What role will AI play in the future of customer experience?

Rob Walker
Posted: 07/19/2017

Artificial intelligence is a real industry buzzword right now, but what are the true challenges and opportunities within this field for CX?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the term on everybody’s lips at the moment, having moved in recent years beyond the realms of science fiction into mainstream consciousness. Companies everywhere are seeking to reap the rewards and are exploring the use of technology to enhance the customer experience.

However, using this technology in a way that their customers will not only understand, but also appreciate, presents something of a challenge.

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The role that AI plays in customer experience

There are two main roles that AI can play in customer experience. Firstly, it provides organisations with the intelligence needed to interact more effectively with their customers. Intelligent software may, for instance, be used to analyse customers past interactions with a company to identify what offers will interest them the most.

This is a relatively simple idea that companies have been using for a while – it’s what enables them to send personalised emails to customers, highlighting promotions that are likely to interest them based on their past purchases.

Other, more sophisticated, uses of AI in customer interaction include the use of chatbots. Introducing this technology creates the opportunity for businesses to provide support to customers 24/7. Research we carried out shows that consumers are in favour of chatbot technology, especially – unsurprisingly – if it can help them to save time or money.

Secondly, AI technology can be used to streamline and simplify business processes across different siloes, which is key to reducing costs and improving customer experience. For example, intelligent software can facilitate access to the right data, which makes it easier for client-facing personnel to meet customer needs.

Far too many businesses have fragmented systems with disconnects between their front and back offices, which is a major obstacle to an effective customer experience. Having a comprehensive overview of customers interactions with the company, across different departments, is essential.

There’s no doubt that AI can bring a great deal of value to businesses. For example, decision management technology can be used to calculate the risk of a customer leaving the organisation, their potential value, and next best actions to convince them to stay. This is just one way in which AI software can transform customer experience by managing cases intelligently. It has many different applications, all of which can reduce complaints, shorten calls and lower customer churn.

Challenges in implementing AI

The greatest challenges to AI implementation are the many misconceptions that surround the technology – sci-fi depictions of a terrifying robot uprising have a lot to answer for! A surprising number of consumers admit that they are worried about “robots taking over” or worry that the rise of AI means that there will no longer be any jobs for humans.

Consumers need to learn to trust AI, and our research suggests that once they understand the benefits it can bring, they will be a lot more open to it. However, achieving this will require businesses to be transparent about how they are using AI and how it is helping their customers.

When applying AI, as well as ensuring transparency, businesses need to make sure that they understand the limitations of AI – namely, that it can never replace the human touch, and should be used to augment the human role, not replace it. This is something that must be communicated to consumers too, as much of the current fear surrounding AI stems from the unfounded belief that robots will replace human jobs.

To extract the most value out of AI, businesses need to use it as a tool to help humans provide the best possible service to customers.

The future of AI in customer experience

As AI continues to evolve, it will play an increasingly important part for organisations looking to engage with their customers. Voice and language recognition are likely to become commonplace, and chatbots will become increasingly sophisticated. We can expect to see more complex chatbots that can support new channels and maintain conversations across a number of different platforms in a natural, conversational way.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand when it comes to the future of AI in customer experience is that there will never be an “either/or” choice for consumers – they won’t have to choose between engaging with a chatbot or talking with a real human. The process instead will involve collaboration; humans working alongside AI technology, the latter generating insights, predicting behaviour and providing recommendations that will impact how human staff engage with customers.

Customers may speak to a chatbot and a human during the same interactions, switching seamlessly between them, without even realising it or noticing any difference in the service that is delivered. As artificial intelligences continue to become smarter, and the integration with existing business processes is optimised, interactions with customers will become smoother. This, in turn, will help customers to accept AI as a customer service tool – opening up new and exciting opportunities for businesses to use it to deliver an efficient and memorable customer experience.

Rob Walker
Posted: 07/19/2017