Future Calling: What Is an AI Answering Service?

2023-10-06

Human and machine interactions have always evolved around adding more convenience. 

Everyday users began “surfing the web” in the mid-90s. The first popular smartphone, the iPhone, made its debut in 2007. By 2012, half of all U.S. cell phones were smartphones. These days, the average U.S. household has over 20 smart devices.

But despite all the new technology, traditional phone calls are still an important communication channel for most companies and their customers. After all, if your air conditioner breaks and the forecast says it’s going to be a 95-degree day, you aren’t going to bother navigating to a website form and waiting for someone to reach back out to you. You’ll likely make a call and try to address the issue promptly.

In an age of instant gratification, customers don't want to wait on hold or navigate through tedious phone trees. They want accurate responses quickly. AI answering services, like Smith.ai's Voice Assistant, bridge the gap between traditional phone calls and the modern demand for instant, accurate service — the next step in ensuring businesses stay connected to their customers in the most advanced way possible.

What is an AI answering service?

An AI answering service is an artificial intelligent voicebot (similar to that of a chatbot) a human can converse with by voice or phone. AI systems use context to determine how to interpret and respond to customer questions. 

In contrast to traditional auto attendants or IVRs (interactive voice response systems), AI answering services continuously learn from interactions and refine their responses over time. The language models are trained based on the data gathered. This adaptability means callers receive more accurate and relevant information over time, often leading to shorter call times and improved user satisfaction. 

Unlike voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, most AI answering services are focused only on knowledge specific to a given company’s customers and their problems. This makes the AI system very efficient at answering callers’ questions and getting the information they need about the business they are calling. 

How does an AI answering service work?

An AI answering service that can answer customer questions seems ultra-futuristic. That is, until you get under the hood to see how it works.

1. Trains with data

The process begins with providing the AI system with data, including previous customer interactions, company-specific information, or other relevant content that will train the AI the same way you’d share help docs or internal guides to train a human answering the calls.  

AI answering services are also programmed using large language models like Chat GPT for more universal data, but as the end user, you don’t need to worry about setting that up yourself. These data sets help the AI system recognize patterns and understand customer inquiries to produce better outputs. After analyzing the data, the AI model can anticipate customer needs based on what they ask or need.

2. Predict customer intent

The AI answering system resolves customers’ needs based on their requests. How does it do this? The same way a human agent would — by understanding the customer’s request and the intent of their call. Similar to a human asking probing questions, analyzing past issues, providing responses, and collecting information, the AI can extract intent and meaning from conversations. After that, it’s a simple matter of taking actionable steps to solve the customer’s problem. 

3. Improves through machine learning

Continuous improvement is at the heart of an effective AI answering service. As it talks more with customers, it gathers new data from these interactions. Through machine learning, the system learns from its past interactions.

As a small business owner, Smith.ai can help save you time. Focus on growing your business while our AI Voice Assistant seamlessly handles your calls, ensuring every customer feels valued. If a personal touch is required, Smith.ai’s live receptionists are available as backup, 24/7. Our human agents can resolve more complex issues or add a layer of human empathy that’s sometimes needed for the best user experience.

Benefits of using an AI answering service

AI answering services offer powerful benefits for both consumers and companies that traditional call centers can’t match. These benefits include:

  • Availability: Offering 24/7 service is costly and often unfeasible for many businesses. However, consumers have diverse schedules and may need assistance outside regular hours or even on holidays. Providing around-the-clock service through an AI answering system boosts customer satisfaction without incurring additional costs.
  • Efficiency: Is there anything more irritating than waiting on hold? A 2022 report by OnePoll found that the average wait time for a customer service representative is 42 minutes. With an AI answering system, calls are answered immediately. Since AI systems typically have extremely fast computation, the customer doesn’t have to wait long to hear a response.
  • Scalability: Traditional call centers or in-house support face the challenge of managing inconsistent call volumes, leading to lengthy wait times during peak hours or agents twiddling their thumbs during lulls. But for an AI answering service, it’s no problem to handle five calls, 50 calls, or 500 calls simultaneously. Scale matters for both the quality of customer experience and cost. And unlike humans, AI systems can scale with ease.
  • Productivity: Beyond customer service, AI systems can automate routine tasks such as answering common questions, data entry, appointment scheduling, or freeing up staff for more complex tasks. This maximizes productivity and ensures that human employees' skills are used in areas where they add the most value to the company and its impact on the bottom line.
  • Consistency: Consistency in customer service can be a challenge, with customer service representatives often juggling multiple tasks or programs in order to provide answers. Such multitasking increases the chances of inconsistent responses. An AI system can be programmed to give the same correct answer every time, ensuring brand integrity and more accurate responses.

Real-world applications of AI phone answering services

AI Answering Service Applications in the Real World

The practical applications of AI answering services are as diverse as they are impressive. From health care to education, AI phone answering services are revolutionizing industries like:

Medical & wellness

AI phone answering services in the medical and wellness sector can assist patients in scheduling appointments, fielding basic medical inquiries, and even performing initial consultations.

Hospitality

Hotels, resorts, and other hospitality ventures can use AI phone answering services to manage bookings, suggest getaways based on the caller’s schedule and price range, and act as a virtual concierge by providing information about amenities based on their preferences.

Retail

AI answering services for retail stores can help manage order inquiries, track deliveries, and answer common questions without needing to interrupt staff that are helping customers in-store. 

Car dealerships

A virtual answering service can help a caller choose vehicles based on particular attributes and then set up test drives based on times that work best for them.

Utilities and service providers

Utility companies and service providers, such as internet or electric companies, can incorporate AI phone services to handle billing questions, report outages, and schedule services.

Transportation and logistics

AI answering services can help track shipments, provide delivery estimates, and even book transport in real time.

Car rentals

Based on the time of a customer’s call, an AI phone answering service could assume the reason for the call. If it is close to the time they were supposed to return the car, there is a good chance the caller is looking to extend the rental. If not, they may need roadside assistance or may need to book a new rental.

Real estate

Realtors can leverage AI phone systems to suggest properties based on a caller's desires or provide mortgage guidance. By listing a single number per property, real estate agents can also gather information for prospective buyers or book a private showing of the property for a seamless user experience. 

Education

An AI phone answering system can assist educational institutions by managing enrollments, communicating course information, and even offering students a helpline for their needs.

Integrate AI Voice Assistant into your business

An AI answering service can enhance the relationship with your customers. Companies that understand the value of AI answering services will gain an advantage over their competitors and provide faster and better user experiences for their customers.

Our AI Voice Assistant is the first AI-led voice-answering solution backed by professional human agents, 24/7. Using our data from over 10 million phone calls, plus large language models and natural language processing techniques, Voice Assistant is capable of handling entire phone calls solo, collecting essential information, and efficiently qualifying leads.

‍Sign up for a free consultation with our team today.

Tags:
Primary
AI
Sales Development
24/7 Call Answering
Voice Assistant
Written by Maddy Martin
Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's SVP of Growth. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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