Happy Friday! ‘This week in CX’ brings you the latest roundup of industry news.

This week, we’re looking at research into retail policy abuse, contact centres using AI celebrity voices, the ethics of AI, and fixing customer discontent with personalisation.

Key news

  • Researchers at University College London and Sweden’s University of Göttingen have used machine learning to identify a new biological signature of Parkinson’s disease. They hope that the discovery could lead to a predictive test for the disease. A predictive blood test could, scientists hope, make early diagnosis possible at least seven years before symptoms appear.
  • Pride month puts the focus on LGBTQIA+ inclusion, but as many members highlight, recognising and supporting colleagues in the community is important all year round. Whether it’s mentoring or employee groups that provide community, activities for all colleagues to participate in, or HR teams that seek out collaborative policy creation, there are many practical ways workplaces can support inclusion.
  • Two new studies from Scandinavia suggest that while mothers’ incomes drop significantly in the short term after having a child, there may be no long-term “motherhood penalty” compared to women who don’t have children. While mothers’ earnings fell sharply after giving birth, the gap narrowed substantially over time, with one study even finding a small “motherhood premium” after 15 years. 
  • McDonald’s is ending its test of employing artificial intelligence chatbots at drive-thrus, raising questions over the fast food industry’s rush to roll out the technology. The systems, which featured an AI voice responding to customer orders, had been tested as part of a deal between McDonald’s and IBM that began in 2021. McDonald’s gave no public reason for ending its test run, according to Restaurant Business, telling franchises that it would shut down the technology on 26 July.
  • People are suspicious of newsrooms that use artificial intelligence in certain ways, according to a report from the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford. The report suggests audiences are comfortable with journalists using AI for behind the scenes tasks such as transcribing and translation, but they’re relatively wary of outlets that use AI for content generation and news production, especially when it comes to areas including politics. Some 52% of US respondents and 63% of UK respondents indicated in the study that they would feel uneasy reading news that was primarily generated by AI. 

New Research Warns UK Retailers of Rise in Policy Abuse This Summer

Riskified released the findings from its latest consumer pulse survey, providing insights into consumer attitudes towards the growing problem of policy abuse, whereby consumers knowingly exploit or manipulate a merchant’s terms and conditions for personal gain.

According to the survey, nearly one in five (18%) UK consumers report that they are more likely to engage in policy abuse behaviours in the summer, revealing yet another seasonal peak that merchants must prepare for, in addition to the pre- and post-holiday seasons. Increased financial pressures are the primary driver of this behaviour, with just under half (49%) saying this makes them more likely to engage in policy abuse. As higher summer spending, including costs relating to travel and special events, and the lingering impact of the cost-of-living crisis combine, merchants are warned to prepare for a spike in abuse. 21% are buying more this summer while 20% say they have less disposable income.

Men and Gen Z are the biggest policy abuse offenders

This is true across all forms of policy abuse, but most notably more “extreme” policy abuses like “wardrobing”—buying clothing to wear once to return it afterwards – and “INR” (item not received) where consumers falsely claim not to receive an item to claim refunds or replacements: 39% and 34% of 18-24-year-olds admitted to engaging in these behaviours respectively. Men are also more likely to commit all forms of policy abuse than women. Interestingly, men are taking a more systematic approach, with a huge 54% of men purchasing an item to resell for a higher price, versus just 33% of women. 

Guilt plays little to no part in deterring consumers from policy abuse

Brits partaking in policy abuse are torn in whether they feel guilty about it, with an equal 50% split between those who do and don’t. 52% of those who would consider policy abuse in the future also agree that one should feel guilty about exploiting retailer policies, but admit they too would engage in these fraudulent behaviours.

Would you pay more for a celebrity voice at the contact centre?

8×8 revealed the top celebrity voices that people would like to hear when they call a contact centre – and how much people would pay to avoid being on hold.

The survey showed that while Taylor Swift and Margot Robbie cross genders and age groups, there’s a wide range of celebrities that people would like to ‘hear’ from with some willing to pay for it in order to have a better customer experience. Where survey respondents were more aligned was in agreement and willingness to pay to avoid being on hold.

Paying For Benefits – And Quicker Service

When survey respondents were asked if they would pay extra for the celebrity/influencer voice option, 28% said that they would pay – but no more than £1 a month. Where more people said they would pay for extra was to have their waiting time on calls cut.

