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How AI Enhances Your Customer Service (and What the Future Holds)

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence has established itself as a primary driver of business innovation in the 21st century. Your organization may already be using AI for advanced marketing segmentation, improving IT system performance, and providing insights for research and development 

But what about customer support? We believe that AI is key to optimizing your current customer service operations to be as effective as possible. Not only that, it holds a vast amount of potential for the future — you’ll be amazed to find out what the customer service AI of tomorrow could be capable of (more on that below). 

First, let’s examine why AI is so powerful for customer service plus a few examples of how it can be used in your business. 

Why is AI the future of customer service? 

AI adoption for customer service will continue to rapidly grow over the coming years because it increases organizational efficiency and enhances the customer experience. Don’t just take our word for it: Gartner predicts that next year 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as AI and chatbots, up from just 15% in 2018. 

As post-pandemic online sales continue to skyrocket, customer service teams need a way to handle an increasing volume of support requests. It might seem like the answer is to simply hire more people, but scaling teams up and down to deal with fluctuating demand and busy seasons (like the holidays) is often stressful and hard to sustain. 

Autonomous AI-based tools can help customer service teams by carrying out certain routine tasks with minimal intervention from humans. For example, AI can be trained to automatically triage incoming requests and tell teams which tickets should be addressed first.

Augmented AI-based solutions, on the other hand, supplement agents’ existing abilities, allowing them to work faster, smarter, and with new skills that could have taken months or even years to learn otherwise. This allows them to focus on existing strengths, such as using their emotional intelligence and understanding of empathy to provide a better customer experience. 

How is AI used to enhance customer service? 

There are many potential use cases for autonomous and augmented AI in customer service. Here are three key AI-driven capabilities that we think your business should be using. 

Chatbots

AI-powered chatbots are a useful application of customer service AI that can help answer basic questions and point people in the right direction. This might include providing information about certain products or services, updating billing information, and checking the status of orders in progress. These autonomous chatbots are a practical way to keep customer service costs in check and make overall support volume manageable; however, more nuanced conversations will require technology with human input to preserve empathy

High-quality writing

Another area where AI can enhance customer service is written communications. After all, you hire agents for their people skills, and not everyone is a grammar expert. Improving the quality of writing across customer support channels can even increase customers’ perception of a brand. In addition to syntax, AI writing assistants can help agents make sure they are using the correct tone and brand-specific terminology — something that’s especially helpful for new hires when they’re still getting up to speed. 

Machine translation 

Today, companies that want to expand beyond their home country simply can’t get away with supporting customers in only one language. Businesses looking to build out their multilingual customer service capabilities may look to staff up on native speakers or heavily outsource to third parties — and then quickly realize these options are costly and difficult to scale. 

An AI-powered, human-refined machine translation solution like Unbabel allows you to quickly start serving new languages and markets while keeping costs flat. Whether you have an in-house department or leverage a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner, machine translation allows your agents to become fluent in a wide variety of languages. Is your team ready for customer service superpowers? 

Where is customer service AI headed next? 

We’ve come a long way since the origins of artificial intelligence in the 1950s, when leasing a computer could cost up to $200,000 a month. Today, technology with AI capabilities is much more accessible and can fit in your pocket or on your wrist. But part of what makes autonomous AI challenging is that it hasn’t yet reached a place where it can seamlessly emulate or reflect the human experience. 

That being said, there have been some intriguing technological advances made in recent years. In 2019, neuroscientists from the University of California – San Francisco developed a brain-machine interface capable of generating natural-sounding speech by using brain activity to control a synthetic vocal tract.

Paulo, our vice president of product innovation, thinks similar technology could eventually be used to translate thoughts into other languages. “Even further in the future, we believe it will be possible for you to communicate with someone brain-to-brain,” says Paulo. In the shorter term, companies like Panasonic are already thinking about how Unbabel could play a role in technology applications such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems and AI-driven self-service repair platforms. 

While we still have a ways to go before a customer could simply think about the problem they’re having with a product and receive help from someone on the other side of the world, it’s fascinating to think about what AI will enable us to do in the future. It’s clear that we are already benefiting quite a bit from the intersection of human intelligence and artificial intelligence. What’s next for human-machine augmentation? Our CEO Vasco believes that, someday, “we will become the AI.” 

See the future of language translation in action

There is an incredible breadth of business applications for AI, and customer service is among the most exciting and valuable use cases. Machine learning and natural language processing in particular have powered the advent of translation technology that can give your agents the ability to communicate with people they otherwise may have never been able to. AI is allowing us to fulfill a very fundamental human desire: the need to be understood. 

Whether you’re looking to break into new markets, increase efficiency with your current support team, or accelerate global growth while keeping costs flat, Unbabel can help. Click here to book a demo and we'll show you what seamless AI-powered translation can do for your business.

About the Author

André Martins is the Vice President of AI Research at Unbabel, an AI-powered Language Operations platform that helps businesses deliver multilingual support at scale. André has published 30+ papers with over 1,700 citations and an h-index of 21 in top-tier conferences and journals (such as Computational Linguistics, JMLR, PAMI, ACL, ICML, and EMNLP). He also received a best paper award at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL).

Profile Photo of André Martins