These days, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) in our world. Many companies are now utilizing AI to help streamline their workflows and even to engage their customers and clients — especially in the area of customer support.
At WP Site Care, quality customer support is always at the top of our minds. After all, a major chunk of our day-to-day work is interacting with customers — whether we’re helping them troubleshoot a serious issue with their WordPress site or consulting with them on finding the best hosting provider or choosing the best WordPress plugin for their needs.
For this reason, we’re always looking ahead to the latest innovations in online customer support. So what do trends in AI mean for the future of customer support? And more specifically, what does it mean for the WordPress user who might need help?
In this article, we dispel some of the common misconceptions around AI and then explore how AI affects customer support in both the present and future.
AI is Already an Integral Part of Your Life
The first thing to understand is you’re probably already interacting with various forms of artificial intelligence — likely on a daily basis.
Artificial intelligence is not some futuristic sci-fi concept in which computers become smarter than humans and take over the world. (Yet … 🤔)
AI is simply when you program computers to accomplish certain tasks that up to now have required human levels of intelligence. This generally means being able to “learn” and adapt from experience and making decisions based on changing data and input, speech and visual recognition and so on. Perhaps you can already guess how many ways you’re already engaging AI:
- When you ask Siri or Alexa what the best restaurants are in your area
- When your new smartphone unlocks automatically because it “recognizes” your face
- When Facebook guesses which posts you’d like to see, based on your previous likes and comments
- When Netflix suggests content to you based on what you’ve watched in the past
- When you call a company and the automated system asks you to summarize what you’re calling about
How AI is Changing Customer Support
The two most common AI functions we typically interact with are machine learning and natural language processing.
- Machine learning refers to a computer’s ability to identify and adapt to patterns based on large amounts of data.
- Natural language processing, or NLP, refers to a computer’s ability to interpret and respond to human speech.
AI-powered customer service typically draws on both technologies, depending on how people choose to engage. You’ve likely encountered these technologies in the past.
When you call a customer service line, an automated recording may ask you to specify what you’re calling about in order to direct your call to the right department. When initiating a support chat on a website, chances are your first interactions are with a “chatbot,” a computer program that uses machine learning to send you pre-written answers to your questions based on keywords and phrases you type in.
“Ugh, but why can’t I just speak to a REAL human?!”
Artificial intelligence only serves as a “front lines” communication tool. The ultimate goal is to point you to the most streamlined path for resolving your query, and sometimes that means directing you to an FAQ page that offers a DIY solution. Of course, if the AI can’t provide a satisfactory answer to your question, it will always forward your support request to a real human being.
It’s also important to keep in mind support desk hours — sometimes it’s not possible to immediately speak to a real human being because they’re simply off the clock. Luckily, AI-powered support technology, especially chatbots, happen to make great “answering machines.”
For example, WP Site Care’s parent company Southern Web utilizes a service called Drift as a first-level interface with both existing and prospective clients. Drift utilizes chatbot technology to help us answer quick support questions, as well as provide a way for qualified leads to engage us at any time, day or night.
So, Will Robots Replace Humans in Customer Support?
AI is not only a useful tool that gives customers 24/7 access to help and information for basic questions and concerns. It also helps customer support departments streamline their efforts so more people get help quicker.
So should we worry about robots taking over customer support jobs? Nah. While customer support systems are relying more heavily on AI-powered technologies like chatbots, live human support is not going away anytime soon. After all, there is no replacement for the responsiveness, empathy and problem-solving skills of a human being.