How APIs transform customer service (with 8 real world examples)

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
An AI assistant is next to a smartphone, a tablet, and graphical charts, cogs, and a messenger symbol

Driving quick responses to customer queries, making sure your teams never feel overwhelmed, and building a solid reputation for exceptional customer service – these are your objectives, and APIs are your allies.

Discover their unique capabilities, and explore how leaders across all industries are using APIs to improve customer experience and offer real-time, multi-channel, personalised support.

You don’t need a technical background to use APIs. These days, it’s simpler than you might think.

TL;DR

  • APIs act as messengers, going between systems for you to collect and deliver information, making customer support services more responsive.
  • Customers are now used to (and expect) immediate answers to common queries, so phone and email have fallen out of favour and AI is fast becoming the indispensable replacement.
  • Organisations across all manner of industries are using APIs with AI to make their customer support services more efficient and helpful.
  • Insurers automate quotes, leisure centres take bookings, bankers deliver account balances, hospitality and retail providers share locations and opening times.
  • Traditional file transfer and shared databases lack the real time benefits you get from using APIs that work in the moment to support customers, fast, across many systems at a time.

What is an API?

API is short for Application Programming Interface. APIs create a connection between two applications, so they can talk to each other, following a set procedure to complete tasks. The API takes a request from one system and delivers it to the other, before returning the appropriate response, like a messenger.

You could think of an API as a waiter taking your menu request from your table, passing it to the kitchen, then bringing out the meal once it’s been prepared. You don’t have access to the kitchen to make the food yourself, so the waiter is your go-between.

How it works (the technical bit)

When you send a request to an API, you ‘call the API’ because you’re summoning it to take action, and it does this by transferring data over the internet.

API requests are made using secure HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), “the foundation of the World Wide Web”. Commonly used HTTP requests are GET (to retrieve data), POST (to send data), PUT (to update existing data), and DELETE (to remove data). The request is sent to a specific internet address (similar to a web page URL) where the API lives, and extra pieces of information or additional data might be included.

Image shows a list of customers in a database with distinct numbers. In one AI driven chat the AI assistant is sharing the number with the customer, in a second AI driven chat, the customer is sharing the number with the AI assistant to populate the list.

Putting APIs into context

Imagine you’re a customer using an online shopping app. You placed an order and now want to track the delivery of your package. Here’s how an API makes it easy for you to do that:

  • You open the shopping app and click the “Track delivery” button.
  • When you press the button, the shopping app AI makes an API request to the shipping company’s delivery system. This request includes information specific to your order, like the unique tracking number associated with your parcel.
  • The API understands both the language of the shopping app and the language of the shipping company’s delivery system. This means it can send your tracking number to the shipping company and asks for the status of the delivery with this number.
  • The shipping company’s delivery system checks the status of your delivery in their database, then sends this information back through the API to the shopping app AI.
  • The shopping app then displays this tracking information, showing you exactly where your parcel is on its journey and when you can expect to receive it.

Here, the API enables the shopping app and the shipping company’s delivery system to communicate, so the customer is kept updated in real time and without your customer service teams having to do a thing. No phone calls. No emails. No live chat. Just an API doing its job, so you don’t have to.

How APIs are transforming customer service

When you have an API messenger going between systems for you, collecting and delivering information, it makes customer support services more responsive. Customers are now used to (and expect) immediate answers to common queries and we find traditional services like phone and email have fallen out of favour. Salesforce report “only 38% of consumers actually want to talk with a human when engaging a brand” and AI is fast becoming the indispensable replacement.

The link with AI chatbots

An advanced AI assistant can answer your customers instantly 24 hours a day. It’s never off sick, never needs a holiday, and can deal with all the routine, repetitive enquiries you get that slow your teams down. Using APIs, it can easily go between all the systems you use to manage customer services too, to add, move or change information on your behalf.

Did you know? 35% of customer enquiries come in when your contact centres are closed.

35% of queries come in when contact centres are closed

If you think of it in traditional customer service terms, without an API your AI assistant can answer the phone and tell your customer everything it knows, but it can’t check with a colleague for more detail. It can’t check the system to see the status of a situation. Connect it to your systems using an API and the AI assistant becomes infinitely more helpful since it can talk with other systems, plus the opportunity to scale that is endless, since there are millions of uses for APIs and you can just keep on connecting more.

Next, we’ll show you how all of this comes together to boost your customer experience ready for a new generation of clientele.

8 ways APIs are used today to improve customer support

Organisations across all manner of industries are using APIs with AI to make their customer support services more responsive, more efficient, and more helpful. Here are just a handful of ways you can use APIs to perform straightforward tasks using an AI assistant, to save your teams the time.

1. Insurance

An AI assistant, with the help of APIs, can quickly fetch and present insurance quotes. Just by asking a few relevant questions, the AI assistant can relay answers to the insurer’s system and return to the customer with an immediate quote, making the entire process swift and hassle-free.

Real world case study: Legal & General

2. Property

AI assistants can, via APIs, instantly add contact details into a CRM system whenever a property enquiry comes in, setting the stage for a prompt and organised follow-up. This automation makes sure no lead is overlooked, optimising the customer service response.

