Improve Your Customer Experience with Artificial Intelligence

Learn how to leverage artificial intelligence to improve your company communications. Explore what is currently possible using AI, including chatbots and other natural language processing applications.

Learn More

Improve Your Customer Experience with Artificial Intelligence

Remember when you used to call a customer service number and speak directly to a real, live human? It wasn’t that long ago. Now, however, you almost always connect to an interactive voice recognition (IVR) system first. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have fundamentally changed customer service and business communications, and not just with IVR.

AI is the ability of a computer to mimic human cognitive skills, such as learning and understanding. Although it’s still in its early stages, AI is already changing the landscape of company communications. Today, businesses use AI to chat with customers, route calls, send emails, and more. According to the Accenture 2016 Technology Vision survey, 70 percent of corporate executives said they were investing more in AI than they were in 2014, and that number has been on the rise ever since.

AI’s Rapid Growth

By 2020, Gartner predicts that customers will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. This is becoming possible because of advances in machine learning. Machine learning refers to the ability of AI systems to learn and improve automatically, taking in data through observations and interactions and adapting accordingly without being explicitly programmed. Essentially, machine learning models program themselves.

Rapid advances in AI like machine learning are bringing many businesses new opportunities for growth and revenue. There are three main factors influencing this fast-moving space:

  • Advances in artificial intelligence (AI): A wealth of computing resources and large data samples have pushed AI further and faster than we ever expected.
  • Adoption of APIs and microservices: Development trends have moved away from monolithic applications. Now AI can understand a calendar, look up current inventory, and make updates in real-time.
  • Adoption of messaging by businesses: Business-to-consumer communication has created new business cases for bots, which is driving even greater adoption of this technology.

AI for Customer Support

Artificial intelligence helps businesses engage with larger numbers of customers without sacrificing the quality of the interaction. For example, chatbots like those seen in Microsoft Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Slack enable businesses to respond to customer messages promptly and to increase the number of customers they can communicate with at once. While the customer feels like they are interacting with a live person, the technology has been programmed to answer common questions with automated responses.

Businesses are using AI to offer customer support in other ways as well, such as natural language interfaces that allow customers to speak commands instead of pressing buttons, or intent extraction that analyzes a customer’s intent. According to David Marcus, Facebook's VP of Messaging Products, “Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.”

Benefits of AI

AI offers multiple benefits to both customers and businesses. Among the most apparent benefit to customers is shorter hold times. AI can be used to help route callers to the proper destination quickly, skipping some — or all — of the traditional phone menu. An example of an intelligent routing system is the Twilio TaskRouter API. TaskRouter dynamically assigns messages to the human agents that can best handle them. Messages and other types of data can be routed based on the “skills” required and the priority set. AI applications like this help build superior customer experiences.

For businesses, cost savings are a significant driver to the adoption of AI for customer support. While a customer service phone call costs a business $6 to $20 per call, automated calls cost an average of 25 cents. However, the benefits of AI extend far beyond the bottom line. When automated services take care of a portion of customer service requests, agents are free to handle more complex requests. This reduces customer frustration while continuing to reduce the load on each live agent, allowing operators to specialize and give better service.

The Importance of Context

Without context, artificial intelligence is just artificial. AI becomes intelligent with the input of data and context. Businesses need to have the right processes in place to properly feed data to their AI tools. On the flip side, AI provides contextual intelligence to contact center agents, such as personal data, interaction history, and other aspects of the customer journey, which helps agents perform better. The more an agent knows about who the customer is, what they’re looking for, and what conversations they’ve already had, the easier it is to provide better, faster service.

Contextual intelligence saves customers from having to repeat themselves and ultimately contributes to excellent experiences. Tools like intelligent routing, phrase detection, call scoring, and intelligent redaction of recordings make contact center operations teams more efficient. When contextual intelligence helps customers resolve common issues without needing to speak to an agent, agents are free to focus on higher value activities.

All About Bots

Bots are software that lets a customer interact with a business through messaging. Bots are an increasingly common use of AI in business communications. While some bots operate on their own, many others support and augment a human agent that’s representing the business. Bots provide automated responses based on message analysis using technologies such as natural language understanding (NLU) and intent extraction. Today’s bots fall into the following categories:

Chatbots can carry on a two-way conversation with a human.

Personal assistant bots can answer questions and respond to commands, but they typically don’t carry on a two-way conversation, at least as their primary function. You know them as Siri, Google Now, and Cortana.

Notification bots are made of logic that lives in your chat room. They pop up now and again to update you with relevant information, but you don’t necessarily chat with them.

Command line bots use simple text commands to access services like checking the weather, ordering a car directly from Slack, or controlling an IoT device.

The Hybrid Approach

Ultimately, the goal of AI is to help customers have a more personalized and efficient experience without them even noticing. AI improves agent conversations by helping to anticipate customer needs and automate actions where possible. In cases where customers can self-serve, AI tools can help those interactions be more human. However, even with the advancement in AI technology, humans aren’t going away from the contact center anytime soon.

Human interactions are complex, as well as necessary for forming bonds and customer loyalty. Live agents working in harmony with AI, known as the hybrid approach, is the ideal scenario for most businesses today. With the hybrid approach, a human-assisted bot is a first-to-respond entity, and it falls back on a human agent if it doesn’t know how to respond effectively. Facebook M and Clara are examples of this type of bot.

The goal of the human-assisted bot is to fulfill requests using machine learning as often as possible. Bots can learn from human decisions, so they get better with algorithmic and data-driven decisions day-by-day, eventually reducing the need for humans to step in. Hybrid intelligence is a “best of both worlds” approach and makes for an excellent way to deliver human-style communication at scale.

AI and Twilio

Unfortunately, most bots deliver a subpar experience to a human agent, meaning companies are left to balance higher costs associated with human support agents and the negative CSAT implications of a poor chatbot. It doesn’t have to be this way. At Twilio, we’ve created Autopilot, a conversational AI interface, to bridge the gap between human agents and self-service bots.

You can use Twilio Autopilot to build, train, and deploy:

  • Bots that are intelligent.

Build intelligent IVRs, bots, and Alexa apps that are powered by Twilio-built natural language understanding and machine learning frameworks.

  • Bots that keep learning.

Autopilot provides the training pipeline and interfaces to train your bots using real-time data, making your bot smarter over time.

  • Bots that can contextually handoff to a human.

Smoothly transition a bot conversation to a conversation with agents in a contact center when necessary, passing along the full context of the interaction. Bots for every channel.

Autopilot responses are adapted to provide the best experience on nearly any channel including IVRs, SMS, Chat, Alexa, Slack, and Google Assistant. Developers can build once and deploy across multiple channels instantly.

Want to learn more? Talk to a sales rep about how to apply AI in your use case.