AI-Powered Customer Service Needs The Human Touch

AI-Powered Customer Service Needs The Human Touch
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Artificial intelligence, with the human touch, is building a new customer experience

Artificial Intelligence is the definitive technology of the 21st century. All businesses of every size, in every industry will be impacted by AI. In the age of the connected customer, every 1 in 5 U.S. adults are almost never offline, customer experience is the battleground for true differentiation. Today, every successful consumer application is powered by AI. Tomorrow, every successful business will be powered by AI. The line-of-business that is most likely to embrace AI first will be the customer service – typically the most process oriented and technology savvy organization within most companies. But before we dig into AI’s tremendous potential in transforming customer service, let’s scope AI’s market size and growth projections.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Market Size and Future Projections

Today, 38% of enterprises are already using artificial intelligence (AI), growing to 62% by 2018. Forrester is predicting a 300% increase in AI investments in 2017 compared to 2016 and IDC believes AI will be a $47 billion market by 2020. Forrester lists the top 10 AI technologies here:

Top AI Technologies 2017 And Beyond

Top AI Technologies 2017 And Beyond


Gartner named Intelligence – Applied AI and Advance Machine Learning, Intelligent Apps, and Intelligent Things – as 3 of its top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017.

“AI and machine learning have reached a critical tipping point and will increasingly augment and extend virtually every technology enabled service, thing or application. Creating intelligent systems that learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously rather than simply execute predefined instructions is primary battleground for technology vendors through at least 2020.” -- Gartner
AI & Advanced Machine Learning: “AI and machine learning (ML), which include technologies such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing, can also encompass more advanced systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously. Systems can learn and change future behavior, leading to the creation of more intelligent devices and programs.” -- Gartner

The disruptive power of AI will impact every business, in every industry. According to Gartner, by 2020, 20% of companies will dedicate workers to monitor and guide neural networks. Gartner advises CIOs to look at areas of the company that have large data sets but lack analytics. AI can provide augmented intelligence with respect to discovery, predictions, recommendations and automation at scale.

“Any industry with very large amounts of data — so much that humans can’t possibly analyze or understand it on their own — can utilize AI.” -- Gartner

PWC named Artificial Intelligence (AI) as one of the eight essential technologies in business. Today, there are 1,652 artificial intelligence (AI) startups and private companies that have captured over $12.24 billion of funding.

AI Startup Ecosystem 2017

AI Startup Ecosystem 2017

Venture Scanner

The power of artificial intelligence is mass personalization and contextual intelligence at scale. According to Accenture’s 2017 Technology Vision Report, AI could double annual economic growth rates by 2035. Accenture also notes that AI is the new UI. “AI is becoming the new user interface (UI), underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems. Seventy-nine percent of business leaders agree that AI will revolutionize the way they gain information from and interact with customers. As AI takes over more of the user experience, it grows beyond just an intelligent interface. With each customer interaction becoming more personalized, powerful, and natural, AI moves into an even more prominent position: your digital spokesperson,” —Accenture Technology Vision 2017

AI Implementation Realities in the Enterprise

Although Amazon’s Alexa, has evolved from 1,000 voice command interpretations (or skills) to now more than 10,000 skills in one year period, there is still a lot of AI progress to be made before machines can truly understand and guide next best actions.

Robots, AI will replace 7% of US jobs by 2025 – Forrester. Here are the highlights of the report:

  • 16% of US jobs will be replaced, while the equivalent of 9% jobs will be created — a net loss of 7% of US jobs by 2025.
  • Office and administrative support staff will be the most rapidly disrupted.
  • The cognitive era will create new jobs, such as robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators: Forrester forecasts 8.9 million new jobs in the US by 2025
  • 93% of automation technologists feel unprepared or only partially prepared to tackle the challenges associated with smart machine technologies.

The future of work projections and AI’s impact on jobs may appear aggressive and somewhat unrealistic. In order to better understand the realities of AI in business, it is important to define phases and prerequisite of AI deployments in large businesses.

The three key phases of enterprise AI roll out: data, algorithms, and workflows. The power of AI usefulness is a function of the quality and quantity of data. Algorithms will help deliver insights – discovery, prediction, recommendation and automation of existing manual processes require strong, self-learning and adaptable algorithms. The final phase and the most challenging is the workflows. The constant iteration of analyzing data, researching and developing algorithms, and creating timely actions based on gleaned insights through robust workflows is the job of data scientists and line-of-business people experts. Workflows that guide customer engagements must not be automated to a point where businesses lose sight on the importance of the human touch, empathy and relationship building aimed at earning the right to be a trusted advisor and strategic business partner.

For most companies, the algorithms and workflow complexities will the use of augmented intelligence. This is especially true for complex customer relationship management workflows in B2B customer service functions. That said, there is exponential growth in AI innovation and advancements and companies cannot afford to tag AI as hype, only to find themselves significantly behind their competitors in 1-2 years. AI knowledge, planning and adoption must happen now.

The Role of AI in Customer Service

Today machines have the ability to interact with humans at a level that used to only seem possible in sci-fi movies. Amazon serves up personalized product recommendations, Facebook automatically tags photos and Google maps proactively reroutes you around traffic. AI is powering nearly every experience we have-- making it smarter, seamless and personalized-- and as a result our expectations as consumers are at an all-time high. The most indispensable consumer apps are powered by AI technologies, delivering real personalized value, in real-time. This seamless personalized, immediate and intelligent user experience will make its way to every business, across all industries. AI in business will create motion and flow-based solutions and services. In order for customer service leaders to stay relevant, they must think differently and educate their stakeholder about AI. AI allows companies to deliver these smarter, more personalized and predictive experiences that customers have come to expect, but the human touch is still table stakes for customer success. The most suitable line-of-business to start with AI? Customer Service.

