By Amanda DiSilvestro
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an essential part of every successful business. Today, more businesses are taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to automate and improve their CRM. Advanced technologies, such as chatbots and AI-enabled communication, mean that around-the-clock interactions and customer service is now a reality. It’s a welcome one in a mobile-first world where people want access to information immediately and at the touch of a button.
This means that businesses are interacting with their customers more, whether it’s through human-to-human interaction with a customer service representative or an automatically generated email drip campaign. All these touchpoints result in more data collection about customers. It also means that powerful technology is necessary to keep up.
From 2014 to 2015, the worldwide market value for CRM software grew 12.3 percent to $26.3 billion, and that number continues to increase, especially now that AI is integrated within the platforms that help businesses run. AI is revolutionizing the business world, specifically in terms of CRM platforms, and businesses must be on the cutting edge of this advancement in technology. It’s quickly and entirely changing customer service processes.
Artificial intelligence automates many processes that were once run solely by people. While some view this as a negative change, the reality is that AI can help reduce the workload of multiple staff members—and can often do it faster and more accurately. Vala Afshar writes, “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.”
Clickatell compares the use of AI to that of the Industrial Revolution. Centuries ago, people were concerned that machines were taking over the jobs of humans, but ultimately the change advanced the country (and the world) for the better. While the implementation took years, in the end society improved. These benefits far outweighed the restructuring of jobs and changes in the workforce.
Without the Industrial Revolution, the world would not be as advanced as it is today, and without AI, which some experts are calling the fourth industrial revolution, society would not be advancing once again. According to David Kelnar, artificial intelligence “tackles profoundly difficult problems, and the solutions to those problems can be applied to sectors important to human well being — ranging from health, education, and commerce to transport, utilities, and entertainment.”
Jon Lee states that "AI is only as good as the way you train it, and it requires a human to train it to get smarter and smarter. AI needs all that data, but it also needs a seamless front-end and human experience to actively train it." In other words, management isn’t over, and people aren’t losing jobs to AI. You may find yourself working hand-in-hand with artificial intelligence (and managing robots) in the future.
Artificial intelligence and technology, according to Afshar, are changing the face of customer service and customer relationship management. Companies can use AI to:
Gain real-time insights across all customer contact channels.
Optimize agent availability, wait times, and opportunities for proactive service delivery.
Automatically escalate and classify cases using sensitivity and domain expertise predictive analytics.
Power chatbots to deliver knowledge using automated workflows.
Enable field agents to deliver service based on access to CRM data.
Deliver personalized services anywhere.
Optimize scheduling and routing using complete CRM data.
Customer service agents can realistically only handle one customer service call or problem at a time. AI, in its various incarnations, gives customer service departments the ability to do more, thus improving the customer experience.
Chatbots, for example, can handle multiple queries at once. This is a saving grace for businesses that have busy call centers and struggle with wait times. If a question is too complex for a chatbot to process, a live representative can step in and address the issue.
Artificial intelligence takes data and uses it to identify the best representative available to address the customer’s needs. It then provides the rep with necessary background information before they interact with the customer. This saves time and manpower, as well as helps the customer address issues more efficiently. In an article for Chatbots Magazine, Tom Griffiths writes, “The ultimate goal for a customer service chatbot is for it to be integrated with customers’ account information. For instance, a customer might be able to inquire about the status of an order or receive specific after-sales service.”
Communication apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, and others are digitizing the way people communicate, and soon nearly every method of communication will have AI advancements. For example, Facebook Messenger’s AI “pops up within conversations on the chat app and suggests relevant actions, such as sending a sticker or sharing a location.” Similar features are also in text messages. This will make it easy to have a conversation without true human interaction, and customers and businesses are getting on board with this type of connection. H&M, a clothing retailer, uses the Kik messaging app to help customers shop entirely through a conversation with a bot, and Kik’s bot store includes 16 launch partners, including Sephora and the Weather Channel. In some live chat experiences it’s hard to tell just “who” you’re really talking to. But if the question gets answered quickly and correctly, does it matter?
For decades business owners have struggled to collect as much information as possible about customers in order to make informed decisions in marketing and customer service. It’s essential to know the demographics of your target audience, when and how they are most likely to convert, whether they prefer to search on desktop or mobile, and more.
While this information has been available to business owners, it hasn’t always been easy to collect, and it definitely hasn’t always been reliable. In the past it’s taken tons of time and effort to collect and analyze data, which takes away from time that could be spent on website development, product creation, and marketing efforts.
Artificial intelligence can analyze huge chunks of data, especially data from a CRM platform, and convert it into easily accessible reports. This makes it quicker and simpler for business owners to access and understand key details about their target audience. This data is generally more reliable than information collected, processed, and analyzed by people. Business owners can spend time making decisions based on the data instead of trying to figure out what it means.
Artificial intelligence started making waves in customer service when callers could speak their needs instead of pressing a number on their phone to be taken to the next branch in the menu tree. It’s helped customer service departments streamline their work and automate minutia, and AI is set to continue to help: Agents can focus on complex issues while chatbots and other AI-enabled technology works in the background routing calls, helping customers, and collecting mountains of data along the way. Customer journeys, and the path from lead to customer, will improve, as will overall customer experience.
This is the era of personalized customer service and advanced customer experiences. To accomplish both, companies must rely on technology, artificial intelligence, and big data. Using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform equipped with AI is a great way to take the plunge into this exciting business revolution. With the right tools, you can help your employees be more productive and more efficient. These resources allow your employees to spend more time on tasks that help them add value to your company.
The best way to see how Salesforce is revolutionizing customer service is with a guided tour of Service Cloud. With the guided tour, we can show you how Service Cloud shines in several common use cases and scenarios.
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