Commentary

The Bumpy Road Ahead For AI In Sales, Customer Service

More companies are expected to deploy various forms of artificial intelligence next year and it looks like many customers aren’t going to be all that happy about it.

As companies optimize their customer service approaches, chatbots will increasingly become alternatives to email.  And as they look to reduce costs and headcount in contact centers, more businesses will push customers to digital and chatbots, according to a new 2018 AI forecast by Forrester.

The bad news is that the transition to AI will be somewhat bumpy, which will have a negative impact of customer satisfaction, according to the Forrester forecast.

Companies will apply AI to specific customer-facing channels next year, discovering that machine learning often requires a highly manual process of categorizing text, speech  or visual customer interactions not recognized by AI technology.

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Essentially, the machines will have to be taught some of the things they don’t yet know.

This early form of blending technology with the correct amount of human-assisted processes to improve machine learning will be a big disruptor next year, according to the forecast. Among the Forrester predictions relating to artificial intelligence:

  • Several major brands will kill customer service email in favor of chatbots and chat. Major brands will start to favor real-time communications via chat and chatbots rather than through mobile apps and email in websites.
  • Companies will use visual sentiment analysis to improve service and sales outcomes. Facial recognition will be used to gauge emotion and sentiment, a technological capability that will be extended to customer service and sales.
  • At least one B2B firm will conduct more than 50% of its lead nurturing with AI. Conversational AI will start to automate more of the lead processes, reducing the cost of a sale, enabling sellers to focus more on the most qualified leads.

All of this movement into more automated processes will cause service levels and customer satisfaction to suffer, due to management expectations of AI automation.

This will lead to customer service numbers being harder to locate on corporate websites and in apps, since the companies will want to route customers through technology rather than dealing with them directly, which is more expensive, according to the Forrester predictions.

Deploying AI solutions can have great long-term benefits. The risk is that companies don’t devote enough resource to getting it right before counting on the returns.

3 comments about "The Bumpy Road Ahead For AI In Sales, Customer Service".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 10, 2017 at 5:03 p.m.

    Agent. Agent. Agent.

  2. Patrick Stroh from Brunner / data science, analytics, November 13, 2017 at 3:36 p.m.

    Tend to agree; expectations are running high and fast.  It's not often that maximizing profits via automation means higher customer engagement/satisfaction/etc.  Maybe AI can break that pattern.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, November 13, 2017 at 4:29 p.m.

    It is the the shiny object of the day, Patrick.

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