Dec 28, 2022

How Customer Support Can Help Your Business Thrive in 2023

By all indications, 2023 is going to be a difficult year for business:

Further budget tightening and moratoriums on hiring are expected. At the same time, competition remains as fierce as ever, and customers still seek a differentiated experience. 

So what’s the answer to staying competitive and cost-conscience? Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation tools make it easier to care for customers by improving and streamlining support processes. By leveraging AI for customer support, your business can stay competitive and provide great customer experiences without major cash or human capital expenditure.

Here are a few ways to take advantage of AI for customer support in 2023:

Use AI chatbots to communicate with customers 24/7 

Customer support chatbots answer common questions without having to engage your agents. They are “taught” to use resources like knowledge bases and FAQ pages to source answers to basic customer questions around the clock.

Customers have embraced chatbots, with 69% saying that they’re willing to interact with a bot on simple issues, according to Zendesk, because they want immediate service. According to a recent Khoros survey, 79% of consumers want a quick response when contacting a brand.

Even when they don’t have the right answer, chatbots provide an instant response that makes a good first impression. And when they hand off more complex issues to human agents, those agents get immediate context into each issue by viewing the chatbot conversation. 

With chatbots your customers are happier with quick response times, your agents are more productive, and your company is saving money as well. Juniper research says customer support chatbots used in retail will save companies $439 million globally by 2023, increasing customer retention while decreasing operating costs.

By using AI to perform these functions, you’re engaging customers and extracting valuable, actionable feedback without having to involve live agents. 

Find the best agent for every issue with smart routing 

Smart or intelligent routing is when customer support teams gather customer inquiries from a variety of channels and then, using AI, send the customer question to the resource that can offer the best resolution. 

Today, AI can send the customer to a help desk or knowledge base article or route the query to the customer support agent that is most capable of answering the question in the shortest time possible. 

Smart routing technologies collect data from every customer interaction in order to make improvements to every next customer journey, analyzing responses from both chatbots and human agents to “learn” how similar interactions can be enhanced in the future. 

A 2022 Zendesk survey says that 54% of customers are frustrated by how many questions chatbots need to ask before transferring them to a human agent. The combination of AI and smart routing helps solve this pain point. AI collects intelligence with each query your team fields, analyzing both chatbot and human agent interactions to understand customer intent quicker and produce faster and better responses as time goes by.   

Smart routing can also help companies keep their best agents. According to McKinsey, nearly half of surveyed managers reported an increase in employee attrition this past year.

AI-powered support experience software can help curb employee attrition and reduce the costs of employee churn in two significant ways: First, by automating a lot of menial tasks, serving up the right contextual content for agents at the right time. This provides relief for overworked customer agents, of which there are many. In fact, only 15% of agents are content with their workloads, according to Zendesk.

The same survey shows ‌agents are also frustrated with the career paths afforded to them. This leads to the second significant way AI-powered support experience software helps: smart routing gives agents the opportunity to learn and progress. AI technology can recognize the areas of support that are under-supported, giving managers the opportunity to coach and engage agents to learn new things. For example, AI can identify customer questions with historically slower resolution times, giving support managers the insight needed to provide agents with specific training to handle these queries. This not only helps customer support teams home in on and solve underserved types of inquiries, but it also allows agents to continue learning and developing their skills. 

Proactively detect customer emotions with sentiment analysis tools

Zendesk’s customer experience report shows that 68% of customers expect every experience to be personalized. AI-powered customer sentiment analysis can help. 

Customer sentiment analysis uses AI to understand how customers feel about your company and its products/services. AI analyzes customer communication and determines whether their sentiments are positive or negative. It can also detect emotions by analyzing customer words, phrases, and sentences.

These insights can help you tailor customer experiences based on what your customers want – the definition of personalization. According to McKinsey, 76% of customers said that personalized communications were a key factor in considering doing business with a company, and 78% said that personalized content makes a repeat purchase from a company more likely. 

For example, sentiment analysis can be used after new product releases or updates to quickly gauge customer responses and personalize future communication based on those reactions. You can segment people who have negatively reacted to a particular feature, act on those insights to improve the feature, and notify them once you’ve fixed the issues that were bothering them.   

As McKinsey’s data shows, companies that focus on personalization see better retention and loyalty rates, which leads to great long-term customer value.

Sentiment analysis also provides support team members with the data they need to serve customers better. With SupportLogic, customer support leaders can extract and analyze data that gives agents a real-time picture of the customer’s emotional state. Agents can then engage that person appropriately whether they are in a rush, frustrated, confused, or even angry. 

Being able to recognize signs that a customer is unhappy gives your team a head start in trying to keep them from eventually churning. Sentiment analysis gives you a clear view of the customer’s entire journey, with sentiment scores for every touchpoint. 

Agents can prioritize unhappy or frustrated customers and find them the support they need to avoid further escalation. According to Zendesk, 74% of customers will forgive a company for its mistakes if the company responds to those mistakes by providing excellent service. 

Sentiment analysis also helps managers understand where agents stand to improve and coach them accordingly. Managers can view and analyze negatively scored interactions and provide feedback that keeps agents engaged, learning, and improving. 

Again, agents who feel that they are valued and have an opportunity to grow and learn are more likely to stay with your company. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning report found that companies that provide internal career paths for their employees retain them for an average of 5.4 years, nearly two times as long as companies that struggle with internal mobility. 

Begin to see AI as a long-term positive investment for customer support

Companies that focus on investing in new technologies that help their employees work smarter are not just preparing themselves for a tight 2023. These digital transformations will continue to pay off in the long run, enabling companies to understand how a recession affects their business model and where to make improvements.    

Investments in AI can keep costs flat while getting the same level of productivity. Further refinement can even help you enhance the customer experience without increasing spending and, eventually, cut costs while still providing top-tier customer service.

It is all about taking an across-the-board look at the customer experience and injecting smart automation, AI intelligence, and other process optimization into the jobs that must be done. With AI for customer support, it’s not about replacing humans with automation; it’s about helping humans work better by making processes better than they were before. 

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