With thick wildfire-smoke clouds obscuring the New York skyline outside, NICE CEO Barak Eilam shared some cloud wisdom of his own at the recent NICE Interactions conference.
“Migration to the cloud is an imperative if you want to leverage AI in your contact center,” he told the crowd of nearly 2,000 CX leaders at the Jacob Javits Center. AI was the hot topic, with sessions and panelists about where to start and what building blocks need to be in place to create a successful AI initiative.
“AI is the long-awaited CX alchemist, conjuring up completely new ways that customer service and technology can be welded together,” Eilam told the conference audience.
He shared three steps to “surf the AI super wave” in the realm of customer experience:
1. Complete the move to the cloud, but do it right
The reason for a cloud migration is to create more nimble, agile, integrated contact center systems for customer and associate augmentation. Those attributes are more critical than ever, since customer interactions have increased by 100x and have become more complex in the last decade, Eilam stated. Meanwhile, he said, only 20% of CX organizations are on cloud native platforms.
2. Start over your digital transformation
This might be hard for CX leaders to hear, but Eilam made a compelling case about AI being an integral part of any digital transformation. Adding AI as a stand-alone component bolted on to any current transformations won’t have the same results as including AI as part of the entire transformation. “It’s hard to restart, but AI will turbocharge” any efforts to become more digitally driven, he said.
3. Think big and avoid separate point solutions
Learn from past mistakes and avoid an AI “Frankenstack,” Eilam said. Omnichannel efforts never met their full potential because point solutions were never fully integrated. Take these lessons to heart when incorporating AI solutions into your business for customers and employees.
AI accelerates personalization and generates better experiences
The conference featured sessions and discussions around incorporating AI-enabled tools to improve both the customer and employee experience. Omdia Principal Analyst Mila D’Antonio framed much of the AI discussions as a way to get to more personalized interactions, something that has been only aspirational for most companies. According to 2023 Omdia research:
- 62% of companies can’t engage across channels in a personalized way
- 55% can’t predict customer needs
- 42% are challenged with using data to obtain customer insights
Generative AI is changing this landscape, D’Antonio said, by enabling personalized responses, content, and product decisions. Companies are deploying AI in its first act for agent assist, conversational AI, and dynamic knowledgebases to support associates as they help customers.
According to Omdia, positive outcomes of AI-powered technology include:
- 59% of companies can better understand customer needs
- 57% see increased CSAT
- 57% see higher revenue
- 50% increase their operational efficiency
AI won’t succeed without human employees
Throughout the conference, speakers emphasized the importance of humans in the AI ecosystem. Barry Cooper, president of NICE CX Division, outlined three associate augmentation AI strategies: behavioral guidance to encourage efficiency and the best interactions based on data; giving them context about specific knowledge to create a more holistic interaction; and automation that acts on an associate’s behalf.
“More complex interactions are being done virtually,” he said. “Without AI and automation, companies would need 3x the agents to manage it.” The software is doing things that humans used to do, so humans can do more complex work.
“Don’t displace agents, they will have more meaningful work to do,” D’Antonio said. They may be nervous about what the AI future brings, so talk to them about how you intend to use it, and how it will help them work better and with less hassle. Share opportunities for new human roles emerging from AI, including bot tuners and data scientists, she said.
People will have anger and fear about an AI future, added Sinead Aylward, senior director of IT at Johnson Controls. “Find their crying baby,” to help encourage adoption and show how AI will solve the problems that resonate with employees.