Artificial intelligence is a disruptive technology that is shaking things up in business – even small businesses. Chances are you’ve heard some pretty cool use cases and are wondering if (and to what extent) you should use AI in your business. Can AI solve your customer service problems? In this article, I’ll tackle that question by explaining what AI is, how it can help your customer service efforts, and some specific customer service AI applications that small business owners should consider.
What is AI?
Artificial intelligence is a machine’s capacity to mimic human cognition. While software cannot actually “think,” it can be programmed to solve problems in ways that are similar to perception, reasoning, and learning. AI is not an exact replica of a human’s capabilities, but it can be used to interpret language, perform tasks, and make predictions.
The companies that will succeed will be the ones that can balance the value of AI with the value of human connections and interactions. As a small business owner considering how to use AI, it’s important to remember that AI should not replace human interactions but rather enhance them.
Building Better Customer Relationships with AI
AI can help businesses make informed decisions about what their customers want. For example, suppose a business uses customer relationship management (CRM) software with AI. In that case, they’ll have an even more convenient way to send bulk emails, videos, or text messages to target customers. AI CRM can “hear” customers in a way that a human can’t, collecting and analyzing information from different channels (e.g., email newsletters and social media).
Similarly, leveraging AI to track sales leads better will allow a small business owner to see leads through to completion. This will help any small business truly understand their customers, where they’re coming from, and the direct financial result from certain marketing efforts.
5 Customer Service AI Applications
So how might you use AI in your business? Here are just a few customer service AI applications that small business owners may consider.
1. Predicting Customer Behavior
Hopefully, by now, you’re using a CRM platform to keep track of every interaction you have with customers. When you do, you’ll have abundant information about how they interact with your business, including the items they’ve bought, the emails they’re receiving, the reasons they’ve reached out to your customer support team, and so on. CRMs can now integrate AI to analyze the data and make predictions about what the customer may do next and recommendations on what your business can do to nurture them and get the next sale.
2. Mining Customer Calls
Another way to use AI to improve your sales, marketing, and customer service interactions is to use the technology to dig into your current calls with your leads and customers. Programs like Chorus, Gong, and Jog allow you to record calls and use AI features like tone, sentiment, and text analysis to understand customers’ thoughts, emotions, and words.
Chatbots are one of the simplest yet most effective ways to use AI in your small business. They help you answer frequently asked customer questions, so customers get quick answers, and your team members are free to help other customers with more complex inquiries.
To use a chatbot, try to boil your typical customer inquiries into a few categories. Using buttons, quick replies, and menus helps speed up the conversation. Then load up your chatbot with answers to the most frequently asked questions. This should work to solve a good percentage of your incoming customer requests, and if not, the agent handling the inquiry will have the essential details to take it from there.
If you want to add a chatbot to your website, check out this list of options. You can also set up a chatbot on your Facebook page; for help doing that, read this Hootsuite tutorial.
4. AI-Enhanced Helpdesks
AI is also improving customer service software. For example, some tools, like Zendesk, feature an ‘answer bot,’ which suggests articles from your pre-built knowledge base that may help the customer solve their own problem. If the customer does need support from an agent, the AI-equipped software can ask questions and use algorithms to filter important tickets and route each inquiry to the right customer service agent who can handle that request.
5. Understanding Customer Sentiment
AI tools can also help you understand what your customers say about your brand and how they feel about your business. Manually analyzing comments left on review sites or on your product pages or in social media comments is time-consuming. These AI programs automate the process by using algorithms to find recurring themes and topics. They can even help you understand customer feelings and opinions. For a review of five customer sentiment programs, check out this article.
Benefits of Customer Service AI
The list above shares some of the innovative ways that businesses are using customer service AI. And as you can see, there are many benefits to doing so.
For example, AI can:
- Free up your team because AI can handle simple requests.
- Reduce average handling times because AI can assist customer service agents in answering questions faster.
- Improve customer satisfaction ratings because AI makes your customer service system fast and easy to use.
- Help businesses understand their customers’ needs, expectations, and emotions because AI can analyze customer feedback and reviews.
- Increase sales because AI can help predict future trends and customer behavior.
For all these reasons, customer service AI is having a huge impact on how businesses operate. Moreover, customer service AI technology is becoming more widespread and easier to use, so it’s a great time for small business owners to jump into action. To avoid overwhelm, consider the five applications above and choose one to start implementing in your business.
Remember that customer service AI should enhance human interactions between customers and your team – not replace them. When properly incorporated into your customer service systems, AI can help you deliver a more personal touch and build relationships with your prospects, leads, and customers.