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Are communications with your customers working well? How to use AI technology to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction

by Chris Shaw

The adoption of the latest Augmented Intelligence (AI) technologies offers forward-thinking housing organisations valuable opportunities to significantly enhance the customer service experience and improve relationships with external stakeholders.

Currently, the majority of contact between housing providers and stakeholders is analogue and reliant on staff transcribing information from customers into the IT systems, whether that is received by voice or through online channels.

These interactions are typically only in English, meaning that organisations are required to use external services if a translator is required.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. We estimate that over 80% of businesses could benefit from the adoption of AI to support customer services, manage contact and enquiries more efficiently and intelligently, and in any language.

The Technology

In the banking and online retail sectors, we have observed organisations using advanced technology to deliver an enhanced customer service which uses AI, Machine Learning, Natural Language Understanding and Robotic Processing Automation. A major North American bank has reported savings of $1.8 million each year by utilising AI to enhance their operations.

Many organisations use Virtual Assistants to 'listen in' on conversations with customers (messenger, web and voice interactions) and suggest the highest ranked responses to questions. However, some businesses successfully using AI employ Virtual Assistants in their contact centres which interact with callers using Conversation Speech in the customer's preferred language.

Some organisations are now using AI-powered Virtual Assistants and chatbots which can have two-way conversations with customers to quickly answer their enquiry by accessing a Knowledge Base or by integrating with the organisation's back end systems to retrieve information.

And when the Virtual Assistant is unable to answer a query and the call needs to be transferred to a member of staff, the answer will be added to the Knowledge Base using Robotic Processing Automation, meaning that the AI assistant will be able to answer the question next time.

AI Virtual Assistants can also manage interactions that require customers to provide information by speech to fill in a form (such as when registering interest in a property or submitting a maintenance request). And Sentiment Analysis can monitor how well the call is going, and if the system detects that a customer is becoming frustrated, the call can be transferred to a live agent. The same concept can then be applied to online communication services, such as chat bots.

The Benefits

Adopting AI technology offers considerable advantages to housing associations in terms of streamlining processes and increasing efficiency, and to your customers who will benefit from quicker response times.

As chatbots become an increasingly common customer service tool, we predict that AI-powered chatbots will have a significant impact on the way housing provider to customer interaction is handled and delivered in the coming years.

One of the ways that AI can benefit your organisation is by reducing the amount of time that your internal team need to spend on LiveChat or on the phone. By encouraging customers to use AI-powered services, you can free up your customer service staff's time from handling simple or mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on managing more complex enquiries.

And because a Virtual Assistant can provide 24-hour service to hundreds of customers simultaneously, your team will be able to resolve higher volumes of enquiries without requiring you to hire more staff - increasing productivity while keeping costs down.

Increasing the number of available customer service channels through the adoption of AI technology also increases the chances of offering your customers' preferred communication method - demonstrating to them that you are willing to go over and above to provide the channels that are the most convenient for them.

And because many end users will already have experience using AI powered customer service channels, your business is less likely to encounter problems in gaining your customers' trust when implementing this kind of technology. Whether through the use of Virtual Assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Home, or retailer chatbots, many consumers are already comfortable interacting with brands in this way.

The technology also delivers faster solutions, as customers with more straightforward enquiries will be able to have them answered right away, rather than requiring them to wait in lengthy queues to speak to a live agent - or in the case of out-of-hours contact, waiting until the customer service centre reopens. With automated digital services, you are able to provide round the clock customer service, 365 days per year.

Implementation

AI is a collection of technologies that enable the intelligent and automated processing of interactions you have with customers and the assets you manage. This means that it is essential that each system and technology is implemented and integrated correctly for AI-powered services to be successful.

When adopting the use of AI technology, it is crucial that you:

  • Get your data cleansed and mastered in an accessible location, such as a Data Warehouse. All data does not need to be stored in a single location, but it must be appropriately structured
  • Ensure your systems architecture and technology platforms are integrated together and accessible to Machine Learning, Automation and Intelligent APIs
  • Define which processes will be most beneficial and build a knowledge management repository which the AI technology can access and add to over time
  • Have the right specialist consultant in place to advise you throughout the project, as well as the internal skills to own and develop the solutions moving forward.

Where to start

To gain an in-depth understanding of the full benefits of adoption and to help develop a business case for it, engaging a specialist IT consultant who has strong knowledge of AI technology can be advantageous.

By assessing how you currently deliver customer services and the challenges presented by your ICT environment, an independent consultant will be able to determine which AI technologies are going to have the greatest benefit to your business.

Shaw Consulting are specialists in IT consultancy for the social housing and care sectors. We operate independently from the supplier marketplace, meaning that we will work with you to identify which technology, systems and services will be the most suitable option for your organisation, what will improve your bottom line performance and what will help you increase productivity and efficiencies.

We are actively advising a number of housing associations on the development of business cases and the implementation of AI technologies, so can provide you with the insights needed to make the right decision.

If you have a project you'd like to discuss, please contact us via the website or request a Skype call and one of our expert consultants will be happy to help.

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