Presented by Freshworks and Teleforge

The future of customer experience – AI-powered human interaction

Economies worldwide are making an exponential ascent.

Technological disruptions are breaking conventional industry barriers. Consumers are growing digitally and contextually aware. The marketplace as a whole is exhibiting positive, healthy signs.

The foreseeable future of businesses, however, remains largely uncertain, particularly for those that are unprepared to adapt and transform to the new market realities facing them.

This is starkly evident in the omnichannel milieu where conventional business models are disintegrating, and unmet customer expectations are resulting in churn and eventual loss of market share.

It’s fair to say that the world of omnichannel customer experiences stands on the traditional bedrock of instant gratification.

With an average user attention span of nearly 8 seconds, it has probably never been harder for businesses to engage with the modern internet consumer, than it is today.

In this era of the customer, the key to building long-lasting relationships and brand loyalty is to provide smarter, intelligent customer service.

The rise of intelligent customer support

The Chinese calendar called 2017, ‘The Year of the Rooster’, but in technological parlance, it was the year of an amorphous silicon animal called Chatbot.

Continuing that trend, 2018 is turning out to be the year of another indefinitely evolving creature called Artificial Intelligence (AI), reckoning businesses to shift focus to newer paradigms of customer engagement and decision-making to remain competent.

The evolving experience cosmos has created an economic imperative for businesses to provide smarter, intelligent customer service – fuelling the need for predictive intelligence and AI-infused customer engagement.

Simply put, AI satisfies three critical needs of the new-age digital customer – mass personalisation, immediacy, and contextual intelligence.

In a world where businesses struggle to stay relevant to evolving consumerism, forward disruptive technologies like AI add a competitive dimension to the experience battlefield – setting leaders apart and driving intelligent, thoughtful relationships with their customers.

AI is here and now

Let’s first take a moment to absorb all the hype encompassing the evolution of AI and the potential future of intelligent machines in our lives.

Let’s then take another moment of breath to acknowledge that AI has been part of our lives for a while now, owing to sci-fi movies and their display of powerful, sentient machines bent on taking over the world.

In essence, AI is not something that we need to look forward to; it is already at play in different elements of our everyday existence.

Intelligent machines are working up their magic all around us – either in the form of a streaming video service recommending us a movie, an e-commerce site suggesting a specific product for us to purchase or an advertisement appearing on our social feed.

With the promise and reality of blending automation and intelligence through technology, AI seeks to drive a much-needed market change.

In fact, IDC predicts that widespread adoption of cognitive systems and AI across industries will drive worldwide revenues from nearly $8.0 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020.

The idea of AI is also not new to the Middle East, but the speed of its recent market breakthroughs is. It comes as no surprise then that the region finds a place on the Global Innovation Index 2017 for being one of the top 50 countries to push the boundaries of technological innovation.

A PwC Middle East study suggests that AI is likely to contribute $320 billion to this economy by 2030, equivalent to 11% of GDP.

Countless business opportunities await this market, with the government actively seeking to substitute the imminent economic toll of oil price volatility with alternate sources for growth and revenue.

Hybrid AI – A ‘Jack of all trades’

We are at the beginning of the next wave of an industrial revolution driven by AI, and while we can list down its endless opportunities and benefits, there’s one question that still remains unanswered.

If and when will the cost efficiencies provided by AI become less compelling, and fully replace the human touch? The answer is probably never.

AI solutions alone do not suffice to revolutionise customer experience but need to be blended with the right balance of human assistance to create a hybrid model – one that combines the ingenuity and efficiency of automated solutions with the irreplaceable empathy of human touch.

As some industry experts predict, pure-play AI might even replace humans in some cases, but its true mettle lies in being utilised to amplify human capabilities and minimise human limitations.

The Hybrid AI model can work in favour of all stakeholders involved by adding human-like intelligence to every customer interaction — for instance, adding elements of personality insights or sentiments through AI can make touchpoints like email and the web more ‘human’.

With the assistance of human touch, AI can enhance various aspects of the customer experience journey:

  • To lookup routine customer information, answer frequently asked questions (FAQs), get order status, or even process a payment.
  • To classify and route emails, calls, and other requests.
  • To help store and recall critical material at the right moment.
  • To let humans decide how and when to weave that into their conversation.

The Teleforge and Freshworks AI imperative

In a world gone digital and more importantly social – intelligent, personalised, one-to-one interaction is the way forward.

Freshworks’ cloud-based engagement platform, Freshdesk, is designed to be the voice of reason for empowering businesses with the kind of next-generation experience and innovation that their customers demand.

We believe that AI, in its current form, can be a massive asset to businesses looking at economical ways to improve the quality of their customer support.

Our experiments have substantiated this belief with chatbots responding up to a whopping 40% of the questions asked and deflecting anywhere from 8% to 25% of the questions based on the AI entity used and the quality of data provided to the AI to learn from.

We have also seen that by gathering necessary information from customers first, chatbots can drastically reduce the number of exchanges between customers and support agents in addition to increasing resolution rates by 15-20% and delivering huge time and cost benefits.

A detailed evaluation of the current customer experience market pushed us to adopt and inject AI into our social support workflow and design our first social AI entity called ‘Social Signals’.

We built Social Signals with the sole objective of helping businesses automatically figure out which tweets to prioritise and provide relevant support.

Social Signals goes through your entire feed, understands which tweets are asking for help and converts those to a ticket for a support agent to answer, filtering out everything else.

Support agents can even train it to recognise new types of tickets and requests anytime, thus improving its learning, resolution and decision-making skills.

The move ahead

AI has immense potential to add tangible value to customer experience journeys but irrespective of the business application, segment or industry, it must be viewed as a complement rather than as a replacement to people.

Successful customer experiences in the present and future will continue to remain grounded in human emotion and empathy.

At best, AI can only guide the purely transactional events of a customer journey and enhance our ability to connect and build trust, rather than replace our role in building customers relationships.

Businesses that manage to put their people first and recognise that real conversations and connections can never be fully replaced by technology will be the ones to outperform in the near future.

For more information, visit the Teleforge website.

This article was published in partnership with Freshworks and Teleforge.

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The future of customer experience – AI-powered human interaction