Original article was published by ThinkOwl on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
What is AI Helpdesk Software and Why is it Critical for Customer Experience in 2020 and Beyond
As organizations navigate the impact of COVID 19, customer experience (CX) is at the front and center of the business agenda. We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the brand-customer dynamic — supply chain disruptions, social distancing rules, and record unemployment levels have contributed to a general climate of uncertainty. Customer priorities and behaviors are changing as they become more cautious of what, where, and how they make their purchases.
With access to fewer customer touchpoints and reduced employee headcounts, business leaders have quickly realized that customer experience is the new battlefield for brands looking to remaining relevant in a post-pandemic world. And contact centers are a big part of it.
Customer service has been one of the worst-hit business functions since the pandemic. With agents working from home and service tickets flooding in, customer service teams are struggling to keep up, and this is taking a toll on the CX.
Businesses must now reassess how they can strategically leverage their contact centers to support agents while continuing to deliver personalized customer experiences. It’s a hard balance to strike. General customer sentiment as a result of fear and frustration presents organizations with an entirely new set of opportunities and challenges. That’s where artificial intelligence-powered (AI) helpdesk solutions promise to change the rules of engagement.
What is an AI Helpdesk?
An AI helpdesk is a customer service software that leverages technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and conversational interfaces to improve customer and agent experiences. AI helpdesk solutions not only streamline processes but increase agent productivity and efficiency by automating workflows and analyzing customer queries to deliver faster resolution rates.
Traditionally, the customer service function has been reactive — agents manually verify the information before proceeding to address queries/questions customers might have. At times this can become frustrating and reflect poorly on customer service key performance indicators (KPIs) such as call durations and customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores.
If you’ve worked at a contact center, you’re probably all-too-familiar with the tedious process of collecting data, categorizing queries, and rerouting tickets. Here’s where AI promises to transform the way agents interact with customers and their work.
5 Ways AI Helpdesks Improve Customer Experiences
As the pandemic rages on, contact center agents are working from home for the first time, and this means, CX leaders are under increasing pressure to do more with less. Infrastructure issues and the lack of on-the-floor support has led to agents struggling more than usual to help customers. Businesses with staff in the office do not have it any easier — operating with fewer agents is challenging, particularly when you’re in the throes of a global health crisis.
So, here is how AI can help businesses win the battle for customer experience in 2020 and beyond:
1. Reduce Average Handle Time
Over the past few years, chatbots have come a long way. From using canned or pre-determined responses, AI-based chatbots today have become truly conversational. They leverage NLP and contextual analysis to engage users in better, more natural conversations. Additionally, their ability to handle complex requests have made them an indispensable element of high-impact customer service teams.
Chatbots like ThinkOwl’s integrated assistant empower customer service teams to handle higher chat volumes with the same amount of agents, thereby, reducing average handle times and eliminating the need for additional hires. AI-powered chatbots are also effective in routing incoming calls and customer requests to appropriate teams, reducing transfers and time-to-resolution.
2. Realize Significant Cost Savings
Building on the point above, AI helpdesk solutions have a direct impact on a business’s top-line and bottom-line performance. By automating the process of customer information gathering, AI chatbots can route escalations within seconds, improving agent efficiency while driving incremental revenue. With chatbots becoming the first point of contact for customers, companies can save on expensive voice calls in the contact center. A study exploring the link between AI and contact center ROI found that even if a customer makes a “call me” command to connect with a live agent after initiating chatbot interaction, the business ends up paying 33 percent less for outbound calls than inbound calls.
3. Deliver Improved Personalization
AI helpdesk solutions are always continually learning through real-life dialogs — which means they get smarter every day. Businesses and customer service teams can deliver real-time personalization by leveraging machine learning-enabled chatbots. Helpdesk solutions that draw on multichannel capabilities can seamlessly cross-reference across channels (social, email, chats, etc.) to help CX teams gain deeper insights into customer behavior, feedback, and complaints. CX leaders can then apply these insights to identify areas of improvement and optimize their services.