When asked ‘how much would you pay to have your calls always answered and dealt with in under two minutes’ the replies were as follow:

  • Wouldn’t pay – 38%
  • Up to £1 a month – 45%
  • More than £1 but less than £3 per month – 12%
  • Between £3 and £5 – 5%

Various surveys over the past few years have shown that the average waiting time for a person is between two minutes and 35 minutes, depending on the industry. The findings also come not long after The Institute of Customer Service’s ‘UK Customer Satisfaction Index’ analysed customer satisfaction metrics across 281 companies in the UK and revealed that consumer satisfaction has plunged to an eight-year low. 

Ethical Use of AI Will Be a Competitive Business Advantage 

Twilio released its annual ‘State of Personalisation Report’, which highlights perspectives and predictions from business leaders across twelve countries and a diverse range of industries. 

The report, now in its fifth year, underscores how evolving consumer demands are driving business leaders to focus on delivering predictive, emotionally intelligent, and highly personalised customer experiences. AI is central to this shift, with businesses utilising more dynamic models and metrics, enhancing interoperability between tools such as Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and data warehouses, and prioritising data privacy and the ethical use of AI.

With AI becoming ubiquitous across industries, Twilio’s research shows that 89 percent of respondents believe ethical use of AI can be a competitive business advantage, and over half (54 percent) of business leaders said they are addressing consumer concerns around data privacy and ethical considerations in AI by implementing robust privacy controls. 

Gen Z’s preference for more personalisation has fundamentally changed brands’ marketing 

The report also found Gen Z (18-27 year olds) are setting the trends that will shape the future of engagement. A generation of digital natives that grew up immersed in tech, Gen Z hold massive buying power and are breaking the traditional marketing funnel with their unique preferences, including higher expectations for authenticity, transparency, and engagement on their terms. It’s clear that businesses are receiving the message, as 85 percent of companies currently plan to adjust or optimise their marketing strategy to accommodate the unique needs and preferences of Gen Z consumers.

Predictive personalisation, emotional intelligence, and other key trends are transforming personalisation 

In alignment with the demands of the Gen Z consumer, 86 percent of business leaders expect a significant shift from reactive to predictive personalisation across the industry. Brands are pivoting to anticipate what’s next from consumers, using AI/ML to craft experiences tailored to individual needs and preferences. This proactive approach allows brands to actively engage customers with the right messages at the right time.

From marketing to customer service, the report found AI will become the silent partner helping companies address consumer expectations and harness data-driven insights to deliver targeted personalisation. Additional findings include: 

  • 73 percent of business leaders agree that AI will change personalisation and marketing strategies.
  • 58 percent of business leaders believe that AI chatbots will be the most impactful AI-driven personalisation technology over the next 5 years.
  • By 2025, 59 percent of businesses surveyed expect their teams to be using AI daily.
  • 72% of companies are using a customer data platform (CDP) for personalisation while 48% are using a data warehouse. A CDP’s strength in handling real-time, customer data meshes seamlessly with the robust, scalable environment of a data warehouse providing a dynamic approach to personalisation.

Two-thirds of UK marketers adopt AI for experimentation to address consumers’ growing discontent with personalised content

Two-thirds of marketers (65%) in the UK use AI within their experimentation approach, with almost half (45%) having adopted the technology within the past year. That’s according to a new report released by Optimizely, which reveals how marketers are implementing AI to level up their approach to A/B testing and experimentation.

The Tested to Perfection report, based on a study of 100 marketers and 1,000 consumers in the UK, examines the current state of experimentation practices, and how marketers are using, and planning to use, AI to address rapidly changing business and consumer expectations.

Nearly nine in 10 marketers (87%) believe experimentation is important for achieving their goals in 2024, yet one in five (20%) feel their current web experimentation approach is not effective. Nearly a quarter (23%) would go as far as to describe their current approach as ‘unsophisticated.’

Lack of budget is a challenge for almost half of marketers (43%), while a lack of resources, time and focus is also a barrier for 39% of respondents. Other challenges include a lack of effective tools or technology (25%), silos between relevant teams (25%), and the small scale of experiments (18%).

However, 89% of marketers believe AI will be the answer to overcoming these barriers. 

Almost half (48%) of the marketers surveyed plan to use AI to create more targeted and personalised content in the future. Forty-one percent have their sights set on generating headlines, images and CTAs at scale. Over a third (37%) plan to use AI to dynamically allocate traffic between test variations. And three in 10 (32%) will turn to AI to create hypotheses for experiments.Over two-thirds (70%) of marketers in the UK believe that AI will help make experimentation faster, and 62% believe AI will make experimentation more accurate.

Thanks for tuning into CXM’s weekly roundup of industry news. Check back next Friday for the latest updates of the week!

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