Empowering Customers: AI’s Role in Self-Service
- Empowerment focus. Self-service puts customers in control, enhancing efficiency and loyalty.
- AI advancements. Generative AI offers smart self-service options, reshaping customer interaction.
- Balanced approach. Combining automated convenience with human touch vital for customer satisfaction.
Allowing customers to control their own narrative enables them to obtain immediate assistance on their own time, gives them more autonomy and improves efficiency for the brand. Self-service puts the customer in the driver’s seat, allowing them to take control of the experience and how they meet their needs. By providing the right tools and resources, brands can proactively enable customers to conveniently obtain support and find solutions to their problems, leading to greater engagement, loyalty and satisfaction. This article will look at the ways that brands are providing self-service options for their customers and the benefits of doing so.
Empower Your Customers
NICE’s 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report revealed that 95% of those polled put great importance on customer service and indicated that it impacted brand loyalty. More importantly, 81% said they want more self-service options, and 36% indicated that they would like to see brands make their self-service options smarter. This is a great opportunity for businesses that are considering the addition of self-service options for their customers, including generative AI tools.
Giving customers control over their own narratives can be an empowering experience. When businesses allow customers to shape interactions according to their preferences and needs, it shows respect for them as individuals with unique perspectives and creates a sense that their voice is heard and input matters.
Additionally, brands that give control to users demonstrate confidence in customers’ capabilities. This builds trust, as the customer sees the company as transparent and customer-centric. Features that allow customers to curate their own experiences, provide context, give feedback and make choices help create an empowering, collaborative dynamic between a business and its customers. It puts the customer first and shows respect for their perspective — the ability to self-direct the narrative makes people feel like valued partners in the relationship.
Vikas Kaushik, CEO at TechAhead, a mobile app development company, told CMSWire that he firmly believes in empowering his customers to control their narratives for an improved customer experience. “Giving customers the option to seek immediate help on their terms is crucial in today’s fast-paced digital environment. It not only promotes a sense of independence but also greatly improves brand effectiveness,” said Kaushik.
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Examples of Customer Self-Service Options
For many years, businesses have allowed their customers to serve themselves, including gas stations, grocery stores and retail outlets. Many customers prefer to use self-checkout at stores, saving time that would be otherwise spent standing in line. Others would rather let a store clerk check them out — but by having the choice to do so, they are in control of the experience.
As far back as 2018, a Statista survey reported that 23% of customer service companies were using AI chatbots for self-service. It’s too soon to know how generative AI has impacted that percentage, but it is very likely to be much higher in 2023. Generative AI-powered chatbots have gotten much more knowledgeable and effective over the past year and are economical enough for most businesses to afford. Chatbots such as ChatBase enable businesses to train the chatbot on their own data, providing them with a very effective way for customers to instantly have access to answers to their questions about the brand, its products and services.
The growth and evolution of generative AI have surprised and impressed many people in the last six months, including business leaders who see it as a way to increase efficiency and profitability. In May 2023 the fast food restaurant Wendy’s began testing the use of Google’s AI chatbot to take drive-thru orders, a move that Starbucks is considering as well. Another brand that is using AI is CapitalOne, which provides its customers with access to Eno, a natural language SMS chatbot that can be used to check balances, review transactions, pay bills and monitor accounts.
“We are aware that putting our clients in control through self-service is essential. We enable them to efficiently meet their particular needs by giving them access to comprehensive knowledge bases, frequently asked questions (FAQs), AI-driven chatbots, and community or group discussions,” said Kaushik, who added that this degree of independence is liberating, and enables his clients to use their services whenever it’s convenient for them.
Most consumers are aware of or have used FAQs or Knowledge Bases to find answers to questions or solutions to problems. Although they are not as prevalent today as they were in the past, they are still an effective way to provide a self-service option for customers. For instance, brands such as Verizon provide FAQs that enable their customers to answer questions about mobile accounts.
Max Wesman, COO at GoodHire, a self-service background check platform provider, told CMSWire that his company has built robust knowledge bases for candidates and employers using his employment screening software. “Users have 24/7 access to our help portals to see full transparency of the system and seek out basic answers to our FAQ. We can instantly reduce potential stress for candidates or employers and leave our support agents more time to deal with more complex inquiries,” said Wesman. “There’s no reason not to put this essential information at users’ fingertips anymore. In fact, not sharing information conveniently is doing your customers a major disservice.”
The use of customer community forums is another excellent way for customers to collaborate with other customers, sharing their knowledge and providing solutions to common problems. AT&T is a great example of a brand that uses community forums for customer self-service.
Benefits of Giving Customers Self-Service Options
Empowering customers with self-service provides a variety of advantages for both the customer and the brand. By enabling customers to find information or get support through automated channels like AI chatbots, knowledge bases, FAQs and community forums, brands give their customers more autonomy over their experience. This convenience allows customers to quickly obtain answers to common questions anytime without having to wait for live support. It also reduces the burden on customer service agents, enabling them to focus on more complex issues.
For the brand, self-service options improve efficiency by deflecting routine inquiries. They also provide useful customer usage data that can be used to uncover pain points and provide actionable insights. Operational costs decline as simple interactions are automatically handled. Most importantly, customer satisfaction increases when the customer feels in control of their journey. Giving them channels to independently serve their own basic needs encourages brand loyalty and advocacy. The combination of automated convenience with the human touch, when needed, is crucial for delighting customers.
Related Article: The Power of Storytelling in Customer Experience
The Challenges of Customer Self-Service
Although there are many benefits of allowing customers to control their own narrative, it’s not without challenges. Because customers are individuals, each customer has their own expectations, and some may have unrealistic expectations about response times or the level of personalization that will be provided when they dictate the narrative. Providing personalized options for different customer demographics can be challenging and may lead to biases and inequalities.
Additionally, when customer community forums and knowledge bases are provided, the user-generated content can provide incorrect info, requiring them to be well-moderated. Brands may struggle with the high volume of customer narratives and need to filter out tangents, rants and other irrelevant data. Also, with more customer contribution functionality comes more potential for data breaches or misuse.
Finally, generational AI is based on large language models (LLMs), and as such, they tend to occasionally “hallucinate,” meaning that when they do not have enough data to reliably answer a question, they make stuff up. Brands that use generational AI-powered chatbots must ensure that when customers ask questions about their products and services, or the business itself, the chatbot has enough information to truthfully respond. One chatbot platform provider, Gleen AI, was created with a focus on eliminating the hallucination problem. Gleen AI still uses an LLM, but it only constitutes 20% of the AI tech stack. Gleen AI can manipulate the inputs and outputs of these LLMs, restricting them to generate responses that are both accurate and relevant.
Final Thoughts on Customer Control of Their Narratives
By providing both self-service and human agent options, and guiding the customer journey, brands can minimize risks while empowering customers with the control of their narratives. When customers are given self-service options in multiple support channels, the result is an effective balance between convenience and human interaction. This improves the customer experience, increases engagement, and benefits both customers and brands alike.