With 38% of the enterprises currently using ‘Artificial Intelligence Technologies’ and the number expected to grow to 62% by the year 2018 (Narrative Science), AI is seen as the most strategic customer experience trend of the year 2017. The same report suggests that 95% of the businesses who are using big data to solve business problems also use AI now, showing an enormous 61% growth in just two years (compared to 59% in 2015).
Gartner research has reported that AI inquiries have tripled between 2015 and 2016 and that 85% of customer interaction will be digital by 2020. The worldwide AI revenue is expected to grow from $643.7 million in 2016 to $36.8 billion by 2025, and this portrays that there will be a strong connection between an organisation’s artificial intelligence maturity and its revenue figures.
As AI is now widely integrated into the telecom sector, operators are constantly focusing on maintaining a balance between what they want for their customer experiences with what the consumer insights are.
Customer Centric Multi-Channel Engagement
Although telecom operators own a massive amount of data, the full potential of this data is not analysed. If properly utilised, AI can understand each customer with the view of delivering a personalised digital service aligned with the process, experience and purchase options.
Figure 1: Benefits of AI Powered Solutions
Image Source: Scoop.it
A study by ‘Econsultancy’, pointed out that 60% of the companies use at least eight ‘touch-points’ when communicating with their customers. This includes e-mail, website, social media, retail outlets, offline advertising, online advertising, offline direct marketing and telephone/sales.
Nowadays, customers want assured multi-channel engagement with brands. Consistently great experience across various channels in real-time is the need of the hour as such ‘Multi-Channel Engagements’ can benefit the operators through:
- Analysing the data to generate consumer insights, predictions and recommendations
- Real-time adaptation based on dynamic customer data such as click-stream, IoT data, social activity and so on
- Using consumer insights to identify patterns and complete the repetitive tasks
Role of Artificial Intelligence in enhancing Customer Experience
1) Allowing customers to express themselves
Telecom operators have leveraged AI to reduce the response time and personalise the customer experience. It has allowed the operators to reduce the time to answer customer enquiries in real-time.
AI is used to give the customers an initial quick answer, to make them feel they are listened to and thus more patient before the second answer arrives. As AI can analyse behaviours, it offers a more personalised response the second time around.
Some telecom companies are offering AI systems that can control home environments, manage schedule and make music recommendations.
2) Improving networks and processes
Operators have employed AI to improve networks to adjust services based on customer needs, environment conditions and business goals. This enables the AI-based system to learn from experience, configuring networks to meet demand, and therefore improving network use and maintenance, and reducing costs.
Some telecom companies have even contributed funding and anonymised data to help establish new AI research centres.
Chatbots have put the telecom operators in a much better position to get valuable consumer insights. AI is redefining the service centre experience for the customers through bots having the ability to validate and understand unstructured data in the form of conversational-style speech. Speech bots are used as an intermediary channel for the AI back-end, as AI improves the accuracy and spontaneity of the response by the bot.
Telecom companies have introduced their chatbots to help customers online. Such bots can handle a range of customer service-type questions, including troubleshooting, order tracking, and usage. These bots have sped up the responses to simple customer queries and have thus delivered the speed that customers want.
4) Voice recognition techniques
Voice recognition techniques are on the rise, and AI is the most sought-after technology adopted for this. AI has enhanced the customer experience by recognising speech patterns with greater precision, enabling operators to get more significant consumer insights.
Challenges faced by AI
1) Deployment of AI is a costly affair
Although superior customer experience management is a critical growth driver for operators, deploying and managing the AI-enabled technology to serve the customers is a costly and a complex affair.
Operators must build the customer experience strategy based on the cloud. Cloud deployment will enable on demand application of the strategy virtually anywhere in the world. The best part is low CapEx and maximum scalability without compromising the consistent, seamless service across all the markets.
2) Perception of customers towards AI
The primary challenge faced by operators is that customers think that they understand AI, but in fact, they don’t. According to the study carried out by one of the customer engagement software:
- Consumer insights state that 50% of them don’t understand the role of AI in problem-solving
- 37% of the customers don’t understand that AI can interpret speech
- 35% of the customers don’t understand that AI can mimic humans
As a majority of them are fearful of AI, only 27% customers think that AI can deliver the same or even better customer service than humans.
Telecom operators must make the customers more literate about their AI experience and what is it trying to do. Their primary goal must be focused towards telling the customer what to expect, but more importantly to tell them what not to expect.
3) The need for transparency
As AI techniques advance, it becomes difficult to understand their algorithms and working patterns. Sometimes even the engineers cannot explain why the algorithm made a specific decision. Customers are still in a dilemma to trust such algorithms having the full control in decision-making.
There is a need to put constant efforts to make artificial intelligence more transparent and understandable. The reasons for the decisions made by an AI system must be explained to the customers to build their trust.
The future of AI in enhancing customer experience
Advanced predictive networks
AI is bound to play a critical role in more advanced network evolution. Predictive and prescriptive networks will be the focus of AI for performance tuning and network management. Having AI enabled smarter networks will benefit things they’re connected to and make them more predictable.
AI enabled 5G platform
As AI has the potential to predict and analyse issues faster, it will allow a potentially transformative 5G platform and make it a more open network to enable connectivity to predictivity. As a result, 5G will be exceedingly predictable and adaptable.
Chatbots will become increasingly sophisticated and would support new channels. Their sophistication will allow the customers to maintain conversations across many different platforms most naturally and conversationally.
The future of enhancing the customer experience through AI will allow the telecom operators to use AI for seamless switching between a chatbot and a human during the same interaction. As artificial intelligence continues to become smarter, customers will not notice any difference in the service that is delivered by the operators.
Some points to remember:
- Operators must strive to create a seamless experience across all channels by designing the experience for the entire customer journey, not just one step of it
- To achieve successful multi-channel customer engagement, AI-based solutions should ensure rapid responses with helpful answers
- These solutions must keep uniform and consistent branding across all channels