AI in customer support: Key takeaways from our Aircall Conversation Event with Zendesk

Sophie GaneLast updated on April 26, 2024
4 min

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One theme that continually bubbles under the surface of our Voice of SMB report is that every company is having to ‘do more with less’. Sales and Support leaders are having to find creative ways to keep their focus on their customers and prospects with fewer resources. Time-consuming admin tasks are at risk of being put on hold, rushed through, or shelved altogether, which could lead to inaccurate data, chaotic reporting, and ultimately, unhappy customers. So it’s no wonder that the past 12 months have seen organisations take a keen interest in AI and its applications.

But how can these small and medium businesses maintain their customer support standards, and employ AI as a support sidekick too? This is what we aimed to unpack during our Conversation Event on 10th April, with our Zendesk ecosystem partner - Ultimate. Gathered in the chic surroundings of The Hoxton, Holborn in London, our customers, prospects and partners enjoyed a lively conversation about AI in customer support - a key feature in our 2024 report, The Voice of SMBs.

Aircall, Ultimate, Zendesk and Lush

Aircall Conversation Events bring together revenue leaders from a vast array of industries and professions - including communications, customer support, sales, technology, management, and more - to discuss key issues affecting the world of communications technology. Despite the theme of the morning, there was nothing artificial about this particular breakfast, which was hosted in conjunction with Ultimate - our partners in AI-powered customer support. Alongside the warm croissants, we served up a smorgasbord of insight with our panel session: AI as your Support Sidekick. With panellists Tim Marsden, Senior Director of Technology Alliances at Zendesk, Naomi Rankin, Global Customer Care Manager at Lush, Sanja Kricka, Senior Customers Success Team Manager at Aircall, and Ultimate’s own VP of Sales, Brónagh Crowley, at the helm as moderator and host, our guests were in for an energising morning of high-tempo discussions, French pastries, Italian coffee, and (unfortunately) British weather.

Bringing AI into your customer support function

The panel began with an overview of how the landscape of business is fundamentally changing because of AI. 

“...Things have changed incredibly in the last 12 months, and I’d say the biggest change is that AI is literally everywhere… From an employee perspective, we all use our own platform to get internal support, so we see more and more things being resolved automatically by introducing AI.”

  • Tim Marsden, Senior Director Technology Alliances, Zendesk

Taking this as a starting point, our speakers discussed the implications of AI in the workplace and how it can positively impact support teams and customers. Plus, they shared best practices when implementing AI, and real-world examples of AI in action within their own company’s support functions. Brónagh, Tim, Naomi and Sanja brought their diverse expertise from various backgrounds, and although there was a range of different experiences with AI and its uses, everyone agreed on two key points: AI must serve as an enhancement to your team, not a replacement; and you must absolutely bring your teams along with you on the AI journey and listen to their input if you want to get value out of an AI product. Take a look at the full discussion:

Aircall Conversations with Ultimate and Zendesk: Key insights

Our panel discussion was focused on the use of AI in support functions, and some key themes sprung from the conversation:

What change has AI brought about?

The team spoke about how AI has impacted them and their businesses over the last 12 months, outlining how AI has been brought into their organisations, what they’re using it for, and how it’s being used.

How are customer support teams reacting to AI?

It’s common for in-house teams to be mistrustful - or even resentful - of AI, but Naomi in particular told us about how their AI agent (named Marvin) has become one of the team, and the team itself is seeing the benefits of working alongside him. All our panellists agreed that it’s essential to use AI to support human connection, not replace it.

Is AI actually improving customer satisfaction?

A common agreement among the speakers was that, if you implement AI at the right points in the customer journey, and integrate it alongside your human support function, it usually maintains or even improves customer satisfaction, as the day-to-day customer queries can be cleared by AI, meaning that customers are being served faster, and agents can deal with the more interesting, complex queries that require the human touch.

Learnings from the last 12 months of AI

Our audience was keen to hear what the panel would offer as advice when getting started with your AI program. So our speakers shared their key learnings from their first foray into AI technology, namely: Get started now, bring your team along with you and listen to them, give customers the choice to speak to a human, and integrate your AI with all your systems to give you a 360 view of the customer.

Closing out on an informative morning

The panel received a lot of questions from the audience, who were all keen to learn more about AI in customer support, and get advice on implementing AI technology. The room was noticeably more relaxed about AI at the end of the session, with a big takeaway being the fact that AI adoption doesn’t have to be intimidating, and it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision vs. humans in customer support. The discussions carried on throughout breakfast, and even in front of the camera, as our Aircall Conversations Event with Ultimate and Zendesk gave our guests some real, practical measures to take back to their up-and-coming businesses.

Discover even more insights into adopting AI as your support sidekick, with our full report: The Voice of SMB. And, check out our UK-specific reports:
The Voice of SMB UK Sales edition
The Voice of SMB UK support edition

Published on April 26, 2024.

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