A recent Gartner study into how businesses are implementing emergent tech revealed some insights into the growing use of artificial intelligence in customer service and support applications.
According to Gartner's Technology Roadmap Survey, approximately 37 percent of the 452 business leaders polled said they were "either piloting or using artificial intelligence bots and virtual customer assistance (VCAs)." Of those respondents, 67 percent said they felt such technologies were "high-value tools."
Artificial intelligence has been around as a concept since the mid-1950s. At that time, scientists believed that human intelligence could be mapped out and recreated in machines. Today, AI has been able to best the world's top Go player, manage complex financial trading and help businesses make smart hiring decisions.
Despite some of the technology's limitations, Lauren Villenueve, senior principal in advisory at Gartner, said AI is an increasingly sought-after tool in the business world.
"While bots and VCAs are still emergent technologies, many service leaders have been impressed with their potential," she said. "As a result, we are seeing more adoption of these technologies into service technology portfolios."
Adopting customer-facing AI
Gartner used its survey data to create its 2018-19 Technologies in Service bullseye. The graphic, displayed as a pie chart, shows some of the new tech making waves in the business world. The chart is split into sections, based on how the corresponding tech is used, including voice-of-customer tools, infrastructure technology and employee engagement tools.
Mobile apps, web chat and online account portals were listed as embedded tech in the slice representing channels, which covers live and self-service support. In that section, AI bots and VCAs were identified as highly important tech still in the adoption phase.
According to Gartner's findings, 68 percent of service leaders said they believed that AI and VCAs "will be more important in two years."
"Service organizations that are integrating these technologies – both customer-facing and rep-facing systems – into their operations are using innovation and progressive strategies to ensure the success of the technology," Villenueve said.
Chatting with nobody
Of the existing uses of AI and VCAs in customer service, the most common is in the web chat applications that many companies use for customer service. Bots are often the first to answer customers and handle less complex lines of questioning before handing off the conversation to a human representative.
According to Gartner, leveraging these technologies for customer service has proven to be a successful way to bring costs down while maintaining good customer relations.
In its research, Gartner said deploying bots in a company's contact center can provide the following:
- Scalability: Bots can juggle multiple customers who have basic problems or common questions. This frees up human service representatives to tackle customers' more challenging issues.
- Quicker response: Bots generally respond to customer inquiries faster than their human counterparts. In one instance, one company told Gartner that its bots responded to customers within five seconds, while human customer service representatives responded in 51 seconds on average.
- Another line of defense: Just as it "takes a thief to catch a thief," bots can recognize other bots. Rather than have a human customer service rep chatting in circles with a bot, a company's bot can free up its customer service bandwidth for individuals who actually need help.
"AI bots and VCAs are relatively new in the customer service space," Villenueve said. "It's critical that companies evaluate these technologies to ensure they are the right fit for their organization and customers."