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AI set to enhance customer experience

By Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings

Businesses today understand that customer service is king, and improving interaction with customers, and offering the best possible customer experience, can mean the difference between staying in business or closing the doors. Barely a day passes by without a story in the papers or online about the potential of AI to boost customer service and interact with clients like never before.

However, there's the old maxim that individuals want to be treated like human beings, which means they want to deal with another human being who will respond to them accordingly, in the right manner and the right tone. Having said that, the advances in AI, when used in customer service, don't necessarily go against this wisdom.

The term AI spans a wide variety of technologies, but it centres on tools that have the ability to think in a human-like manner and automate tasks for scenarios that are, to a certain extent, predictable or based on contextual data. This is why, although AI will undoubtedly have a major effect on many areas of the business, such as training, HR, sales and marketing, its application in customer experience will be particularly useful.

However, businesses shouldn't jump on the AI bandwagon simply because it's the latest and greatest. They need to carefully consider their AI journeys, so they can get the maximum that AI has to offer and truly bring value to their customers.

There are various ways AI can benefit customer service. Think of the average reply time. AI can be integrated seamlessly with not only contact centres but social media accounts as well. This means that customer service becomes seamless too, and businesses can offer their customers answers and conversations that are almost instant. Even a difference of 10 or 20 seconds could have a significant effect in terms of return customers.

Then there's the average handle time. There is big pressure on businesses to resolve customer service issues as quickly as possible, which can be a challenge for the types of businesses that face a massive volume of these issues on a daily basis. AI could be of huge benefit, as machines have the ability to retrieve troubleshooting information far more quickly and accurately than a person could.

Finding customer service help online can be a huge mission. Scrolling through a vast knowledge base to find the correct answer to your question can be an onerous and painful exercise in a plethora of unsuitable frequently asked questions (FAQs) sections. However, the advent of intelligent bots that can answer common questions could solve this issue, and more reliably, in some cases, than the human brain.

Start planning what may be the most fundamental, frequently asked questions your customer service team needs to handle today, and where these bots could shorten the cycle. If a business can train a bot on current FAQ content and feed that information in, the bot will have the ability to respond to customer questions with the content from the knowledge base.

The potential applications for AI in customer service are limitless. There's no doubt that AI has a number of interfaces and ways that can, and will, be used within customer relations, from chatbots to in-app experiences. AI interactivity will allow businesses to identify issues, troubleshoot problems, route customers, and deal with issues with far greater accuracy than human interactions alone.

However, companies should ask some questions first, such as where an actual person's interaction with the customer is most needed, and where AI could take over this role and be more helpful. AI would be beneficial for social media interactions, or even by having a chatbot to help on the Web site. However, some interactions demand an in-person experience.

Businesses must understand that in today's average company, a maximum of 85% of work or processes can be automated. MIP refers to this automation as socialising the business administration systems with the consumer. The caveat here is that a business must implement a technology that will allow a consumer or customer to transition between an AI process and a human interface seamlessly.

It is key is to understand the difference between AI (augmented intelligence) and AI (artificial intelligence), and interpreting where each strategy holds true in one's business. One should allow the customer to elect the service route in the beginning of the AI roll-out. So many companies force artificial intelligence on the customer experience just to be first to market, when the customer may prefer augmented intelligence. If you start on an AI strategy without this process function, then you will very quickly grow unhappy customers. One never knows when a customer needs to transition between the digital world and the real world.

MIP Holdings

MIP Holdings

MIP Holdings is one of the world's leaders in the provision of 'risk-based' billing services to mainly, but not exclusively, the financial services industry. The company designs and develops software solutions that focus on the collection of contributions and payment of benefits in the healthcare, employee benefits and life assurance sectors, as well as in personal finance, integrated lending systems and treasury.

With a focus on meeting client-specific requirements and through extensive investment in technology, MIP 'future proofs' its solutions. Strict adherence to industry standards, as well as stringent internal control over standards and quality assurance, ensure the systems MIP develops meet all client expectations.

Expanding into the telecoms sector through its purchase of Itemate, MIP Holdings provides telecoms operations and management solutions to communications service providers worldwide. The company's specific skills in the area of mobile prepaid value chains, prepaid product life cycle management analysis, voucher management systems and mobile financial services enable it to provide an end-to-end service. Its most recent acquisition, Waytag, further enhanced the company's ability to provide a comprehensive solution to its clients through the unique Waytag offering of location-based services.

MIP Holdings was founded in 1989 and is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, with additional offices in Cape Town and Pretoria.