Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades but its promises – a deeper understanding of customer intent, and better and faster experiences for customers and associates alike – continue to go largely unrealized.
In the experience economy, where consumers are drawn to brands as much for the experiences they offer as their products and services, AI has the potential to transform customer experience (CX), remove friction from customer journeys, and enable the personalized experiences consumers want. In reality, though, it falls short. Despite all of AI’s hype and promise, CSAT for chatbots and other AI-powered self-service tools significantly lags that of the associated-led phone channel.
So, what’s the disconnect? Why isn’t AI elevating customer experience?
AI isn’t a tool that can merely be turned on and forgotten about. To realize its true power, brands need to invest in the tools and people necessary to understand the intent-driven journey and the friction points along the way. That’s the only way to design workflows and back-end system integrations that will produce a return on the AI investment.
Here are three keys to realizing AI’s full potential:
1. Make the most of data
Data is the engine of successful AI. Too often, brands think they are data-driven organizations but lack customer insights beyond disposition reports. To really get to the point where AI can transform the customer and associate experience, brands need to understand frequent and emerging topics (and their subtopics) and be able to analyze sentiment and complexity by call type. Data is at the heart of all this.
Each time a customer interacts with a brand, valuable data points are generated. When used effectively, that data can provide actionable insights, in real time, to improve the customer journey, ease pain points and ultimately drive sales and grow loyalty. Brands that aren’t harnessing the power of their data will lose customers to competitors that better understand the customer journey.
Don’t be afraid to start small. Begin by focusing on high sentiment/low complexity intents to build a foundation of small wins; those will quickly accelerate into more-complex use cases that organizations can scale. Working with an experienced CX partner that has data and analytics expertise can help.
Data can have a powerful impact not only on CX but on bottom lines, too. TTEC client experience shows that companies using AI and automation technologies can expect to grow their workforce capacity by 30-50% without needing to hire additional employees.
2. Involve associates in the process
Associates are the front line of any brand, so it’s essential to include them as part of the team. They can’t be expected to use AI capabilities to their fullest if they don’t know how or why they’re fitting into their day-to-day work. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is not including associates in the design of the workflow.
To ensure AI tools are used for maximum impact, involve associates in their design, build, and operations. Then, make sure associates receive the proper training to understand the tools and when to use them. Consider making this training asynchronous, giving associates the option to train during their downtime or at home.
One of AI’s main benefits is it helps associates perform their jobs better, empowering them to deliver better experiences to customers. For instance, when TTEC helped a global property and infrastructure group deploy an AI-powered bot to handle inbound requests from customers, the company saw an 86% reduction in the number of basic inquiries handled by associates and a 30% increase in digital conversions. When simple tasks are handled through AI, it frees associates up to focus on more complex inquiries.
It makes no sense to exclude associates from the AI conversation and implementation; they bring a unique and important perspective. There are also great opportunities to incorporate AI into associate training.
3. Keep optimizing
AI is not a “set it and forget it” tool; it takes continual assessing and optimizing to ensure brands are reaping all its benefits. In their quest to really understand the intent-driven customer journey, companies must keep evaluating what’s working and what’s not.
For many brands, AI brings with it many new expectations and opportunities that can be difficult to navigate. When gauging a program’s success, it can be tempting to focus mainly on cost, but don’t. Take the overall customer experience, and NPS in particular, into account when determining what’s working. Then use those learnings to inform decision making and associate training.
To help make AI efforts successful, avoid the common pitfall of putting them in a silo. For AI investments to pay off, they must be coordinated among a wide variety of stakeholders, including business units, process experts, IT, and operations. Without buy-in from the entire organization, AI will keep falling short of expectations.
As consumers increasingly seek digital and self-service interactions, there’s never been a better time for brands to harness the power of AI. When done well, AI can reduce handle times, orchestrate individualized experiences, and make interactions more seamless for associates and customers alike – all while cutting costs. With the right people and technology behind it, AI can help take CX to the next level.