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Article 14 min read

AI in customer service: All you need to know

Leverage AI in customer service to increase efficiency, reduce operational costs, and provide fast and personalized support at scale.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated June 20, 2024

What is AI in customer service?

AI in customer service refers to the use of intelligent technology to create support experiences that are fast, efficient, and personalized. AI-powered customer service tools enable organizations to automate experiences, streamline workflows, and assist agents—ultimately saving time and money.

AI in customer service is about leveraging intelligent technology to provide quick, personalized, and seamless support experiences. When implemented correctly, AI can foster authentically human customer connections: The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2024 revealed that more than two-thirds of CX organizations agree that AI can help businesses provide the warm and familiar human service interactions that build loyalty.

Zendesk CEO Tom Eggemeier says, “With AI purpose-built for customer service, you can resolve more issues through automation, enhance agent productivity, and provide support with confidence. It all adds up to exceptional service that’s more accurate, personalized, and empathetic for every human that you touch.”

Read our guide about customer service AI to learn how it benefits your business, customers, agents, and administrators alike.

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The key benefits of AI in customer service

A clock icon is next to a Zendesk customer experience statistic about generative AI.

As AI improves the customer experience, it also brings significant business benefits. Here are some top advantages of incorporating artificial intelligence into customer service.

  • Decrease costs: AI can lower customer service costs by automating routine tasks and inquiries, empowering support teams to resolve more issues with fewer resources. It also enables more efficient resource allocation, freeing the team to focus on higher-value work.
  • Improve customer satisfaction: Fast and convenient service is critical to gaining loyal customers. AI agents or advanced chatbots can deliver 24/7 support, decreasing hold times and increasing satisfaction.
  • Boost agent efficiency: AI handles tedious tasks, reducing the workload for customer service teams. With that time back, agents can do more meaningful tasks, making their jobs more fulfilling.
  • Increase productivity and efficiency: AI agents provide instant support without involving a human agent. If a handoff is necessary, AI guides the live agent with insights and suggested actions, which leads to faster resolution times.
  • Optimize operations: AI can suggest which service inquiries are best suited for automation and optimize workflows, enabling support teams to streamline their operations.
  • Personalize experiences: AI can share customer insights with agents and equip them with the info they need to personalize solutions based on each customer’s unique needs.
  • Handle high support demand: AI agents can handle all types of customer requests over any channel, helping teams effectively manage high support volumes.

As AI in customer service continues to evolve, we anticipate that 100 percent of service interactions will incorporate AI in some form. These benefits highlight why intelligent technology is here to stay.

9 ways you can utilize AI in customer service

While AI in customer service isn’t new, many companies are still learning how to adopt it. Here are some examples of how to use customer service AI for your business.

1. Leverage AI agents

AI agents—the next generation of AI-powered bots—are pre-trained on real customer service interactions so they don’t get tripped up by vague or complex questions. Using conversational AI, they can understand and accurately resolve even the most sophisticated customer issues, handling an entire request from start to finish. For example, Zendesk AI agents can automate up to 80 percent of customer interactions, giving your human agents more time to focus on high-value work.

Unity, the world’s leading development platform for interactive real-time 3D content, deployed an AI agent to help its support team more efficiently manage ticket volumes and provide customers with immediate answers. By connecting with Unity’s knowledge base, the AI agent deflected 8,000 tickets, which resulted in $1.3 million in savings.

A person sits at a desk in front of a giant hand holding a large paper airplane next to a statistic about Unity using AI.

2. Proactively guide agents

AI-powered agent assistance tools can improve agent productivity and efficiency and help your support team resolve issues faster by offering response suggestions tailored to each customer’s unique needs. As a result, agents can navigate issues with ease and confidence, which is especially beneficial during onboarding.

For instance, the Zendesk agent copilot guides agents through every interaction from start to finish. “With Zendesk AI copilot in their corner, every human agent will know exactly what to say and do at every step of every bespoke customer interaction, thanks to their copilot’s proactive guidance,” says Eggemeier.

3. Automate workflows

AI in customer service can automate workflows, leading to faster support for customers and greater efficiency for agents. Here are a few ways to optimize support workflows with AI:

  • Intelligent routing can send customer requests to the right agent based on intent, sentiment, and language.

  • AI can analyze ticket context and suggest new pre-written responses to automate.

  • AI can summarize tickets for agents so they don’t need to spend hours reading through long conversation histories.

Esusu, a leading financial technology platform, leverages automated workflows available through Zendesk to scale its support operations. One way the company does this is by leveraging AI to summarize tickets for agents.

“Zendesk AI simplifies and eases the workflow on our agent side,” says Jessica Hannes, director of support at Esusu. “The summarization feature has been a huge help, especially for onboarding new reps. It saves us the time and energy of looking through an entire thread so we can work more efficiently.”

A person wearing a headset high-fives a giant hand coming out of a large cardboard box next to an Esusu automation stat.

4. Optimize workforce management

AI-powered workforce management (WFM) is crucial for efficiently managing support teams. By analyzing historical data, AI can predict staffing needs for specific days, months, or seasons, reducing overtime costs and minimizing wait times. Additionally, it automates team scheduling and personalizes shifts for each team member, saving managers and agents time.