According to Salesforce research, 92% percent of senior executives believe that customer experience is a key competitive differentiator and they view customer service as the primary vehicle for improving the customer experience. In order for customer service organizations to lead customer experience transformation, they must fully embrace, deploy and utilize AI technologies.

What does excellent customer service look like? According to research, excellent customer service is personalized, always on and real-time, consistent and omni-channel. To achieve customer service excellence, service organization must leverage AI to bolster their discovery, prediction, recommendation and automation engines.

What does excellent customer service look like?

What does excellent customer service look like?

Salesforce Research

In the age of the customer, contact channels are expanding rapidly and the amount of data created - both structured and unstructured means that service organizations are drowning in data, but starving for actionable insights.

The growing customer contact channels

The growing customer contact channels

Salesforce Research

Forrester identifies extended and enhanced self-service, powered by AI technologies as one of its top trends for customer service in 2017. “Customer service will continue to invest in structured knowledge management and leverage communities to extend the reach of curated content. Service will become more ubiquitous, via speech interfaces, devices with embedded knowledge, and wearables for service technicians,” said Kate Leggett. The second top trend is sustained customer conversations using natural language processing technology. “Companies will continue to explore the power of intelligent agents to add conversational interfaces to static self-service content. They will anticipate needs by context, preferences, and prior queries and will deliver proactive alerts, relevant offers, or content,” said Leggett.

Top service teams are 3.9X more likely than underperforming service organizations to say predictive intelligence will have transformational impact on their customer service by 2020. The common theme that I hear as I collaborate with business leaders is that AI biggest potential is to augment our ability to connect with customers and giving way to a smarter customer experience.

Intelligent Service Capabilities

Intelligent Service Capabilities


With projections of 6 billion smartphone users and over 50 billion connected devices by 2020, the next generation customer experience will be powered by artificial intelligence. A CRM platform powered by AI will analyze customer engagements and automatically predict sentiment and adjust customer journeys to ensure optimal user experience. The same logic applied to prediction marketing lead scores and sales opportunity conversions will be applied to customer services cases, optimizing time-to-resolution cycles and improved customers satisfaction and net promoter scores (NPS).

CRM is the foundational building block of a company's customer experience strategy to win, serve, and retain customers. It enables new business strategies, integrates to many technologies and is constantly rejuvenated by new trends. Customers want to easily connect with, interact with, make purchases from, or get service from a company. For example, 72% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that a company can do to provide them with good service. Companies must offer customers ways to easily engage with them to foster an ongoing omnichannel dialogue and relationship that strengthen loyalty and retention. – Kate Leggett, Forrester

Service organizations can significantly improve the customer experience and bolster service delivery capacities using AI technologies. Service managers using AI can gain real-time insights across all customer contact channels with AI-powered analytics to increase team productivity and CSAT. By using smart data discovery, service managers can optimize agent availability, wait times and opportunities for proactive service delivery. Using machine learning, cases are automatically escalated and classified using sensitivity and domain expertise predictive analytics. AI powered chat bots can deliver knowledge using automated workflows. Field service professionals can use mobile apps powered by AI, delivering precision service based on access to CRM data that can deliver personalized services anywhere. AI powered field apps use algorithms to optimize scheduling and routing using complete CRM data.

Future of customer service is personalized, intelligent and proactive

Future of customer service is personalized, intelligent and proactive

Salesforce Research

The top trends for CRM in 2017 includes intelligence powering prescriptive advice, according to Forrester.

“Intelligence powers prescriptive advice. Decisioning — determining a customer's or system's next action — is pervasive in customer-facing organizations. Rules pinpoint the right prospects, route leads to appropriate resources, and recommend issue resolution. Many companies use a combination of rules and analytics to personalize offers to customers but fall short in leveraging the true power of analytics for customer intelligence. In 2017, organizations will continue to use analytics to prescribe the right action for customer-facing employees in the context of CRM applications. For example, sales teams will use prescriptive advice to identify high-quality leads, the most useful relationships within firms, the right contacts, and the most relevant sales collateral for buyers' role. Sales will also use it for product bundling and discounting to maximize revenue per contract.” – Kate Leggett, Forrester

The advantage of a CRM platform powered by artificial intelligence goes far beyond just the services organization. At Salesforce, the artificial intelligence technology, called Einstein, is infused across all the Salesforce clouds, giving over 150,000 companies that use Salesforce to seamlessly access AI capabilities across their sales, services, marketing, IT and community organizations. Marketers using AI have seen an average 25% lift in click through and opens. Sales professionals using AI predictive lead scoring have a 300% increase in lead to opportunity conversions. Commerce teams using AI have 7-15% increase in revenue per site visitor.

Artificial Intelligence is the definitive technology for the 21st century, and companies that use AI as augmented intelligence to make more informed and faster decisions will win the age of the customer where personalization, immediacy and intelligence are the new currencies of growing businesses. But to sustain growth and earn customer’s trust, businesses have to use common sense, care more and be cautious of over-automating. Businesses must practice empathy, inside and outside of the company, and deliver on their promises.

More costs could be taken out, more products could be sold, more customers could be made happy, with a minimum of AI and a maximum of common sense and excellent focus on end-to-end process design. AI and empathetic process design are a great pair. AI alone leaves us back in the ’80s when Lisp was a popular tool for AI. The same AI that languished for another 30 years.” – Michael Moaz, Gartner

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