Automation is changing the way the enterprise operates and how people work across a broad range of business processes. So much so that organisations who still lack an ambitious and rigorous automation agenda risk being left behind. The benefits of automating many business processes are clear, with time-savings and efficiencies leading the list of benefits for many businesses. External and customer-facing businesses are automating much of their customer service operations, with some successfully automating upwards of 35% of all their customer interactions (including phone support) – without any human involvement required.
Virtual agents built on conversational AI are now advanced enough to automate over 50% of all chat traffic, when they are deployed as first-line support. With over half of all customer inquiries either resolved immediately or seamlessly forwarded to a human operator. This frees up customer service and support staff from menial, repetitive tasks. Allowing them to focus on more complex queries and, more importantly, meaning customers receive the answers they are looking for, whether they come from a human or a machine.
During today’s straitened times, it simply is no longer financially or competitively feasible for any organization to rely solely on human agents to drive their omnichannel customer service function. A modern, fit for purpose, digital customer service representative, virtual agent, or advisor offers businesses an alternative, using AI to automate the handling of thousands of basic questions and endless back-office tasks that they face every day.
Customer service has proven to be an ideal use case for conversational AI. With many business’s customers a mere click away from a competitor, particularly if they are not satisfied with the service they receive. However, what chatbots or virtual agents have yet to do, is solve the challenge of speeding up, or even automating, the lengthy interactions with end-users that many organizations have, both internally and externally, where documents play a vital role.
Take many accounting, invoicing, accounts payable or legal negotiations. Many internal and external communications in business involve the processing of a document or an image. From making an order, to processing employee travel expenses or uploading receipts for insurance claims. The back office remains overwhelmed by paper, or its digital equivalents.
Leveraging conversational AI with OCR (optical character recognition), or document interpretation, capabilities offers a way for that paper and those processes to be automated. Why shouldn’t they be done directly within a virtual agent’s chat panel? Which would have no problem scanning in and analysing those documents in real time? Prompting customers to upload images or documents directly in the chat window and analysing those documents, while they chat.
These additional capabilities bring forward the possibility of virtual agents taking on more of a role in business, not only in customer service and sales. Conversational AI, working together with OCR and RPA, offers a way to analyze and understand the content of any document, as well as the context and intent of the user, automating the backend processes, with minimal hassle.
From improving accounting and tax preparation to tracking customer complaints, the possibilities are endless. With self learning technology extracting and validating information from a wide range of documents based on just a small amount of data, the integration of OCR capabilities, gives virtual agents the capability to do more.
While it would be foolhardy to predict that virtual agents will ever be smart enough to replace humans entirely, conversational AI is now at a place where it can achieve the right balance between speed and accuracy, based on relevant information, conversation history, and predictive analytics. Firms are using it to provide the most accurate answers to first-response questions, even as policies, people, and products shift.
Virtual agents also tap data-intelligence to route inquiries to an appropriate human agent when needed, and make second-line recommendations about how to handle issues or identify problems when the hand-off occurs.
While many executives and institutional leaders have yet to be convinced of the benefits of AI for handling customers, customer service leaders are charging ahead and showing the way. Driven not only by a desire to increase revenue and reduce costs, but to accelerate the customer experience in the very first instance. And they have proven that significant gains are there for the taking.
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