How will organizations adapt their customer experience in a world of AI?

The CX Council’s recent thought leadership discussion revolved around the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in customer experience. Four themes were discussed: the “real time revolution” happening around us, how business is keeping up, the impact of AI on the customer, and the impact of AI on the company. 

In all facets of our day-to-day lives, we have become so reliant on technology and the ease with which mass amounts of information is readily accessible. As a result, we’ve come to expect the same level of service and response time regardless of whether we are purchasing items online or in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

To create this type of seamless experience, organizations are bringing the human touch to the CX journey by introducing features like chat bots on their websites. The concept of having access to “personalized” journeys 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is vital for consumer buy-in online. AI technology, through machine learning and natural language processing, can discern a customer’s tone and style of communication to create more authentic two-way dialogue (Google Duplex, for instance). Taking things one step further, successful personalized e-commerce strategies allow for relevant cross-selling and upselling to consumers, as in the case of Amazon or Wayfair.

The impact of AI on customers is an inevitable desire for increased levels of customer service. When you can go through a transaction on your mobile device or a website, but fulfilment happens in-store, the face-to-face or human-to-human portion of the customer journey must meet the same standards of simple and efficient service. If this is not met, the consumer’s journey and relationship with the entire brand is at risk.

At the end of the day, customers demand consistency, efficiency and an enhanced online customer experience, but not at the cost of human touch that is both friendly and customer focused. AI can support this notion, for example, take North Face online, which launched an interactive personal shopping experience where customer data is used to deliver more accurate product recommendations.

The impact of AI on companies is predominately “automation anxiety”. Will AI take away jobs from humans? Can AI be empathic, display emotional intelligence, or handle negotiation or crisis resolution? The question is can AI do the job as well as humans? Or, on the flip side, are humans facing an AI takeover reminiscent of The Terminator

The reality is that AI and predictive analysis can further customer experience, which can in turn influence customer buying behavior. AI can also positively impact employee engagement by taking over routine tasks, thereby allowing employees to focus on new ways of meeting higher customer demands and needs. AI can also help organizations better understand what customers want, right down to the look and feel of a store. In an online context, AI can help foster experiences that feel “real” – from remote attendance at concerts, to boards of education that leverage VR for school trips.

Despite its many potential benefits, we do have to recognize that AI also comes with its fair share of challenges. Companies must consider the consequences of those instances where their automated chats aren’t able to recognize the appropriate cues or instructions and revert to generic or standardized answers; or when smart home hubs mix up requests due language or speech recognition issues.

Whether you think AI will enhance our quality of life or take over earth (Again, recall The Terminator…), the bottom line is that it is here to stay. As we continue to demand more from our favorite brands, they must continue to try and find ways to meet those expectations. AI is changing both our physical and digital landscapes. The greater the integration and adoption of AI technologies, the easier it will be for people to work together and the more productive teams will become. As customer experience-centric products and services evolve with technological advancement and trends, AI will continue to unify and simplify workplace collaboration, while ensuring that the overall customer journey is even more direct and personalized.


By: Baijul Shukla, Director, Member Services and Strategic Partners, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers and Member of CMA's CX Council.

References

Parker Software. “The Impact of AI on Customer Experience” Parkersoftware.com " (accessed March 14, 2019) 

Pega & Market Force, “The Future of Work,” Pega.com (accessed March 14, 2019)

Brian Cantor, “Special Report: CX Automation,” Customer Contact Week (March 2018)

Stephan Parker, “The conversation engine,” Parkersoftware.com (November 2017)

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