3. Leisure

APIs allow an AI assistant to simplify the booking process. When a customer wants to book in for an activity, the assistant communicates this request to the booking system via the API, securing the booking instantly. The result is a smooth, fuss-free experience for the customer.

Real world case study: Mytime Active

4. Banking

AI assistants, through APIs, can retrieve account balances fast and securely. When a customer requests it, the AI assistant communicates with the bank’s system via the API to promptly get the balance information, offering customers an easy and convenient banking service.

5. Local council

For issues like a missed bin collection, an AI assistant using APIs can immediately report it to the local council system. After taking the necessary details from the customer, the AI assistant swiftly notifies the system via the API, so the council can quickly arrange to clear the waste.

Real world case study: Barking & Dagenham Council

6. Hospitality

When customers need directions to a restaurant, an AI assistant can tap into the power of APIs to swiftly pull up the location on Google Maps. It’s a straightforward and prompt way for customers to find their dining spot and arrive relaxed and in time for their reservation.

7. Retail

AI assistants can use APIs to quickly share store opening times. When a customer asks, the AI assistant can retrieve this information from the store’s system via the API and immediately present it to the customer, so they can make their way to buy what they need.

Real world case study: Coop Sweden

8. Healthcare

For patients needing repeat prescriptions, an AI assistant, using the power of APIs, can render this task effortless. Interacting with the pharmacy’s system via the API, the AI assistant can offer an efficient, swift process to get medications refilled and ready for collection.

These examples give you just a glimpse into how APIs, combined with AI assistants, are reshaping customer service across a diverse range of industries, and why APIs are becoming the go-to choice for businesses striving for efficient, responsive, and personalised customer service.

Before APIs came along, organisations were reliant on file transfer and shared databases ― we should know, we’ve been doing this for 20+ years. For customer service, data transfer lacks the real time benefits you get from using APIs that work in the moment to support customers, fast. Sharing or connecting data centrally has also become less attractive the more systems we all use in our unstoppable digital transformation.

Where a direct integration of two systems is necessary in some situations, it isn’t in others, and with APIs we now have a wider choice of what course to take.

The difference between API and integration

Integration gets two systems working together seamlessly as one, so a customer wouldn’t know where one system ends and another begins. An API simply goes between them like a courier and, for that reason, forms the backbone of integration, allowing for system communication.

Real world example
Stena Line ferries have used APIs and integration to reinvent travel for millions of customers, with their AI assistant answering 99% of routine enquiries in six European languages.

AI assistant icon with the text

A. Using APIs for instant communication

A passenger asks the AI assistant for more information about a travel booking: “Is my ferry leaving on time?” An API then requests information from the departures system and passes this back to the AI assistant, which then responds to the customer with information about the planned departure time for their specific trip.

B. Integrating systems for complete control

So a customers can view, amend or cancel their ferry booking, the AI assistant is integrated with the bookings system to give them complete freedom in managing their own bookings online and in real time.

How to start using APIs

Traditionally, you’d need a developer or computer engineer to connect your APIs for customer service, but that’s changing ― fast. User-friendly AI platforms like ours make it possible for those with or without technical skills to level up customer service using APIs and integration.

“Adding an API integration to an AI assistant means it can start doing almost anything a human can do with the system it’s integrating with. We’ve made it super easy to connect your AI assistant to any system as our pre-built connectors mean we’ve already done the hard work for you. All you need to do is add a few details from the account of whatever system you’re using and your AI assistant is ready to start performing tasks for customers, on top of being informative and helpful, so your customers get what they need more efficiently.”
Aaron Gleeson, Implementation Lead at EBI.AI

No APIs, or don’t know where to find them? No problem!

If the software you use doesn’t have an API to link out to other systems that do, book a call with our expert team and we’ll tell you how to fix the problem. You could build your own API or we can do it for you, or you can switch to a different system. There are no two pieces of software we can’t get to talk to one another!

Start with an AI assistant

It only takes ten minutes to launch an AI assistant on our platform and, once you’re live, you can link it up with all your favourite systems, like Hubspot, Jira and Zapier.

Image shows a 2-step process to set up an API in the AI Studio platform. Choose

Start transforming your customer service and dive in today.

FAQs

What is an API?
An API or Application Programming Interface is a set of rules that allows different software applications to communicate, enabling data sharing and functionalities. It's akin to a restaurant menu - you, as a customer service leader, pick what you need, and the API 'kitchen' delivers.
How do APIs help with customer service?
APIs help customer service by linking different software like CRM and chat tools. This makes data sharing and automated tasks easy. So, it simplifies work and saves time, letting customer service agents focus more on improving the customer's experience.
What is an example of an API?
An API example can be seen in online parcel tracking. You click "Track delivery", the API communicates your request to the courier's system, retrieves the parcel's status, and then your app presents this information. All enabled by the seamless, unseen operation of the API.
How do you start using APIs?
Starting with APIs is easier than ever, with advanced platforms offering pre-built connectors. While you used to need the help of a developer or engineer, you don’t any more, making API integration accessible even without deep technical knowledge.