AI and Customer Service – Start small, iterate, learn and improve. But definitely start.

Ger Perdisatt

Ger Perdisatt

Enterprise Director

Read Time, 4 min.

AI and Customer Service – Start small, iterate, learn and improve. But definitely start.

In conjunction with the Contact Centre Management Association and Codec, Microsoft jointly commissioned  research into the current state of thinking in the Irish market around the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to customer contact and customer support scenarios.

The results are interesting – But before discussing that, it might be worth to pause and clarify what we at Microsoft mean by AI. It’s a term used both widely and wildly to describe a vast array of different elements, and I think this very factor explains some of the outcomes of our research.

At Microsoft, we believe that AI enables collaborative and natural interactions between people and machines that extend the human ability to sense, learn and understand.  Our deep expertise and investment in AI enables computers and agents that understand what they see, communicate in natural language, answer complex questions and interact with their environment. In addition, we’re putting significant emphasis on the ethics and societal impacts of intelligent technologies to ensure that we’re empowering every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more in an equal way.

AI agents and tools that can engage with humans to reason, communicate and answer questions intelligently. The application of that to customer service and customer contact scenarios are pretty clear – customers self-serving to get their issues resolved faster, human support teams able to focus on the more complex cases – and significant cost and efficiency gains as well. Great.

However, our research has shown that although most of our organisations surveyed (90% actually) agree AI has transformative potential for these scenarios, most see this as a future rather than current investment. Less than 40% see AI as a priority now – particularly in terms of customer relationship management (CRM) technology. I think there are two main reasons for this.

  • The first is knowledge. Referring back to my point about how wide, wild and confusing the term ‘AI’ can be, many customers struggle to understand how and where to start. Often, there’s an expectation that deep, exotic skills are required to start building AI customer service agents. Good news! We have pre-built AI services that can handle vision, speech, language, knowledge and search tasks. These include impressive– and powerful – features that you can build for your AI customer service agents like emotion detection, real-time speech translation, sentiment analysis, and loads more.
  • The second is legacy. Many customers have large, existing systems and infrastructures. It’s a daunting task to think about replacing that. That’s not where we start with many customers. Quite the contrary in fact – the key to many of our customer’s successful projects is to start small, learn fast, and scale from there.

Microsoft Enterprise Director Ger Perdisatt (Left), Dorothy O’Byrne, Managing Director, Contact Centre Management Association (CCMA) Ireland (middle), Larry Tobin, Dynamics 365 Practice Director, Codec. (right)- Photograhs: Colm Mahady

I should stress that this isn’t ‘art of the future’ stuff. These are tools that – in conjunction with great partners like Codec – we’re helping customers with right now. Customers are building agents that are helping them serve new markets, in innovative ways, in real-time, 24-7 – at a fraction of the traditional costs using only human agents. Obviously, it’s key to have a seamless escalation and handover to a real agent at some point (with the context of what’s going on, and the information needed to help the human agent to resolve the issue fast). The really interesting thing is the machine learning aspect – there’s a constant feedback loop that helps the AI get better and better at servicing the routine tasks, freeing up the human agents to really add value. And guess who trains the AI? Yep, the human agents – the ones best placed to know.

Let me put some flesh on the real-world situation. Telefonica – one of the largest global telecommunications firms – has built their ‘Aura’ AI customer service system to help it quickly deliver a natural language service solution in six countries across Europe and Latin America. Depending on their location, customers naturally interact with Aura through multiple channels: a home device, mobile app, a social channel such as Facebook Messenger, or even another digital assistant like Cortana. Specific Aura services vary by country, but most Telefonica customers can use Aura to manage their accounts, get real-time support, check data usage, or review billing information, all through natural voice interaction—in several languages. Customers in Spain, for instance, can ask Aura to recommend a movie, find a specific TV program, or tell them when it will air next. This significantly enriches the customer experience.

Another example – Microsoft ourselves – Our support AI agents for Microsoft.com sites around the world handles over 100,000 conversations daily, and over 40% are handled end-to-end without ever requiring a human agent intervention. Our system now understands over 4,500 specific intents or customer requirements. This really helps to improve the speed of issue resolution – and is very cost effective.

So in terms of bringing this particular blog to a close my main call to action is to start. Start small, iterate, learn and improve. But definitely start.

 

 

Ger Perdisatt

Enterprise Director

 

 

Free whitepaper: How technology helps business maximize the value of ideas

Foster a better working environment in which people are equipped and empowered to generate new thinking

Discover more related articles per industry:

Education

Finance & Insurance

Government

  • a plane sitting on top of a grass covered field

    Fáilte Ireland Rapidly Adapted and Innovated with Microsoft Power Apps

    Fáilte Ireland Rapidly Adapted and Innovated with Microsoft Power Apps  When the Covid-19 pandemic closed offices globally and truly changed how every organisation functions, it created additional unanticipated challenges for many. Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, was one such organisation which had migrated much of its work to the cloud. The tourism body, which employs 450 people, identified that […]

  • Two people inside using Surface Go in office

    How technology is transforming the work of governments

    Governments have the ultimate responsibility to their citizens. People depend on the services they provide like no other institution. Whether in healthcare, education, business, roads, railways, water – it’s essential that government institutions are always at the forefront of social and digital trends. Cloud-powered technologies are playing a critical role in helping government agencies to […]

Healthcare

Manufacturing

  • a group of people in a pool of water

    Overcoming a sea of data with Microsoft Azure

    With 12,000 ships certified, DNV GL’s job of ensuring they’re built safely and remain safe should be overwhelming, especially with the more than 50,000 inspections it must carry out each year. However, by making use of machine learning algorithms in Microsoft Azure, the company is not only increasing efficiency and satisfying its customers, but it’s […]

  • Two field workers fixing airplane turbines

    IoT connected field service has tapped into a new economy of satisfaction

    There’s something to be said for how modern convenience has altered customer expectations globally. As the world rapidly moves towards digitisation, traditional values―such as price and product loyalty―are cast aside in favour of curated service experiences. In the field service industry, this has become an area of concern for continuous customer satisfaction and business growth. […]

Retail

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

  • Kinetic Reimagining in-store advertising with AI

    Kinetic Reimagining in-store advertising with AI

    With Intouch.com’s AI solution using Microsoft Azure, Kinetic has experienced 39% sales increases for some brands.   Outdoor advertising is one of the oldest forms of advertising in the world, and over the years it has evolved and embraced new technology, moving from traditional billboards to digital, and more recently to smart digital. Now, an […]

Digital Transformation

Press

  • Image of a man and woman smiling

    Microsoft and Connect at Catalyst Inc

    Microsoft and Connect at Catalyst Inc It’s an exciting time to be working in the technology sector in Northern Ireland. More than ever before we’re seeing increased numbers of entrepreneurs, start-up businesses, and indeed multinationals setting up in the North. Working together and learning from each other encourages a strong technology ecosystem and ultimately yields […]

Security & Privacy

Tips

  • Group of two female and one male office workers brainstorming in informal office setting. Both women are using laptops while the man is writing. Large screen shown in background.

    2019 Modern Selling Trends in 5 webinars

    The relationship between buyers and sellers grows more complicated each day. Every potential partnership requires finding the right buyer, fully understanding their business, tracking progress through the buying cycle, and engaging them with the right content—when and how they want it. These shifting dynamics underscore the artistry of modern selling. When the time is right, […]