A smiling female customer representative wears headphones while talking to a customer. Behind her are other representatives who are on the phone with other customers.
AI can improve the efficiency of your customer service processes. For instance, one application of AI is that it can match a customer’s request to the right service representative. — Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

Business owners know that great customer service is the key to long-term, sustainable growth. Nearly 70% of consumers said they would pay more for a brand that is known to offer good customer service.

However, expectations around customer service are getting harder and harder to meet. According to research from McKinsey, two-thirds of millennials expect real-time customer service. “And with cost pressures rising at least as quickly as service expectations, the obvious response — adding more well-trained employees to deliver great customer service — isn’t a viable option,” wrote the consulting firm.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, can help meet continuously rising customer demands when it comes to great customer service. Here’s how AI will help your business serve customers better without having to hire additional people.

Answer customer questions with AI chatbots

AI chatbots are always available to answer customer needs, even when traditional employees have gone home for the day. AI chatbots can be hosted on popular platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack, and they provide the first point of contact for customer queries.

“Chatbots help supplement human customer service agents by being available every day at all hours of the day, and by handling basic queries, for example, the type of questions you might find under FAQ,” wrote The Fool.

Chatbots can significantly lower the volume of requests your human customer support team has to field. By answering simple customer questions or directing customers to the right resources, chatbots free up your team’s time for more complex troubleshooting. This tool ensures you’re optimizing your resources while still meeting customer needs.

Analyze customer sentiment

Sentiment analysis tools, such as natural language processing, help AI understand the emotion behind a customer’s inquiry. Analyzing the vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation a person is using can help AI understand whether the person is frustrated, confused, or angry. This insight can help AI find the best way to respond — such as by escalating the request more quickly or by personalizing its response.

[Read more: Customer Complaints: 5 Tips for Handling Unsatisfied Clients]

AI will never replace a human touch — but it can optimize it.

Improve internal workflows for more efficient service

AI can match a customer’s request to the right service representative, as well as streamline your workflows to improve the speed with which requests are met. Intelligent routing systems use AI to analyze keywords in a customer’s inquiry and route them to the right person who can quickly respond to their needs.

“AI can extend this capability to predict emotion and intent to make the perfect match and discover the best opportunities for downstream automation,” said Andy Traba, Head of Product Marketing for the customer engagement analytics division at NICE, in TechCrunch.

You can also train AI to perceive the urgency and emotion associated with the case, ensuring that your request queues are properly prioritized.

Improve personalization throughout the process

AI can help agents and bots quickly generate messages that make the service experience feel more personal. An integration like ChatGPT with your customer relationship management software can speed up the process of writing something hyper personalized. “AI can generate these responses based on relevant customer data, knowledge articles, or trusted third party data sources on any channel,” wrote Salesforce.

Coupled with sentiment analysis, using a customer’s relationship history to provide a response that feels tailored to their needs can go a long way. This level of personalization communicates that the brand cares about each individual customer. It also avoids a customer having to jump through a series of hoops (prompts) to get the support they need.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) learning allows companies to lean into predictive and prescriptive data: what customers will want — even before they know themselves. And these pivots can occur in real-time, across all interactions — not just a sample,” wrote TechCrunch.

The best part: AI customer service mitigates the need to hire more people. With the right training, these bots can augment your customer service team without incurring additional recruiting, onboarding, and payroll costs. AI will never replace a human touch — but it can optimize it.

[Read more: 4 Effective Ways Small Businesses Can Leverage AI]

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