Artificial Intelligence was the talk of 2017. The hype was generated by successive breakthroughs in multiple industries, such as self-driving cars, smart assistants, etc., as well as a PR blitz by some of the leading technology enterprises. The customer service industry pinned high hopes on AI, expecting that upon its introduction to the market, smart machines would truly transform the customer experience.

In 2017, all eyes were on chatbots and virtual agents – the assumption being that they would take over a significant part of the customer interaction and deliver real value in communicating with customers. The industry – as well as scientists, engineers, journalists and eager venture capitalists – were mostly disappointed when the results did not deliver on the expectations built up by the hype.

However, while AI has not yet become the answer to all our customer service challenges, the technology is moving forward at a rapid pace. While it may still take some time, AI is without a doubt making immense progress and is poised to transform business over the next decade.

AI and its enabling methodologies — Machine Learning, Deep Learning and NLP — are the focus of major investments and research. They are continuously evolving and dramatically improving, along with computing power, data collection, storage and architecture, together providing a stronger backbone and massive potential for the future of artificial intelligence in customer service. In addition, IoT growth plays a significant role in the practical advancement of AI. Smart machines will benefit from more context and data to learn from and reference in their interactions with humans. This will enable greater accuracy and deliver more value to enhancing the customer experience.

Building successful artificial intelligence in customer service is an ongoing process and is similar in some ways to the onboarding of a new employee. As there will be a learning curve, including familiarisation with the business, the customers, and the domain, and slowly giving more responsibilities until the AI move forward independently.

The customer service industry is clearly experiencing the beginning of a shift towards artificial intelligence reliant systems. While the initial expectations of robots taking over significant parts of customer interactions is not yet a reality, it is clear that we can look forward to a future where AI platforms will power call centres and drive the customer experience to new heights, in collaboration with human agents.

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