AI: Fusing AI and agents to create a more personal customer experience

This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on January 25, 2021 - January 31, 2021.
 Gwilym Funnell believes in AI-powered customer experience that results in personalisation and loyalty

Gwilym Funnell believes in AI-powered customer experience that results in personalisation and loyalty

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In the world of customer experience and service, the human connection has always been understated. Despite this, companies are currently deviating from human customer service representatives in favour of digital solutions, reports the World Economic Forum. These solutions include artificial intellengence (AI)-powered automated chatbots and programmed replies in order to remain competitive. 

However, with the pandemic, the number of calls to live agents has skyrocketed, the report adds. It is anticipated that with a lack of general human interaction due to the virus, the value of customer service in this age is even more intertwined with the human factor. 

As a customer needing a solution to a problem, you feel the warmth of the agent’s voice while having an organic conversation, compared with the more impersonal experience of typing to chatbots and receiving automated replies. Since it is vital to ensure customer satisfaction that is personal, how do we bridge that gap between human connection and the ever increasing digital solutions? In some instances, can AI make things better, or in this case, more personal?

Genesys, a customer experience and contact centre solutions company, believes that AI is key to making personalisation possible. Yearly, it delivers more than 70 billion customer experiences for organisations such as Microsoft and PayPal. 

Recently, Affin Bank, a subsidiary of Affin Holdings Bhd, partnered with Genesys to transform its customer experience (CX) capabilities to cater for a more digital audience. The bank operates a network of more than 100 branches across Malaysia and requires seamless customer support throughout the country. 

This is not the first Malaysian bank that Genesys has worked with, says Gwilym Funnell, senior vice-president and general manager of Genesys Asia-Pacific. “We partner with 50% of the top banks and almost all of the large telecommunications companies in Malaysia.”

Before the partnership, Affin Bank’s call centre relied solely on voice channels. “In addition to traditional calls, customers are now able to access easy-to-use digital channels. This lowered operational costs, improved telesale capabilities and reduced the average call abandonment rate by 40%,” says Funnell.

The partnership employs a method of predictive dialling, where an algorithm automates the outbound calling process (without the use of agents). Apart from bringing in business results, the arguably more important human factor of personalisation is able to materialise as well. 

“The moment they call a traditional call centre, the personalisation factor is lost,” says Funnell. 

That is because the person supporting the customer has no idea about them and their problem, and the customer has to explain from the start. In some cases, the customer may have to explain the entire situation to multiple people. 

This is crucial as a less than positive customer service experience could lead to consumers ceasing to do business with a particular company, reports research consultancy firm Vitreous World.

“The successful part is being able to understand as much about the customer as possible and the help that they need as every customer is different, on top of where they are at that moment in time,” says Funnell. 

Fusing AI and agents to tackle this issue is important as agents are able to capitalise on the information that has already been gathered from the large amounts of data collated.

Public sentiment on dealing with AI bots remains positive but mostly for simple problems and solutions. According to the report, of the more than 8,000 people surveyed across Asia-Pacific, most consumers say the best experiences come from speaking to live agents on the phone. 

The survey also found that more than half (68%) of Malaysian respondents cared whether the assistance they received was provided by a bot or human. Only 20% of Malaysian consumers said AI bots were sufficient without having to escalate to human customer service.

The human factor is important, but in an increasingly digital world, businesses need to have the speed and convenience of support through digital means. Automated bots allow for round-the-clock service, albeit for simple requests. As such problems are dealt with faster, this allows agents to spend more time on pressing issues, says leading research and advisory firm Gartner.

More than 25% of the respondents surveyed by Computer Generated Solutions (CGS) — a business applications, outsourcing and learning company headquartered in New York City — said they were disappointed by a brand if it did not have a human-to-human option available.

As of now, bots cannot solve complex problems. But they do equip customer service agents with as much data as possible about the customer. This allows for a more personalised experience and an improved human-to-human option.