Robot on computer with headset

AI for round-the-clock customer service

Improving the online customer experience through artificial intelligence

4 minute read
Robot on computer with headset

What if you could leave work for the day knowing the customer service side of your business was taken care of well past 5 pm?

This is the reality for many organisations as they rapidly adopt artificial intelligence (AI) into their business models.

According to the CSIRO’s National AI Centre’s (NAIC) 2023 report, Australia’s AI ecosystem momentum, AI technology refers to any technology that is utilised to improve business performance and outcomes through the automation of tasks, interactions, decision-making and data analytics.

The report outlined how organisations were realising the potential for AI, with customer service bots and digital workforce analytics projects presenting as the two AI use cases which proved to be the most useful for organisations and driving major revenue benefits.

AI business adopters reported time savings of 30 per cent across all AI-related initiatives, and when asked to quantify their revenue benefit, Australian businesses recognised an average of $361,315 from each implemented AI initiative.

NAIC Director Stela Solar said there had been a rapid adoption of AI over the last six months, with generative AI on the rise.

“AI technology has become way more accessible to people, including people who don’t have AI specialist skills,” she said.

“There are now low-code or no-code AI solution options a lot of businesses can use, even if they don’t have an investment in dedicated data scientists or AI developers, which has really led to that surge in AI adoption.”

Creating an always-on environment

Thanks to the around-the-clock nature of AI, Ms Solar said businesses were able to develop new revenue streams and service opportunities.

“While AI was previously seen to achieve cost savings or operational efficiencies, throughout our report we found businesses increasingly use it to create better customer service experiences and revenue streams and services.” 

“What we’re seeing here is that AI can help businesses respond to those signals, which may be of high volumes that businesses can’t tackle or those that might happen after hours when business employees might be at home and having downtime," she said.

“AI can also help to identify customer questions, challenges, strengths, opportunities and feedback, as well as responding to questions customers might have regardless of the time.”

Where AI in business works best

With AI advancing at a phenomenal rate, there are so many ways for businesses to use it to learn more about their customers and provide the support they are looking for.

However, should all businesses adapt to customer service bots?

Ms Solar said it was all about volume and there were some instances where a chatbot wouldn’t work well or, quite frankly, make any sense.

“In some situations, having chatbots doesn’t make sense because the business may be operating in high-value, low-volume products, so the question that a business will want to ask is, where the volume is in the business and whether there is repetition and pattern,” she said.

“If a business receives a high volume of customer enquiries and they generally follow a pattern or similar questions, it would be a perfect candidate for a chatbot use case, where the chatbot can answer those basic questions, and then move to a person for the more customised questions.”

Ms Solar said beyond typed engagements, chatbots had expanded to include calls.

“We are seeing so much of customer service moving into the voice space, where people can verbally engage with a chatbot,” she said.

“This is made possible through improvements in natural language processing, like what we’ve seen with ChatGPT.

“One way this method could be implemented is contact centre bots, which can help triage customer requests or enable immediate customer engagement.”

Although this step up in technology is handy to enable better customer experiences, Ms Solar said it was important to assess whether using a voice chatbot was having the opposite effect of what was desired.

“The path to a person can be difficult – we’ve all had experiences where the chatbot isn’t understanding our request and we can’t get past the chatbot to the person,” she said.

“That creates a lot of customer dissatisfaction.

“There are limitations to bots – they can help us solve those repetitive questions and get us through service more rapidly, but there can be highly custom questions and people may want a different kind of support.”

AI in the future

Ms Solar said businesses should embrace AI as an opportunity while also navigating its risks.

“The AI landscape has a complexity to it, as found in Australia’s AI ecosystem momentum report,” she said.

“Business on average needs a least four partners for any AI project and for more mature companies, sometimes over six partners for an AI project.

“AI has a value chain associated with it. There are some technology platform components, there are data components, and then there are specialist partners who provide guidance in areas such as law and privacy.

“There will be several partnering organisations that a business will want to engage with to really have a robust AI solution that creates value and trust.”

Ms Solar said businesses should think about responsible AI front and centre to ensure they were building trust with customers on their AI journey.

“For businesses to be competitive in our AI-powered world, they will need to embrace AI, but they will need to do so in a way that builds trust and upholds values such as fairness, equity and diversity,” she said.