4. Enhance Agent Experience
AI-enabled automation eliminates repetitive, time-consuming, low-value tasks that traditionally prevented agents from focusing on value creation. Intelligent helpdesk software provides agents with instant access to internal questions and resources, improving productivity, and reducing training times. Improved performance makes for happier agents which translates to satisfied customers and stakeholders.
As organizations look to support their employees through the pandemic and create better workplaces, AI helpdesk solutions have emerged as a powerful tool for customer service leaders to combat burnout and employee turnover. Improved agent experience is not just an outcome of agent-assist use-cases but also a result of improved routing processes that in turn, produce better agent-customer interactions. For instance, if customers are routed to the correct department after initial interaction, they are less likely to be angry or frustrated, which translates to improved agent experience.
5. Build a Stronger Brand Image
Brand perception has never been more important. The way brands treat their customers during times of crisis determines how customers perceive them. Empathy and authenticity are the pillars of exceptional customer experiences — and are more relevant than ever in the current context. With AI helpdesk solutions taking over the grunt work in customer service, agents are better positioned to focus their time and efforts on adding the human touch.
By training agents on the fundamentals of empathetic communication, brands can provide meaning to their customers’ choices and differentiate themselves. It goes without saying that early adopters of AI customer service solutions stand to benefit from the reduced churn and positive brand perception.
Moreover, brands are likely to be perceived as innovators when they highlight their technological capabilities such as AI, machine learning, and NLP. By embracing advanced technologies, brands can identify a lot more with innovation in their customers’ eyes than by relying solely on advertising or marketing.
Conclusion: What to Know When Investing in an AI Helpdesk Solution
While forward-looking organizations have ramped up AI investments, the penetration of intelligent helpdesk software in customer service remains low. The pandemic has served as a catalyst for digital transformation 2.0, but budget cuts and lower sales revenues have compelled businesses to hold off on immediate purchases. CX leaders and customer service teams can use this time to explore the AI helpdesk market and find a potential solution that offers free trials, flexible pricing, and round-the-clock customer support. For organizations planning on investing in an AI helpdesk solution in 2020, we recommend keeping an eye out for a few specific capabilities:
- Data Security: As the shift towards remote work intensifies, CX leaders must assess a potential vendor’s capabilities when it comes to data security. GDPR and the more recent California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) require customer service teams to comply with data privacy and security laws. Ensuring your vendor complies with state, federal, and international data compliance standards are critical for realizing the benefits of an AI helpdesk solution.
- Advanced Analytics and Reporting: According to the World Economic Forum, recovery from the pandemic might be slow and long-drawn-out, which means, CX/customer service budgets will come under increasing scrutiny. To make a strong business case for intelligent helpdesk software, CX leaders must evaluate the analytical and reporting capabilities of potential software. After all, you can only manage what you can measure. Stakeholders and CEOs will increasingly look to determine the ROI of technology investments in hard dollar figures. In that case, being able to demonstrate the value of your AI helpdesk software will rely solely on its analytics and reporting features.
- Integrations: Finally, the success of your AI helpdesk implementation will largely depend on how well it plays with other systems (ERP/CRM/BI systems) at your organization. We recommend choosing a solution that easily integrates with your existing infrastructure and allows for the seamless flow of data between systems. Expensive integration requirements are a big red flag when assessing potential helpdesk solutions. Steer clear of solutions that demand extensive process realignment or development efforts.
Also Read: The 6R’s of an awesome customer service
An organization may have little control over external disruptions like the pandemic, or the strength of the competition it faces. But it has considerable influence over the way it responds to these changes. AI helpdesk software can soften the blow of external uncertainties and bring extraordinary CX results within reach. However, unlocking the true promise of AI helpdesk software depends on choosing the right partner for your CX transformation journey.