Technic: How AI is revolutionizing customer service

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While many companies are still thinking about where and how they can integrate artificial intelligence into their business model, AI has already been in use at the Dutch online print shop Helloprint for months – in customer service, a fundamentally important area of any online store. Tijmen van den Elzen, co-founder of Engaige, the AI start-up that emerged from Helloprint, presented the results achieved to date at OPS 2024.

Admittedly, even before ChatGPT existed, online stores were already experimenting with the technological possibilities for improving customer service, including Helloprint, as Tijmen van den Elzen explained. The Dutch online print shop had been trying to automate its customer service for 10 years. “But the result was never good enough to convert the customers who used the customer service into existing customers.” The reasons why the previous solutions did not produce satisfactory results lay primarily in the nature of customer service itself.

Complex and cost-intensive

Customer service is essential – especially in the printing industry. It is closely linked to customers and their questions and therefore provides many clues as to where the company’s own services, products or services can be usefully improved and companies can grow sustainably as a result. However, based on the product portfolio, configuration options and production processes, customer service is extremely complex and costly – not least because it requires a high level of personnel capacity. Automation in this area has therefore been difficult to implement to date.

This has now changed with the advent of large language models, because unlike what-if-then algorithms, LLMs are able to understand the content and context of a request and compare it with the knowledge they have learned about production processes and the like in order to provide a helpful answer – and above all: to trigger actions. And that is exactly what the AI developed by Engaige – the Customer Service Agent – has been doing at Helloprint for almost nine months now.

The start-up emerged from Helloprint in 2023 (as beyond-print.de reported at the time) and therefore had the advantage right from the start that it not only had online print expertise, but could also be developed very specifically on the basis of a real problem.

The AI was “fed” with all the know-how that is important for the online print shop Helloprint: with all the content of the websites, with all the information about the products on offer, with all the content from the knowledge databases used and all the details about the production processes, machines, etc. “In principle, the AI needs the same information that we would use to train a human customer service employee,” says van den Elzen. The only difference is that it is not a human, but an artificial intelligence that is able to understand content and generate suitable answers, but – and this is ultimately crucial – also initiate and execute actions. It is also important to note that there is no generally applicable solution, but that each LLM must be trained to the individual circumstances of the respective online print shop.

Support, autonomous conversations and valuable insights

Engaige has developed three products: “Agent Assist”, which supports human customer service employees, “Solve & Support”, which works completely autonomously – i.e. without any human interaction – and only rarely needs to forward a request to its human “colleagues”, and “Insights”, a tool that captures and evaluates customer questions and feedback, providing valuable insights into customers’ problems and wishes and can even make recommendations on what actions the provider can take to counter recurring problems before they occur.

What results has Helloprint achieved with AI-supported customer service?

So much for just theory. But the figures that Tijmen van den Elzen had in store for Helloprint also left the OPS audience in awe. After just a few months, the use of AI-based CS agents enabled the online print shop to improve its customer service – and reduce costs at the same time. For example, the team was reduced from 100 to 32 employees, while at the same time the conversion rate was increased by 20% and the customer engagement rate by 81%. Inquiries that could be processed completely autonomously by the AI-CS agent were at 62% as of February, four weeks later at the time of the Online Print Symposium they were already at 70%. Of course, this is logical, as the AI learns from the responses and actions given so far and is therefore constantly improving. According to van den Elzen, at the end of March, Helloprint was able to process just over 80% of incoming tickets with the help of AI.

A better service than provided by people

At the OPS, the co-founder explained that the aim of Engaige’s developments is to make AI-based customer service better than that provided by people. He illustrated this using the example of a cancellation. In this case, the customer’s e-mail address is first automatically compared with the e-mail address of the person requesting the cancellation. Only when it has been established that the legitimization is correct – and intervention is still possible – is the order, the cancellation, carried out and reported back to the workflow. Depending on the solution, all of this can take place autonomously or in the mailbox of the human customer service employee, without them having to dial into three other systems to compare the order status and the customer’s information.

Another advantage of AI is its multilingualism. This is because the agent responds in the language in which it is addressed. This is particularly interesting for online print shops that are active in different countries and markets. BEYONDPRINT will continue to monitor how and where AI is used by other online print shops.

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Technic: How AI is revolutionizing customer service
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Technic: How AI is revolutionizing customer service
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While many companies are still thinking about where and how they can integrate artificial intelligence into their business model, AI has already been in use at the Dutch online print shop Helloprint for months - in customer service, a fundamentally important area of any online store. Tijmen van den Elzen, co-founder of Engaige, the AI start-up that emerged from Helloprint, presented the results achieved to date at OPS 2024.
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Beyond-print.net

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