5. Improve service quality

AI in customer service quality assurance (QA) can help reduce customer churn by evaluating your support conversations. AI speeds up the QA process by reviewing all conversations across agents, channels, languages, and business process outsourcers (BPOs). From there, it provides instant insights into your support performance, which enables you to enhance agent training and solve knowledge gaps.

For example, Rentman, an all-in-one event rental solution, uses Zendesk QA to analyze all customer interactions and QA reviews to deliver actionable feedback based on customer needs to support agents. Axel Keicher, customer integration lead at Rentman, says, “With 360-degree feedback, you can coach agents in specific areas, such as teaching them how to offer better support or educating them about the product. The feedback is peer-based and everyone is involved in the process, which helps agents become more engaged.”

By investing in Zendesk, Rentman created an internal feedback loop that empowered agents to improve their skills and prioritized performance transparency for all interactions. With this quality-focused approach, the business consistently sees CSAT scores around 93 percent while maintaining initial response times between 60 and 70 minutes.

A man in a purple shirt and a headset types on a laptop next to a CSAT stat about Rentman.

6. Enhance call management

According to our CX Trends Report, most customers prefer to engage in a phone call when faced with a complex or nuanced problem. AI call center solutions automatically write after-call summaries to reduce call wrap-up times for agents and transcribe voice interactions to aid agent training. Voice QA software also leverages AI to score phone interactions and spotlight customers at risk of churning.

Additionally, AI agents can support customers through continuous digital channels such as SMS, social messaging, and email to reduce call volumes.

7. Improve your help center

Customer service AI can enhance your help center by analyzing the performance of knowledge base articles and flagging content that may need to be updated or archived. AI can also suggest new articles to fill content gaps based on your service data and even help write content. With AI-powered writing assist tools, admins can write, shift the tone of, or simplify articles, making it easy to scale your knowledge base.

Furthermore, AI agents can leverage content in the knowledge base to present articles and answers to customers during interactions. For example, Virgin Pulse, the world’s largest global well-being solution provider, connected its AI agent to its knowledge base to improve support efficiency.

“We are investing quite a lot in our self-service options and mainly focusing on writing articles appropriately for the Zendesk AI agent to machine learn and recognize the context and content to better serve our members,” says Ivana Suljetovic, senior frontline manager, member services at Virgin Pulse. “Now that we have been using the AI agent for a while, it has gotten smarter at delivering just the right content for a specific query.”

A person with a headset, orange shirt, and purple pants sitting on a chair while balancing a paper plane on a finger.

8. Turn your cost center into a revenue generator

When AI connects to your backend systems, such as CRM or e-commerce tools, it enables your service center to drive upsells and cross-sells during support interactions. For example, an AI agent can recommend items based on a customer’s purchase history or current shopping cart contents. AI can also send proactive notifications with targeted messages based on user events and past interactions, boosting sales and conversion rates. The more data AI has access to, the more effectively it can tailor messages to drive revenue.

9. Get insights to improve

AI can analyze customer conversations to identify trends and pinpoint areas where businesses can enhance their support operations. By examining these interactions, AI can uncover patterns and common issues that may not be immediately evident to human agents.

Furthermore, AI agents’ insights provide valuable learnings to administrators on what areas to automate. A proactive approach allows businesses to address customer needs more efficiently and effectively, ensuring they continuously optimize their support operations.

Unlock the power of Zendesk AI

Discover the world’s most complete customer service solution for the AI era.

What to consider when implementing AI-powered customer service

Not all AI customer service tools are created equal. Here are a few considerations to guide your implementation strategy and ensure you choose the right software.

Budget and resources

Deploying and maintaining AI for customer service can be expensive, especially if it requires manual training and technical expertise. You can deploy AI help desk software like Zendesk out of the box without large developer or IT budgets. This cost-effective deployment helps businesses achieve a high ROI without compromising quality.

CX expertise and accuracy

One of the most significant benefits of AI in customer service is its ability to understand customer questions and needs accurately. However, not all AI is capable of doing so effectively. Look for AI systems trained on CX conversations. In addition to providing a poor CX, manual training can often be time-consuming and costly.

Zendesk AI is built on billions of real-world customer service interactions, pre-trained to analyze customer sentiment, identify intent, and understand specific support issues across various industries. This ensures it can effectively address your customers’ needs from day one, providing a seamless and efficient support experience.

Time to value

Choose AI customer service software that simplifies the planning, testing, and refinement phases of implementation. Long lead times can leave businesses in a holding pattern for several months, but efficient AI partners like Zendesk can cut the time to value from months to minutes. Our intuitive setup eliminates the need for developers, data scientists, or a heavy IT lift and enables teams to deploy a comprehensive, AI-powered customer service solution quickly.

Security

With the growth of intelligent technology comes unease about the state of customer data privacy. Prioritize customer service AI with transparent privacy and compliance standards to protect the data you collect and store. Zendesk AI adheres to advanced data privacy and protection standards to keep your data safe.

A lock icon next to a Zendesk CX stat about consumers and data security.

Frequently asked questions

Get the complete CX solution for the AI era

While AI transforms the world of customer service, your priority must remain unchanged: humans. By understanding there is a human being on the other end of every interaction, you can leverage AI to provide the most seamless experiences possible.

Zendesk AI is the world’s most complete customer service solution for the AI era, enabling organizations to cultivate customer relationships that are more authentically human. It’s ready to use on day one, just like everything we build at Zendesk. There’s no lengthy setup process or months-long training required. And, of course, it’s trusted and secure.

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