It’s nearly that time of the year again — holiday lights, festive decorations, and, of course, a surge in shopping. This season, however, amidst the glittering storefronts and endless holiday promotions, there’s a silent revolution unfolding: artificial intelligence (AI) in customer service. So what does this mean for businesses and shoppers? Is it truly transformative or just another tiresome trend?
Businesses eyeing AI this holiday season face a series of key questions: How will they weave AI into their customer interactions? Can AI analytics truly decipher customer sentiment and feedback? And with a diverse customer base, how can AI refine communication?
This month, we tapped Excell Brown, Customer Experience Manager at Birdies, to help answer some of these questions and kick off our series on holiday preparation. If you’re in the New York City area on October 26th, you have the opportunity to hear from Excell first-hand as she offers her expertise as part of our Gladly Connect Local panel on the same subject.
1. What has been your reaction to AI and automation in customer service?
As a brand that prioritizes a personalized white-glove approach to our service, I was initially skeptical of the potential implications of automating interactions with customers. I wondered if AI could replicate the nuance and special touches that a human support hero could seamlessly incorporate into their customer interactions. This opinion has, of course, evolved as I began implementing automation and AI features into our support team’s process. I learned that while the shortcomings of AI/automation tools may exist, in the areas where AI succeeds, it outperforms areas where humans tend to fall short. AI will likely never be able to replace human support, but together, both human support heroes and AI can combine forces to create the most efficient and personalized customer experience.
2. How can AI be leveraged to identify emerging trends during high-demand periods like the holidays?
Where humans fall short, AI picks up the slack. AI can scan inbound requests and categorize them within seconds, whereas this task would require much more time for a human to complete. Transitioning the responsibility of inbound categorization to AI frees up support heroes and department managers, enabling them to focus on solving customer inquiries and being proactive in resolving trending issues rather than being reactive. This also allows for trends to be identified and acted upon much faster, thus improving the customer’s experience.
3. From your experience, how can real-time AI monitoring of customer service channels assist in optimizing the customer journey, especially during peak shopping times?
Rewind to two holiday seasons ago, we struggled with time-sensitive inquiries, specifically order cancellation requests. As many ecommerce brands know, the cancellation window for orders tends to be quite short, especially when order packers are rushing to fulfill such a high volume of orders this season. With many inbound requests in our queue, our small support team could not successfully cancel each requested order — by the time they finally received the requests in their inboxes, the orders were already in transit.
Fortunately, during this most recent holiday season, our team was covered by AI. Our lovely AI agent, Birdie, handled the majority of our inbound requests to cancel orders. AI responded to these requests instantly and took the necessary actions to cancel each requested order without a support hero ever stepping in. This improved our customers’ experience as well as reserved our live agents for trickier and more nuanced outreach.
4. How does your customer service team plan to integrate AI into the customer experience this holiday season?
Birdies are leveraging AI in a multitude of ways this upcoming season. Our support team of four heroes will be supplemented with automated flows covering our five most common outreach topics. Essentially, we’re able to operate at two tiers of service by staffing first-tier categories with AI and reserving support heroes for second-tier level interactions.
We’re also leveraging AI to offer a white-glove experience to customers with higher LTV (Lifetime Value). Using AI to scan each customer’s profile, we can provide quicker service and additional options to our most loyal Birdies fans. This further strengthens our relationship with these customers.
5. What are some ways that AI-driven analytics can enhance the understanding of customer sentiment and feedback to adapt strategies in customer service?
Using AI to detect customer sentiment has been key in offering exceptional service while shortening wait time during such a busy season. All inbound interactions are scanned for sentiment by AI and transferred to our expert support heroes if AI determines that this customer requires a human touch. Our inbound requests can also be routed directly to a live support hero if the outreach contains any of our blacklisted words. This blacklist word bank helps us locate escalated customers and take care of them much faster.
6. Considering how varied customer behaviors and expectations are, how is your team using AI and automation to fine-tune communication?
Our support heroes are phenomenal, but they can’t always be perfect! We all know that typos and grammar mistakes are inevitable, especially in time-sensitive interactions like live chats and SMS. Fortunately, our agents can edit their text seamlessly by utilizing Hero AI authoring. Chat GPT can transform their text by resolving incorrect spelling and grammar. This feature can also increase or decrease the length of the message, reword the sentence entirely, or change the text to be more friendly or professional. On our heroes’ off days, they can still ensure top-quality service.
As the holiday season draws closer, many businesses are integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into their customer service strategies. While AI is adept at categorizing requests, spotting trends, and efficiently handling tasks like order cancellations, its role is more than just transactional. AI offers a nuanced approach to crafting bespoke experiences, particularly for high-value customers. Advanced tools can tap into customer sentiment, refining communication in previously unattainable ways.
With AI as a valuable tool in the contemporary customer service toolkit, businesses can ensure technology complements the human touch. This harmony allows for swift resolutions, ensuring customers feel valued and encouraged to return.
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