Is There a CRM Robot in Your Future?

By Geoffrey James

Online customer support is now a major CRM application area. Many companies are saving money by giving their customers the option of having questions answered online. Unlike sales reps you can train to use a CRM system, however, few (if any) customers are willing to learn the ins and outs of all their suppliers’ various CRM programs. Because of this, programs that provide only customer support must be highly intuitive and extremely easy to use.

One company that’s making strides in this area is noHold, a software development firm located in Milpitas, CA. Their product, InstantSupport, attempts to transform automated customer support – the clunky online support you usually get – into cognitive customer interaction with the system actually helping the customer. The noHold company accomplishes this by mixing several technologies together, including search engines, chat bots, metrics and menus. The result is an environment where users simply type in questions conversationally and, after a few additional clicks, are presented with intelligent and practical answers.

Far from being science fiction, InstantSupport is an example of the practical application of artificial intelligence (AI). Scientists view AI as coming in two varieties: narrow AI and generalized AI, sometimes called strong AI. Narrow AI simulates a limited aspect of human thinking, such as figuring out whether a scanned letter is a p or a q. Generalized AI is the notion that computers will be able to think like human beings – a goal that’s no closer to reality than it was when first proposed in the 1950s.

InstantSupport may not mean having intelligent robots working in your customer support center, but the program still can answer surprisingly complex customer questions. More significantly, creating a more effective interface to your online support mechanisms can reduce dependence on expensive call centers. That, in turn, can increase customer satisfaction among those customers such as engineers who prefer to interact directly with the computer rather than a human being.