How “artificial empathy” can change customer service

Heidi Leung, Head of Customer Service at SleekFlow

Imagine eagerly awaiting your recent order from Shopee. But when the estimated delivery day arrives, there’s no sign of it. Frustration sets in and you are contacting their customer service helpline for answers and a solution. But instead of a direct answer to your problems, what follows is a series of redirects to different departments, passing the responsibility from one person to another, leaving you no closer to resolving the issue. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

In reality, studies show that only 20% of customers are currently satisfied with customer service wait times. This issue not only affects half of all Singaporean shoppers but also extends to customers around the world. To make matters worse, three out of four customers feel that their needs are neglected during customer service interactions.

From a customer’s perspective, the obvious solution may seem to be hiring more customer support staff. However, small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) often lack the resources to assemble large teams for customer support. During events like Black Friday sales, e-commerce boutiques may face an influx of customer inquiries without additional staff, resulting in delays and potential dissatisfaction.

In such situations, businesses should explore alternative solutions like omnichannel customer engagement platforms and AI-powered chatbots to ensure customer satisfaction. Ultimately, businesses must maximize their resources and strive to meet customers’ expectations for speed and reliability to the best of their ability.

In today’s fast-paced world, meeting the rising demand for omnichannel communication is critical for companies, and speed is key to success. As the Head of Customer Success at SleekFlow, APAC’s leading B2B AI-powered Omnichannel Conversation Suite, I have had firsthand experience in tackling these challenges myself. In the midst of that, I have also witnessed the impact of “artificial empathy”, and how it can provide small and medium businesses with providing quality customer service at scale.

Let us take Starbucks as an example to demonstrate how AI can enhance the customer experience while maintaining a genuine human touch. By leveraging AI to analyze vast amounts of data, Starbucks created over 400,000 variants of customized messages for individual customers, resulting in a three-fold increase in marketing campaign effectiveness. Its offer redemption initiative also allowed the business to achieve incremental revenue over a short period of time. Deloitte’s research supports this, revealing that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that provide personalized experiences.

To achieve this level of personalization, businesses can implement AI-powered chatbots and leverage AI-driven analytics to automate routine inquiries. For example, when a customer reaches out to inquire about the status of their orders, an AI-powered chatbot can quickly access the relevant data and curate a personalized and accurate response. This not only saves time for the customer but also frees up human agents to focus on handling complex cases that require the human touch.

Curious about how AI achieves personalization and empathy? Here’s the key: AI models possess an incredible ability to learn and improve over time. By accessing vast amounts of past and real-time data, AI can swiftly respond to customer inquiries in a matter of seconds. This reduction in customer response time effectively creates an impression of proactiveness and personalized attention for customers, which builds trust and brand loyalty in the long run. In fact, a study by IBM found that customers who receive prompt responses to their queries are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend the brand to others.

Through analyzing interactions and learning from examples, AI becomes more empathetic and proficient in understanding specific situations, enabling it to deliver personalized and appropriate responses over time.

Additionally, AI solutions also reduce training time by empowering new support professionals with AI-driven assistance, enabling them to excel from the outset. For instance, our AI-human hybrid model exemplifies the potential of combining AI and human expertise, creating an innovative and seamless customer service experience. The model incorporates an uncertainty feature that identifies complex leads and queries, automatically escalating them to human agents. This reduces misinformation and ensures accurate and personalized assistance for customers. By leveraging the strengths of AI and human agents, we can effectively handle customer inquiries while maintaining a balance between security and responsiveness.

Let us consider an insurance company that utilizes AI chatbots and virtual assistants. Customers can initiate conversations to inquire about policy details, file claims, or seek assistance. By analyzing historical customer data and claim patterns, the AI models provide personalized responses and tailored recommendations that meet each customer’s specific needs. This ensures faster and more precise assistance, reducing the reliance on lengthy phone calls or emails. As the AI system interacts with more customers, it continuously learns and evolves to make its responses more curated, while identifying patterns and understanding policy coverage intricacies. This allows it to adapt to different scenarios and claim types, improving its accuracy over time.

Contrary to popular belief that AI is cold and robotic, it might be helpful to know that today, AI systems have evolved to become equipped to recognize and respond empathetically to customers’ emotions, particularly during stressful situations such as filing a claim or dealing with a loss. By integrating AI technology, insurance companies can streamline their processes, deliver faster and more accurate customer support, and ultimately enhance the overall experience for policyholders.

In today’s customer service landscape, it is crucial for companies to embrace AI alongside the human touch to deliver personalized and efficient service at scale. By gradually assigning tasks like lead filtering and basic inquiries to AI systems, customer service specialists can focus on refining their skills by handling more complex scenarios. I envision a future where AI and human expertise work together, empowering humans to provide exceptional customer experiences.

With a 50% dissatisfaction rate in customer service, it’s evident that a change is necessary. By embracing AI technology, companies can revolutionize their approach to customer service in the digital age. Let’s unlock the potential of artificial empathy and deliver the personalized, efficient, and empathetic experiences that customers deserve.