These days, it feels like you can’t read the news without coming across a story about artificial intelligence. As it would seem, artificial intelligence is doing everything from composing music to driving the cars of the future. But while the term has made its way into our everyday lexicon, what exactly is artificial intelligence? How does it work? And how can it be applied to customer service?
What artificial intelligence is (and what it isn’t)
John McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence” in 1956 and defined it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.” Essentially, it’s the idea that machines can do “smart” things. Typically, when people talk about artificial intelligence in their day-to-day conversations, they use it interchangeably with “machine learning.” But there is in fact a difference between the two terms. Machine learning is a specific application of artificial intelligence in which a system can learn from data, instead of requiring explicit programming rules. As opposed to having to tell the computer how to complete a task, you provide data to the machine so that it can find patterns and learn for itself.
How does artificial intelligence apply to customer service?
The realm of artificial intelligence is incredibly expansive, and there’s a plethora of potential business use cases. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are extraordinarily powerful, and there’s significant opportunity for businesses to leverage that technology to improve, enhance, and evolve customer experience. At Nuance, we focus on three types of intelligence that are key to providing effective customer service: conversational artificial intelligence, human-assisted artificial intelligence, and cognitive artificial intelligence.
- Conversational Artificial Intelligence: This is the ability for people to naturally engage with machines using everyday language. It requires the ability for machines to understand speech and text, understand context, and provide written and spoken responses back to the person. These technologies can be leveraged in automatic speech recognition, natural language understanding, text-to-speech, and biometrics technology in order to provide customers with a seamless, natural way to communicate with businesses.
- Human-Assisted Artificial Intelligence: While conversational artificial intelligence continues to improve, allowing us to have more complex conversations with machines, technology has not reached a perfect ability to understand all the ways in which people communicate. And that’s where human-assisted artificial intelligence becomes so useful in customer service. Human-assisted artificial intelligence is the ability for a machine to recognize when it doesn’t understand something, and then engage a human agent to help, ensuring customers are always led to the most appropriate resource. The technology works in the other direction as well. When a human agent is dealing with a customer, the system empowers the operator (think Robocop) with context-suggested responses and predicted actions so that agents can provide effective service to customers.
- Cognitive Artificial Intelligence: Cognitive artificial intelligence may be a very buzz-wordy label, but it provides a lot of power and punch for enterprises that take advantage of it. It refers to the ability to leverage the data that is generated by the billions of conversations that occur in a system to power learning from human agent interactions. As a result, the machine can start to automate more common transactions, anticipate customer problems before they occur, and provide smarter solutions faster.
Artificial intelligence has become a pervasive topic of conversation for consumers and businesses alike. Though its applications are boundless, companies would be amiss if they didn’t start leveraging artificial intelligence in their customer service efforts.