How AI Can Make Customer Service More Efficient

Humanity has come a long way in teaching technology how to appear more human. Now, technology is teaching itself.

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By Andrew Medal

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With the rise of the artificial neural network, which mirrors the interconnected nodes of the human brain, artificial intelligence is ready to graduate to a new level.

Artificial neural networks (ANN) are programmed to be cognizant of patterns. ANN can read human speech and synthesize the use of specific words to identify subtle meanings in human communication. The implications are particularly impressive once processing speed is taken into account.

Related: 10 Artificial Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2018

The (until now) uniquely human ability to understand the complexities of language, multiplied by the speed of computational efficiency, results in a very effective response program.

I know, I know: Your mind is blown; (yes, AI can now write puns like that). But, on a practical note, did you know that AI can also improve customer service?

AI's benefits for customer service

"When we give our machine-learning algorithm access to historical customer service data, it begins to identify patterns and learn in a human-like way," Mikhail Naumov told me. He's co-founder and president of DigitalGenius (a frontrunner in the AI and customer service industry), and we were speaking about the future of AI. "What is created by this process," Naumov said, "is an AI model that is trained on a company's specific customer-service data-set.

"This intelligence generates automated-response suggestions to customer queries and gives human customer-service professionals a partner to help handle a growing volume of requests."

The implications for the customer service industry are profound. Data can be fed to a machine-learning program, which creates the neural network, or the "intelligence" behind AI. That intelligence helps humans to better understand customers and take care of their needs with greater speed and precision.

Industry experts agree that intelligence-backed digital assistants represent the change that's needed for the customer-service sector. As Dan Miller, the founder of Opus Research, commented in Medium: "The future of personalized customer experience is inevitably tied to 'Intelligent assistance.'"

The benefit for entrepreneurs

Communication is one of the top factors in quality customer service, a fact reflected by this SurveyMonkey study. Companies want to take advantage of software that will give them a platform to address the needs of their clients more efficiently. This is especially true now that customer service has migrated to texting, where mass communications can become bottlenecked. Support agents cannot process the workload.

Related: Is Artificial Intelligence Replacing Your Intelligence?

But, alternately, instead of a handful of people working to respond to an entire client base, there are AI programs that can filter communications and suggest appropriate responses, cutting down the time it takes for those agents to address inquiries.

The evolution of AI

All of this is magnified by the fact that these systems are continuously improving, learning in real time from collected data. Like the ideal employee, because of deep learning algorithms, they just keep getting better at their job. AI would be nowhere without ANN.

"The deep learning methodology allows companies to unlock value from their historical customer service data," Naumov explained. "By scouring through mountains of historical data and watching how human customer-service representatives responded to thousands of different queries, deep learning can create the intelligence necessary for the AI to be useful.

"In customer service," Naumov continued, "that means it can detect sentiment, urgency, type of request, details about the case and so on. It can also recommend answers to agents, saving them valuable time. [These things] help companies scale their contact center while responding to a growing volume of requests."

Current customer-service departments are bogged down by requests that result in an hour or longer queue times for customers. According to Alexandre Lebrun of Facebook's artificial intelligence division, quoted by Business Insider, "The better we get [at artificial intelligence], the less time you spend talking to customer service. It's a gain for companies, but it's also a gain for personal life."

Related: Can Artificial Intelligence Identify Pictures Better than Humans?

Many customer service requests are repetitive and easily could be handled by an AI-based response system. Indeed, data and the neural network will make AI the best coworker the support desk has seen yet.

Andrew Medal

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Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Andrew Medal is the founder of The Paper Chase, which is a bi-weekly newsletter. He is an entrepreneur and angel investor.

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