The Management Series

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May 2018

Face It, AI Is the Future of Customer Experience

The prospect of ramping up the use of artificial intelligence to deal with customers can give managers a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. The news is filled with accounts of AI going wrong. And there’s probably not a one of us who has not had such a miserable experience with AI that we have sworn not to deal with the company responsible ever again. (And perhaps thought about heaving a phone or computer.)

But fear it or not, AI is going to be an integral—and money-saving—part of the customer experience, Lisa Loftis writes in the CMSWire article “The Future of Customer Experience Is AI: Are You Ready?”

She points to two studies that ought to give doubters serious pause:
• By 2020, 85% of customer relationships will take place without human interaction.
• Juniper Research anticipates that chatbot conversations with customers will save more than $8 billion a year by 2022. Compare that to just $20 million last year.

“AI can improve response time, provide contextually relevant personalized recommendations, incorporate sentiment into responses, eliminate bottlenecks and automate routine inquiries, freeing up humans to deal with more complex problems,” says Loftis, who co-wrote the book Building the Customer Centric Enterprise and is a member of SAS’s best practices team.

Loftis explains several different types of AI customer experience models and suggests ways to get the most out of AI while avoiding pitfalls that could alienate customers.

The key, she says, is to work within your technological limits and not to underestimate the need for human involvement. Systems made up almost entirely of bots are enormously complicated and require constant babysitting.

“You must develop (and continually augment) knowledge management databases. You must monitor voice-of-the-customer feedback mechanisms so that you’re aware of any problems that arise,” she writes. “You must review chatbot conversations to identify problems that are too complex for the bots and take note of cases where the bot misunderstands the customer.”

It’s better—and still efficient—to start off with a system that mixes AI with human representatives.

“Artificial intelligence may be used to route inquiries, interpret incoming messages and develop initial responses that can be edited by the service rep, or find relevant knowledge-based content and deliver it to the rep,” Loftis says. “This almost always shortens both call wait time and call handling time.”

Dan Gingiss, a customer experience expert for Forbes, echoes Loftis’s call for simplicity but says that should apply to customer experience across the board, from web page appearance and ease of use to the language of the terms of service.

“Think about every touch point your company has with its prospects and customers, and ask yourself if you are talking in their language or yours,” Gingiss says in the article “How to ‘Do Simple Better’ in Your Customer Experience.”

“Ask yourself if you can turn two clicks into a single click (my bank makes me select the account where I want to deposit a check on the mobile app every single time, even though I only have one account!),” he writes.

Gingiss says simplicity includes your company’s execution.

“It means minimizing errors or unnecessary delays, sending out communications that have correct spelling and grammar, keeping the physical space in which customers are present clean and tidy at all times, and answering the telephone when a customer calls,” he says.

Interested in learning more about customer experience? Don’t miss The Council’s June 28 customer experience virtual workshop. Here are a few concepts to be covered:

  • The “cliff of dissatisfaction”
  • Protecting customers from their own mistakes
  • Words, phrases and tone of voice
  • Documenting and spreading best practices

Members can register here.

Not a member? Learn more. Contact Julia Ruiz.