What Came First COVID-19 or Poor Customer Service?

Consumer making complaint call

Just like the chicken or egg conundrum the same could apply to COVID-19 and poor customer service. As many organisations hide behind the pandemic for failing service standards, Abbie Heslop, Commercial AI Analyst, EBI.AI shows how to buck the trend using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

COVID-19 has thrown the spotlight on the age-old mystery of the chicken and the egg.  What came first, Coronavirus or poor customer service? Whatever the answer, the truth is many organisations are using the global pandemic to mask a whole host of underlying issues that have been chipping away at service quality for a long time.

British retailer, Laura Ashley is a classic example. When the company went into administration after years of stagnation, Coronavirus was blamed after it failed to secure rescue funds earlier this year and other organisations have been too quick to hide behind the virus.

At the beginning of the pandemic customers understood the difficulties organisations were facing. However, several months on and customers are still left holding on the line for answers to basic enquiries and are expected to endure ‘longer than average’ delivery times for goods and services during these ‘unprecedented times’.

There is only so much slack customers are willing to give and their patience is wearing thin. Longer-term, the outlook is grim for brands that fail to smarten up their act.  Deloitte estimates that the market cap of scandal-hit companies can fall behind competitors by as much as 74% in the following two years. Staff, voters and customers remember those who have attempted to pull the wool over their eyes.

3 ways to improve customer service using Artificial Intelligence

It’s time to stop hiding behind COVID-19 and to implement new winning strategies to boost customer confidence and satisfaction using the benefits of Artificial Intelligence:

1. AI for high resolution levels – customers simply want answers and they expect fast results, with or without a pandemic. ‘Is my local store open?’, ‘Do you provide a delivery service?’ and ‘My usual item is out of stock, when will it be available?’ – these are some of the most common questions customers are asking right now. Fortunately, AI-driven solutions such as virtual assistants can be trained to answer generic questions accurately and swiftly, taking immense pressure off organisations with sky-high contact volumes and shrinking teams.

AI assistants are always available. They don’t get tired, sick or need holidays and they never have a bad day in the office. No matter what time of day or night, AI assistants can answer customer queries right away, in natural language and there’s no limit to the number of customers one assistant can talk to at once.

2. Integrity and empathy lead the way – according to KPMG, 94% of Fortune 1000 companies are already seeing COVID-19 disruptions. The global professional services firm then goes on to say that the “way organizations engage and interact with their customers will be critical” and that “integrity” and “empathy” are playing an even more important role than ever.

Integrity begins with high levels of transparency where organisations make it absolutely clear to consumers how, why and when their data is being used rather than just amassing customer data to sell more products and services.  For example, an insurance company might use data to offer loyal customers better policy quotes, or a supermarket could use its grocery AI assistant to suggest a vegan recipe to a customer who mentioned they were vegan when completing their online basket a few months previously.

Next, show empathy.  AI has already broken down the traditional barriers between man and machine, combining the best of both to increase efficiencies while using real customer interactions to drive human responses.  Busy contact centres for example, now have the opportunity to turn their agents into superheroes using the latest AI-driven virtual assistants.

Thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP), AI assistants quickly understand a customer’s initial query then pass this valuable intelligence along to the live agent who already knows what the person is calling about.  Agents can even ask AI assistants questions while in conversation with a customer to deliver fast, accurate, emotionally intelligent responses.  In one go, it boosts agent confidence and sees customer satisfaction levels soar.

3. Improve and extend the service culture – organisations looking to improve and future-proof their customer service should focus on the natural ability of AI to capture customer data, interpret customer interactions and then use this information to anticipate their requirements now and in the future. Take Get Living, the pioneering UK property management company that serves residents of London and Manchester’s most fashionable neighbourhoods.  In a highly competitive marketplace, where exceptional customer service is essential, Get Living has added a unique feedback functionality to Evie, its immersive in-home tenant bot.  This helps the company to better understand residents’ needs so it can deliver a highly personalised customer experience and improve its rental offering.

New digital front doors transform customer service

The stark reality is that global pandemics are unlikely to stop at COVID-19 and digitalisation isn’t going away.  Successful organisations will rise to the challenge, building preparedness into their customer service frameworks through technology.  Innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) have the power to transform business continuity, creating digital front doors that respond flexibly to greater demand and complexity of customer queries, whatever the crisis.

We may never know what came first the chicken or the egg, however, there is no excuse for poor customer service given the choices presented by AI.

For more ideas and inspiration on how to drive better customer engagement, visit www.ebi.ai.

About the Author

Abbie Heslop is a Commercial AI Analyst at EBI.AI.

Abbie HeslopEstablished in 2014, EBI.AI is among the most advanced UK labs to create fully managed, Enterprise-grade AI assistants. These assistants help clients to provide their customers with faster and better resolutions to their queries, and liberate front-line customer service agents from the dull, repetitive and mundane.

EBI.AI selects the best AI and cloud services available from IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and others, combined with bespoke AI models to deliver its AI communication platform, called Lobster.

Combined with it over 19 years of experience working with big data, analytics and systems integration it has successfully implemented AI assistants that now handle hundreds of thousands of conversations a year across Transport & Travel, Property, Insurance, Public and Automotive industries.

For more information, please visit www.ebi.ai.

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