For many customer experience leaders, artificial intelligence (AI) is both a shiny object and a business imperative. More than three-quarters of senior executives say AI will be a critical part of their customer experience (CX) operations in the coming years. AI will enable organisations to reshape their customer and employee experiences. Making them both more human and more empathetic. 

These reimagined experiences will be designed so businesses can continually meet the unrelentingly high expectations of both customers and employees. All while improving business results. 

“Customer Experience Horizons,” a report from MIT Technology Review Insights, reveals emerging trends that will propel these changes in the coming years. The report comprises findings from in-depth interviews with about 20 senior CX executives, CX analysts, futurists, and other experts.

Contextually personalised experiences will make customers and employees alike feel heard, understood, and valued. Service interactions will be opportunities to deepen relationships, not just solve problems and move on. Contact centres will evolve to serve as centres of excellence that use their unique insights to drive business value. 

And AI is at the heart of these CX horizon trends. The report discusses five developing trends that organisations can act on now to inspire customer and employee engagement and loyalty — and outperform the competition.

1. Contextual personalisation drives mutual value.

The future of successful customer experiences lies in richly contextualised interactions that create mutual value for both customers and brands. Organisations will unlock the full potential of customer data, using it intelligently to shape nearly every interaction. 

This will not only foster long-term loyalty, but also will allow brands to offer personalised experiences that set them apart from competitors. The emphasis will be on data-sharing with a clear purpose, building trust, and forging stronger connections between individuals and brands.

Savvy CX leaders are already considering how AI will enable these personalised experiences. About 40% of CX leaders say their top strategic CX priorities over the next two years include enhancing data capabilities for real time insights, analytics and reporting, and using data and AI for customer understanding and personalisation.

2. Building relationships trumps issue resolution to foster trust.

A paradigm shift is underway as brands begin to use most every service interaction as an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships and increase lifetime value. Rather than treating these interactions as mere problem-solving exercises. Proactively sharing knowledge, anticipating customer needs, and becoming trusted advisors are central tenets of this relationship-focused approach. 

Organisations considered AI leaders are already using AI to proactively provide insights to customers and employees, streamline customer journeys, and evaluate feedback. Ninety percent say they’re using AI to understand pain points in the customer journey, versus 60% of other businesses. And 87% agree that AI is already helping customers’ journeys feel more empathetic.

3. AI’s predictive power replaces frustratingly repetitive queries.

AI is ushering in an era where brands can fulfill customer needs preemptively and address issues proactively. Leveraging contextual and real-time data, organisations will be able to reduce or eliminate the need for customers to ask repetitive questions. And even further will stop asking questions they already have the answers to. 

Leading organisations are already crafting robust AI roadmaps designed to capitalise on the unique abilities that conversational, generative, and predictive AI each provide to transform customer and employee experiences into proactive and personalised engagements. Nearly 70% of business leaders say using AI to identify customers and predict or drive outcomes is the most important strategic priority across their organisation’s CX. 42% consider personalising each customer’s experience as a top CX priority.

4. Personalised work environments meet employees’ need for empathetic experiences.

Recognising that customers and employees share similar human needs, organisations are beginning to personalise work experiences. This includes treating individuals with empathy and understanding, as well as providing the support they need to succeed daily and to grow in their career. 

Leading organisations will use AI to empower employees by offering them more control over their schedules, routing interactions to the employees who are best positioned to resolve them, and by providing personalised coaching and career development. This approach enhances engagement, reduces attrition, and manages costs.

Nearly two-thirds of these leading organisations are already using AI to identify employee career growth opportunities. But only one-third are currently using predictive analytics, interaction routing, and next-best-action recommendations to support agents before and during service interactions. Businesses that are prioritising these strategies have more opportunities to get ahead of the competition.

5. The contact centre becomes a hub of advocacy and engagement.

Contact centres are evolving from costs centres to centres of excellence. The rich data under their purview — from within the contact centre and across digital service channels — is an invaluable source of historical and real-time customer data that reveals trends, issues, and opportunities.  

With a comprehensive view across entire customer journeys, the contact centre will increasingly serve as an advocate for customers within the enterprise. They can then advise other functions and departments on ways to improve the CX.

Connected systems and AI will be at the heart of this. More than 70% of CX leaders say implementing a CX platform that integrates systems is the number one way they’ll support their strategic CX priorities over the next two years. Half say the same about connecting data and technology to deliver an omnichannel experience.

Empathy and AI

The convergence of AI and human centricity is reshaping customer and employee experiences. The future promises something more valuable than efficiency and first-contact resolutions. It affirms a deeper understanding of individual customers’ and employees’ needs. Fostering engagement, trust, and loyalty. As these CX horizons trends take shape, businesses that embrace the AI-powered empathy revolution are those best poised to grow and thrive.

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