From novels to movies, the representation of artificial intelligence (AI) has been largely negative and dystopic. However, humanity has come a long way from fear to willingness for adoption, and the present-day norm. According to a survey, in 2017, only 20% of enterprises had incorporated AI in at least one business area; this number rose by 50% in 2022 – a 2.5x increase. Thus, adopting AI has been a steady process, particularly in customer communication. For example, a recent survey found that 90% of marketing professionals across 35 countries utilize AI tools to automate customer interactions. Let us discuss how the future of customer communication management (CCM) will be a partnership between humans and AI.
Opening the door to AI
AI’s ability to emulate human speech and sensibilities has made it more acceptable as a crucial driver in successfully embedding it in everyday customer interactions. Below are some of the key reasons promoting the adoption of AI in communication and why an AI-human combination is the best approach for resolving challenges:
Bringing human-centric skills:
The strides made in AI in recent years have endowed it with the ability to emulate certain human-like qualities. This includes empathy, conflict resolution, and sensitivity, among others. For example, the responses generated by AI-led tools such as chatbots appear polite, professional, patient, and personal, which are essential aspects of human communication. However, combining AI’s abilities with human expertise is crucial if a complex customer-centric experience beyond mere logical outputs is to be created.
Collaborating with AI, not opposing it
In 1997, Deep Blue, IBM’s supercomputer, defeated Garry Kasparov, the then-world chess champion, making it the first time a computer defeated a reigning champion under tournament conditions. Now, over two decades later, AI and human players are working together to beat sophisticated chess engines, AI algorithm-enabled computers capable of simulating thousands of moves in advance along with their potential outcomes. Such an association can help eliminate anthropocentric bias, the tendency of AI to align with human perspectives or norms rather than its objectivity. This AI-human cooperation can be adopted in CCM as well.
Recognizing the value of AI adoption in communication
Adopting AI in communication facilitates personalization at scale, amplifies self-service capabilities, and automates workflows, and organizations are recognizing this. According to a study, 78% of customer service professionals stated that AI/automation tools helped them allocate more time to important tasks associated with their roles. Here’s why integrating AI with human efforts is important to ensure cost-efficient communication solutions and how to achieve it:
Combining AI with a human touch
Blending AI with human assistance in CCM provides several advantages. Firstly, it can elevate the system’s competency and productivity by appropriately distributing responsibilities between the AI and human agents. Next, the combined approach facilitates the simultaneous handling of massive volumes of customer interactions, thereby providing speed and scalability. An AI + human strategy also enables resolving customer concerns in real-time through data-driven insights. Importantly, the approach guarantees continuous and consolidated data collection across various communication channels, boosting process efficiency and assuring data accuracy.
Designing an AI + human framework
How can the fusion of AI and human assistance create a robust methodology to address customer communication? A two-level framework is the answer. AI can form the first level (L1). It can address all routine queries, interactions, and requests. With in-built learning and training tools, the ability of the AI layer to resolve all preliminary inquiries independently can be improved. Human intervention can form the second layer (L2) of the architecture. Customer inquiries can be escalated by L1 to human agents if the engagement cannot provide a satisfactory resolution. This helps streamline customer communication and helps allocate human agents only to high-priority tasks.
Transitioning from traditional to AI-driven communication
The evolution of customer communication from calls and e-mails to a personalized and omnichannel endeavor can be attributed to growth in technology adoption by both customers and businesses. Therefore, an AI-driven and human-enabled approach to CCM can empower the continued transformation of customer communication and deliver superior customer experiences as below.
Omnichannel customer experience
Today, customer communication is a dynamic exercise across platforms, characterized by customized messaging and delivery to specific users. Thus, a synergized AI and human strategy can facilitate better omnichannel experience. For example, AI assistants can monitor omnichannel customer interactions and allow the seamless continuity of communications. AI can also create unified customer profiles, enabling human agents to provide personalized assistance and pan-channel recommendations. This ensures smooth escalation of customer queries to human agents and equips them with the necessary information for improved assistance.
Intelligent call routing
A combined AI and human framework can guarantee the swift management of customer queries. Based on the complexity of the request, AI can route calls to the appropriate human agents. The AI system can handle the initial query and gauge whether it can provide a resolution. If not, it can match the inquiry with the skills and expertise required to resolve it and transfer the call to a suitable human agent. Additionally, AI can analyze the customer’s language patterns to ascertain whether a ‘human touch’ is required to address their concern and transfer the call to a human agent.
An integrated AI and human approach can offer customers efficient self-service options while ensuring that human assistance is available if required. For example, chatbots and virtual assistants can manage routine queries and answer frequently asked questions. For complex issues, AI can guide customers through the process of troubleshooting and provide interactive tutorials. Thus, the wait for human support is largely eliminated, facilitating self-service. If the AI system is unable to resolve customer concerns, seeking human intervention remains an available option.
Overcoming language barriers
Most enterprises cater to customers worldwide today – their customer base spans different geographical and linguistic boundaries. Language can serve as a challenge in addressing customer queries. However, AI assistants can help overcome this barrier. For example, chatbots can examine customers’ language preferences and respond to them in that particular language. With tools such as NLP and continuous learning, AI assistants can learn to comprehend language, accents, and cultural nuances during calls. Depending on the specific language needs, they can route calls to the relevant human agents.
Simplifying customer experience – a healthcare use case
A two-layer approach can heighten customer experience in the healthcare industry. The AI element can regulate routine tasks such as scheduling appointments, sharing reminders about upcoming appointments/procedures, documentation, and personalized recommendations (of physicians or treatments), among other functions. Further, AI can aid in preliminary observations and preventive screenings. Also, it can empower healthcare professionals with possible diagnoses based on rudimentary observations from reports and visit records. This ensures that human resources are utilized optimally and the best service is provided to patients.
The future of ‘collaborative intelligence’
With the increasing partnership between AI and humans, it is safe to say that the future of customer communication is collaborative. For example, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are currently being explored in gaming and VR/AR experiences. Both invasive and non-invasive BCI devices are in different stages of development, where AI integration is fundamental. Their utility spans various functions, from visual searches to creating immersive virtual experiences. This raises an exciting question: can BCIs be applied to customer-centric communication, such as marketing? Probably. As these devices rely on a neural uplink to access the brain’s impulses, they could potentially discern an individual’s thoughts, preferences, and geographic location to expose them to targeted advertisements. And maybe, humans can browse and purchase orders through their thoughts entirely. Thus, in today’s technological landscape, AI and human efforts can augment each other and help define a new paradigm in customer experience.