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Why has 2019 Been Coined the Year of Artificial Intelligence?

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2019 has been dubbed the year of artificial intelligence (AI) from a number of business powerhouses including Forbes. Critics are divided on whether or not this is a good thing; when used correctly, it has the power to revolutionize and streamline processes. But there’s always the nagging fear that it might make many professions redundant.

Contrary to popular opinion, the AI that we’ll see implemented more frequently this year won’t come in the form of intelligent robots, but in software solutions. Customer service is one area that is set to be heavily impacted by new technologies. The growth is so rapid that Gartner predicts 85% of customer service interactions will be powered by chatbots by 2020, which is now only a year away. This could spell danger for a number of customer-facing jobs.

But there’s no need to fear the invisible robots just yet. A recent Usabilla report shows people still prefer to interact with real people at your business.

Over half (55%) of consumers said they’d choose to speak to a human over the phone instead of another method of communication. What’s more, 46% would still choose to speak to a human even if using a chatbot was guaranteed to save them 10 minutes, evidencing the necessity of human contact in your communication strategy.

Another clear example of consumers’ desire to interact with real customer service representatives is the significant portion of customers who find automated messages frustrating. 73% of customers try to bypass the automated phone message, or ‘phone-tree’ that lists options, by pressing 0.

That doesn’t mean that consumers are entirely averse to chatbots, however. 36% of customers would prefer to interact with a chatbot when they have “a simple request, question or issue”. There’s evidence that chatbots aren’t yet mature enough to answer more complex queries; 70% of the 100,000+ chatbots active on Facebook Messenger are failing to fulfil user requests (The Information). The Usabilla report found that 43% of people choose a personal interaction because they “want to connect with a real human who can understand my problem”.

Basic chatbots can be very restrictive – take Twitter’s automated support messaging service. It presents options to customers, but if their query falls outside of those options, the chatbot falls short of resolving the query. And it’s bad news if your chatbot can’t help; 73% of people wouldn’t use a company’s chatbot again after a bad experience, according to research from Publicis Groupe.

For all of the statistics around the rise of chatbots and the predictions for the future of customer communications, telephony certainly isn’t dead. By blending telephone communications with chatbots and live chat with humans, you’re giving both current and prospective customers the option to communicate in a way that works best for them, which increases satisfaction and ultimately brand loyalty. The study showed that 40% of customers don’t care whether they talk to a chatbot or a human, as long as they get the help they need.

Artificial intelligence isn’t the only exciting development when it comes to improving your customer communications; more businesses than ever are using the forthcoming ISDN end-of-life as an opportunity to re-evaluate the most essential method of communication for customers.

Hosted telephony offers a number of benefits to businesses, including increased mobility and in-built disaster recovery. A whopping 97% of employees want long-term flexible working solutions, while 18-27 year-olds would choose flexible working options over a pay rise. By tethering a desk phone number to an employee’s mobile, they can work from anywhere, anytime. Not only does Gamma telephony allow you to offer flexible working and therefore attract the best talent, but it also gives you disaster recovery options.

If your office is flooded or experiences a fire, or weather like the Beast from the East prevents your co-workers from getting into the office, it won’t affect your customers’ ability to contact you – or your ability to contact them. And as we know, for over half of customers, the ability to talk to a human is essential.

Bio:

Natasha Bougourd is TSG’s Lead Applications Writer, specialising in business IT managed services, Office 365, Dynamics 365, document management and business intelligence.

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