AI can have a major impact on customer experience.

How can AI help companies deal with the issues caused by the COVID-19 crisis? This question brings together two topics that seem to occupy many headlines at the moment: the unavoidable nature of the current crisis and the ever popular theme of Artificial Intelligence and its impact on Customer Experience. At some recent round-table discussions with Customer Experience and Customer Service leaders the target was the latter but was inevitably informed by the former.

Ultimately the aim of these conversations has been to unpack how CX and CS leaders are using or plan to use AI and data.

The Role of AI in Customer Experience

It feels as though the headlines about AI being the silver bullet are diminishing and more realistic expectations are being placed upon the impact it may have. We’ve moved on from the dreams of Tron-style, General AI and appreciate more how very targeted use of such technology can deliver genuine impact.

For many at these sessions, their organisations are still in the early phases of using data and AI to drive better experiences. The focus is either on behind-the-scenes process automation or customer facing chatbots to handle simple and transactional engagements. Fewer have looked inside their organisations at ways AI could help colleagues and in particular contact centre agents to be even better than they are.

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For many there remains the perennial challenge of proving ROI; how a programme is going to be measured is certainly something that needs to be understood right from the get-go. Identifying the KPIs that may be influenced and having a handle on benchmarks is critical because without them any measurement of success is subjective – and as we move toward a possible recession, projects that don’t demonstrate value will get cut.

Accelerating digital transformation

As the conversations turned to planning for the future, what’s clear is that 3 year plans have recently become 3 month plans and businesses are recognising the need to change how they make decisions. All of a sudden small, cross-functional teams who have the authority to make rapid decisions are the norm and it’s all sounding a bit Agile. That’s a fantastic positive to take away from a time of so many challenges, and there’s a clear desire to maintain such structures in the future.

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A great line I heard from a CX Director in the construction sector was that recent experience has told them that what may be true in the morning may no longer be true in the afternoon. The ability to pivot is therefore vital and that can only happen with the right organisational support. What’s great is that this is clearly coming from the top which is a necessity for any cultural change.

More important, though, seems to be a change in behaviour of the customer and this is true for both B2C as well as B2B businesses. A customer may not know that what they want is a personalised, AI-powered experience, but they know the reason they came and they want to complete it as easily as possible. AI is what powers that frictionless experience.

This has led to a review of customer journeys and, wherever possible, the simplification of them. There is a shift to self-service and, especially if there is a recession, businesses understand the need to cut operational costs without diminishing the Customer Experience. Anything that looks like cost-cutting for the sake of business interest and not customer interest will be obvious.

The upshot is that all organisations are transforming and they are doing it at pace, however, customer expectations are also transforming and it’s up to the businesses that serve them to ensure they spot these behavioural changes and adapt to them. Once again, the ability to spot and respond to different behavioural patterns on the fly is powered by AI.


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