for improving overall satisfaction,

Power chatbots and virtual assistants to provide faster, always-on responses.

AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants are at the forefront of customer service automation. These intelligent systems handle common customer questions, provide instant and relevant responses, and guide users through simple problem-solving processes. By doing so, they significantly reduce response times, ensuring that customers receive swift and accurate assistance around the clock.

Overcoming obstacles and maximizing AI potential.

The opportunities for applying AI for better customer service are endless. But this massive potential also poses some hard-to-tackle challenges with AI implementation and adoption.

One of the primary challenges of successful AI use is data. High-quality, connected data is essential for AI-powered insights and recommendations. Inaccurate or incomplete data can lead to flawed insights and hinder the effectiveness of AI applications. And if you don’t have a strategy in place for data privacy, AI can cause big compliance and regulatory concerns.

And scaling AI solutions across an entire organization can be complex, especially when dealing with legacy systems and diverse technologies. Ensuring seamless integration and scalability requires careful planning and investment in flexible, future-proof AI infrastructure.

Process automation platforms like Appian can help. AI is woven throughout our entire platform—which is powered by an underlying data fabric that connects and unifies data across your business. And because of our private approach to AI, your data stays yours.

AI for customer service represents a transformative opportunity for organizations to elevate the customer experience. By leveraging data-driven insights, creating personalized customer service interactions, and optimizing operations through process orchestration, businesses can stay ahead in the competitive landscape.

AI is transforming the way we work. To stay ahead, get guidance from the experts. Download the 2024 AI Outlook.