Nancy Kirwan of Genesys discusses the evolution of self-service technology and the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having on it.
Cognitive technology is an emerging area that integrates data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works.
These AI-based innovations enable self-service systems to understand the real meaning behind a question and to then deliver only relevant answers or options to consumers.
Today, there’s rapid adoption of digital and high expectations of customers for self-service. It’s driving most companies to jump on this cognitive technology trend with both small and large-scale initiatives.
IDC has estimated that by this year, 40% of digital transformation initiatives will use AI services. By 2021, 75% of enterprise applications will use AI.
The Return on Investment (ROI) includes reduced support costs, more efficient use of resources and increasing revenue.
Applying Machine Learning to Real-World Problems
Some of the most common uses of AI now involve machine learning in which algorithms detect patterns in huge volumes of data and analyse them.
It’s more than simply gathering this data to further market products; it can be used to predict intent and guide customers along their journeys. Customers get what they need faster and more efficiently.
Machine learning models continue to improve in their ability to use new data to make predictions or put things into categories.
Some of the more common uses of machine learning within self-service apps include:
- Identifying credit or insurance fraud in real time
- Identifying safety or quality problems in machinery
- Automating personalised targeting of digital ads
The Harvard Business Review reported on orders for American fast food chain Taco Bell. Those made via its digital app were 20% higher than those taken by cashiers, largely because people select additional ingredients.
Self-service also reduces the number of frustrated customers, in turn increasing satisfaction rates, repeat orders, and long-term revenue.
The Transformation of Self-Service
In Artificial Intelligence for the Real World, three-quarters of executives surveyed believe that AI will substantially transform their companies within three years. Much of this focus will be on self-service, and for good reason.
While phone calls into contact centres about simple problems continue to decline, expectations of self-service for voice and digital channels are increasing.
Self-service engagement costs on average 25–75 times less per transaction than agent interactions. It also enables faster service, reduced call volumes and improved first contact resolution.
But the key to an optimised solution is assisted service that’s tightly integrated with self-service – whenever and wherever customers seek it.
Using omnichannel to blend AI with human agents gives customers the option of easily connecting with an agent. This blending includes all personal interaction context collected by the assistant, including history, intent and predicted next steps.
Most executives interviewed in the study by HBR are committed to this type of augmentation strategy. That is, they plan to integrate human and machine work, rather than replace humans entirely. In fact, replacing administrative employees was not reported as a primary objective or a common outcome.
Not Enough Doubt to Slow the Self-Service Train
Executives in the HBR survey acknowledge the challenges of AI. These include integrating cognitive projects with existing processes and systems, determining the right use cases and choosing the best technology and partner.
But the proven results make it impossible to ignore the benefits. Focus on self-service that’s easy on customers and cost-effective:
- User-friendly interfaces encourage self-service, and based on customer benchmark data, personalised and contextual self-service can improve NPS up to 23.5%
- Design apps once and deploy anywhere so the customer and agent experience is replicated across voice, digital and the desktop
- Use pre-built micro-apps for rapid deployment and a faster jump on opportunities. For example, intelligent automation empowers IT to quickly deliver speech and visual IVR apps at a lower cost
Start With the Low-Hanging Fruit
According to IDC, worldwide spending on cognitive and AI systems was expected to reach $19.1 billion in 2018, and will grow to $52.2 billion in 2021.
Every large company, and even smaller companies exploring cost-effective growth strategies, should consider cognitive technologies that support AI-based self-service.
It doesn’t require a major complex project. The opportunities are here now for blending AI and human capabilities to guide the customer journey.
Look for the areas in your business that can benefit today and get that return on your investment sooner rather than later.