“State of Service” Report: The Age of AI, and Agent and Customer Empowerment

By Dr. Natalie Petouhoff
The Salesforce “State of Service” research report found that artificial intelligence (AI) adoption by service teams is expected to grow by a whopping 143% within 18 months.
Why such a high growth rate? In part, because AI allows service teams to quickly and conveniently automate manual tasks, answer customers’ routine questions, and scale support, thereby giving agents increased time to focus on the more strategic role of building customer relationships — a key part of their jobs today. Let’s see how this can play out in real life.

Using AI to Automate, Assist, Optimize

Oftentimes a customer wants a quick answer and doesn’t want to reach out to a contact center. They want to self-serve, and they want the interaction to be accurate, fast, and hassle-free. And self-service is the first of the four main ways of applying AI to customer service.

How can AI be used in self-service? AI chatbots can provide personalized, immediate responses 24/7. For instance, a company can automate routine customer interactions like resetting passwords, finding a lost package, checking an order status, processing a return, changing a service plan, or setting up a product. Being mindful of which customer interactions would benefit from automation ensures greater success. Companies should look at all their routine customer requests and choose the ones that would be best served by AI automation.

A second way to incorporate AI into the customer experience is in agent-assisted service. In fact, research shows that the majority of service organizations already using AI have automated routine tasks such as gathering basic information and classifying and routing cases. With the routine work automated, the agent can focus their energy on addressing the customer’s questions. This reduces the average handle time of the interaction as well as creating a better experience for both the agent and the customer.

A third way that AI can be used in contact centers is to provide the next best action for the agent to take as well as serving up recommended articles to help the agent solve the issue at hand. And lastly, AI can be used to optimize contact center interactions by providing the customer service manager with information about how well the contact center is operating.

High-Performing Organizations Are Further Down the Path to Intelligent Service

The “State of Service” report also shows that high-performing service organizations — those with the highest rates of customer satisfaction — are 2.9x more likely than underperformers to use AI. What’s important to consider as you transform into a high-performing service organization with AI? Consider looking for an integrated AI solution — or a solution with AI built inside.

Using an “AI inside” solution is important because AI is only as intelligent as the data it has to interact with and learn from. Essentially AI needs to interact with data in your CRM system and in your customer-facing applications. Imagine if AI is built into the CRM platform housing customer record data. And if AI is built into the customer service application, where the customer interaction history data resides, as well as being built into other applications, like those for marketing, sales, and ecommerce. With those integrations, AI can tap into customer data and interaction histories from all parts of the business. This type of AI-inside solution enables providing contextually relevant answers based on a customer’s end-to-end journey with a company — not just with one department.

So how would this integrated AI solution play out in the real world? Let’s say we were looking at using AI in sales. With AI, an agent sees there’s a customer service issue. And because the agent knows this, they can solve it, and as a result, the customer’s loyalty grows with the positive customer experience. And they’ll be more likely to buy because they know your company has their back. Having this end-to-end AI is what delivers better customer experiences and business results.

AI Impacts the Bottom Line, Improving Metrics That Matter

AI also impacts the metrics customer service professionals are measured on everyday — the things that keep them up at night. In fact, service organizations using AI report benefits ranging from reduced average handle time to increased first contact resolution.
When considering AI for customer service, focus on what you do best — delivering great experiences. Choose a solution that will help customers easily get the answers they need on their own, one that will allow your agents to intelligently, efficiently, and effectively engage with customers, and enable you to deliver business results and metrics that matter. If you’d like to find out more information on the latest stats on AI, customer service, and how contact centers are transforming, check out the full “State of Service” report.