As a result of the events of the past year, the world is moving towards digital. Forrester predicts that digital customer interactions will increase by 40% in 2021. Meanwhile, IDC is predicting that this year alone, 65% of businesses will have shifted to digital-first through automated operations and contactless experiences for customer service.
Due to the pandemic many companies had to rethink and accelerate artificial intelligence (AI)-powered strategies as a reaction to ballooning interaction volumes with consumers. Many started by automating certain types of queries using bots to relieve pressure from their workforce. Now that the panic phase is over, businesses are increasingly looking into AI’s predictive and continual learning capabilities to facilitate more tailored experiences.
From surfacing up relevant knowledge to assist workers to matching employee and customers for the best outcomes, many are seeing that it can deliver real business value in customer retention and sales situations. And this is only scratching the surface of the potential of the technology.
Moving from reactive to proactive experiences
The application of AI is complementary to the work staff undertakes and only serves to make their lives easier. The popular belief has been that AI will eliminate jobs in the long-term, when the reality is that nearly 60% of workers say they do not feel the technology threatens their jobs. In fact, 64% of UK employees say that AI makes them more effective. Customers will still need the balance of automated responses and those highly personal touches from real people dependent on the need and situation in hand.
AI has real potential to transform the way businesses interact with customers. By harnessing the technology to predict the best possible time to engage with consumers, organisations can foster deep and meaningful relationships with shoppers. Predictive capabilities allow businesses to provide real-time engagement to consumers and help them with any potential issues before the customer knows they have a problem or intervene in their journey in order to maximise the potential of a certain outcome too.
When applying AI to the customer experience industry, that has traditionally been reactive in nature, businesses can engage with customers in a new and meaningful way. With AI-driven tools too, it’s also possible for businesses to predict and act versus simply respond. This can help companies transform their customer service operations from a cost centre to a profit centre, whilst delivering smarter services, and facilitate better overall decision-making, and remain highly competitive.
Better use of data leads to better insights
Making use of various customer data points will be the new gold rush for businesses. However, brands must gain consumer trust and create environments where people feel comfortable sharing their data. Findings from a recent Genesys research report concluded hesitancy still exists about how much or little information to give organisations, as 7 in 10 consumers try to control to some extent how their data is collected.
To succeed in winning consumer trust and harnessing the power data now offers, organisations need to use the right combination of information to inform and improve experiences. This involves using insights from the entire customer journey (marketing, sales, service), and across every channel. Crucially it also means tying information together across systems – from contact centers to CRM to marketing automation. Only then can brands hope to create a holistic view of the customer and use
AI effectively to continually inform and improve performance based on the breadth of insights available.
AI can also be used to improve the fluidity of shopping experience, so that it’s connected across every touchpoint, fully contextual and predictive in nature too. Businesses can use data to trigger AI capabilities that help them serve customers with better context and predict the optimum desired outcome based on behavior, history and intent.
There’s also the potential to combine native and third-party enterprise data to gain predictive insights, inform attributions and feed outcomes in a way that ultimately augments and continually improves customer experience use cases.
Helping staff go above and beyond
Good experiences, whether powered by AI or not, begins with employees. Any obstacle that prevents them from helping a customer, such as siloed data, complex website structures or complicated routing, directly affects the overall experience delivered. What’s more, it can lead to frustrated, unengaged staff who are unwilling or unable to provide the best possible service.
AI capabilities can lend a helping hand across nearly every facet of a business now, simplifying complex processes and removing repetitive tasks from to do lists. For example, AI-powered chatbots and voicebots can answer common questions such as order status or topping up mobile phones. In the event that a bot can’t solve the query, it’s transferred to the appropriate employee, with full contextual information in real-time to enable better support on calls. In addition to this, AI technologies have the capability to act as a personal assistant to contact centre staff. Here AI can ‘listen’ in on calls and offer the latest knowledge articles relevant to the issue. The technology has matured to the point that it can identify customer sentiment and determine potential upsell opportunities or follow-up actions.
AI also allows businesses to identify employees’ strengths and areas for improvement, allowing the right tools and hands-on support to be deployed to make them more comfortable, capable, and able to succeed. In turn, this can help facilitate a more engaged and dedicated culture, enhancing brand loyalty, increased staff retention and tenure.
The future is already here
Delivering a seamless customer experience is far from simple. Organisations must use a variety of communication channels, continue multiple intermittent customer conversations over several days or weeks, and deliver results under increasing pressure from both leadership and customers.
We have reached a tipping point where the potential for innovations that use AI has only just begun. To make the most of this opportunity, businesses must look to underpin their digital experiences with AI, while orchestrating data from third party systems to create fluid, personalised experiences that stand them in the best possible position to truly differentiate themselves from the competition. The future is already here, and companies must ensure they have the capabilities, strategy and skills in place needed to make the most of AI aspirations.