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However, while AI can bring numerous benefits — from automated workflows to increased productivity among team members — there are many potential pitfalls that can harm businesses. Even tech leaders like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Geoffrey Hinton have warned against AI technologies.
So, what missteps do you need to avoid when harnessing AI for your business, especially for customer service? And what strategies can you leverage to do so?
Here's the full run-down.
1. Develop a comprehensive understanding of AI
To begin with, you need to spend some time developing a comprehensive understanding of AI before you think about deploying it. Many pitfalls originate from a lack of knowledge about what AI actually is and what it can — and can't — do.
Many businesses see AI as a magic wand to increase their efficiency effortlessly. This impression is fuelled by online hype discourse as well as the sales copy used by providers of AI tools.
To demystify AI, you should familiarize yourself with basic terminology, the significance of training data and the different types of models and machine learning algorithms out there. This knowledge will also help you seriously assess any AI tools you might consider using in your business.
2. Resist the urge to rush ahead
A second strategy to shield your business' customer service from AI-related pitfalls is to resist an urge to rush.
Over the past year, AI adoption has been rapid in countless sectors of the online sphere. It's easy to get the feeling that your company will be left behind if you don't adopt AI immediately.
To a certain extent, this is true. AI is quickly becoming standard in many areas. However, it must be implemented with care, especially in external-facing areas like customer service. A botched roll-out of an AI-based customer communication tool, for instance, will do more long-term reputational damage than a longer delay in adopting it.
3. Understand the liabilities and limitations of AI tools
Next, you need to gain a better understanding of the weaknesses and limitations of customer-facing AI tools.
While the capabilities of generative AI like ChatGPT, Jasper and Bard are certainly impressive, it's important to keep in mind that their performance is based on a huge amount of training data and statistics. These models have been trained to recognize patterns and to imitate them, not to be innovative, understand nuance or solve problems through creative and interconnected thinking.
For instance, researchers have found that ChatGPT can only solve between 40 and 75% of a set of commonsense questions.
Similarly, generative AI models are liable to misinterpret colloquialisms, neglect cultural context and fail to consider nuances in professional jargon. All of this may be problematic depending on your niche as well as the location and demographic characteristics of your customers.
One way to mitigate this is to employ advanced contextual reasoning AI models and models that integrate structured knowledge bases. These tend to perform much better at differentiating between literal and figurative language, for instance.
4. Identify sensitive domains
Another strategy to prevent any negative effects on customer service is to identify domains and situations that are too sensitive for AI to handle.
For instance, AI chatbots may be able to take care of routine inquiries such as scheduling appointments or giving updates on the status of orders. But when a customer has a complex question that requires an understanding of information fragmented across different conversations, it will most likely require a human agent to handle it.
Similarly, when an upset or agitated customer reaches out, relegating them to an AI agent can amplify these negative emotions, especially if the AI gives responses that, while correct, can easily appear uncaring or callous.
5. Invest in meticulous brand calibration
Finally, one crucial strategy to keep your company safe while reaping the benefits of AI for customer service is to invest in brand calibration.
Your voice is an essential element of your brand identity. The voices of successful brands — the tone and manner in which they communicate with customers — are instantly recognizable and consistent. When you implement AI, it's crucial to ensure that it's capable of reproducing your voice. Otherwise, your customers will notice the discrepancies, leading to brand dilution.
As mentioned above, all AIs rely on training data. Many tools out there can use brand-specific data to calibrate and adjust the voices and modes of output.
For customer service, AI brings unprecedented opportunities for enhancement, as well as potentially disastrous pitfalls.
By adopting the strategies above, you'll benefit from the former without suffering the latter. With them in mind, carefully re-evaluate any tools you use already and thoroughly assess new ones before deploying them.