It seems a long time since AI was the stuff of science fiction – nowadays it’s very much our reality. Lately, AI has become a topic of public interest, with people everywhere taking an interest in its role in our lives.

For those of us in the CX world, human connection is as fundamental as ever, and we’re focused on delivering an empathic experience to customers. Another priority is efficiency and cost-effectiveness, both for the customers’ sake and for the sake of our bottom line. In this article, we’ll explain how AI can help us achieve both these goals if it’s used wisely. 

Defining AI in the present day

Much like the internet at the beginning of the millennium, AI is reaching critical mass in the public consciousness. You no longer have to have a special interest in AI and robotics to hold an opinion on AI’s role, what it means for our future or how we should approach it ethically. This new awareness of AI means we are starting to adapt what we mean when we use the terminology.

So here’s a working definition of AI: It’s the ability of a machine to simulate human thought patterns, and to make predictions based on data. In the case of generative AI, it’s a machine’s ability to create novel content, rather than repeating the source material it has been trained on. 

Are employees ready to embrace AI?

There’s a frequent concern that AI will harm employees by taking away their roles and incomes – in effect, replacing them. Fortunately, data in the Qualtrics State of AI research report tells a more positive story. It seems employees believe in AI’s potential to make their lives easier and relieve them of some of the less interesting areas of their jobs. 

81% of CX professionals believe that AI will benefit their teams by reducing their overall workload or giving them the means to identify and respond to customer issues faster. 

Can we trust AI with customer data?

AI may be smart, but it’s not conscious. It still lacks the ability to understand why some types of data are more sensitive than others. Unlike a human, it can’t protect customer privacy and security intuitively, and some are still hesitant about putting their data in AI’s keeping. 

In the State of AI report, 58% of CX leaders felt confident that customers will find considerable value in AI personalisation, but nearly as many felt that customers will have concerns about appropriate use of their data. 

Some organisations are more AI-ready than others 

Different sectors, organisations and even individual leaders have different perspectives on the use of AI in CX. They range from AI-averse to unequivocally enthusiastic.

For the organisations that prefer to avoid AI, it’s more important to retain control than to save time and energy. They would rather do things manually even if it costs them more. 

For the keenest, AI represents an opportunity to divest operations to a resource that’s efficient and economical. Being able to perform tasks at the touch of a button matters more than understanding the minutiae of how AI’s more granular decisions are made. 

For most, though, the needle falls somewhere between these two poles. Many companies want an AI setup where they have control over what happens, but also get the benefit of AI’s predictions or recommendations. For others, the ideal is an automated, AI-run system that can be overridden, adjusted or revised by humans at any point. 

These categories aren’t static, and they vary significantly by region, local compliance requirements, sector and personal preferences among leaders. 

The AI gold-rush – or is it?

According to the State of AI report, many companies are rushing to integrate AI into their operations, but not for the reasons you might expect.

The report found that when it comes to adopting AI technologies, CX leaders feel twice as much pressure to keep up with their competitors as they do from the expectations of customers. The drive to be an early adopter – or even feeling the need to keep up or be left behind – can cause leaders to temporarily forget that the most important factor in whether to invest in AI is the customers. 

Maturity in experience management, appetite for AI

There’s an interesting relationship between what kinds of AI a company is ready for, and how advanced they are in operationalising experience management within their business. A company relatively new to customer experience management will ask different things of AI than one that has been collecting and using customer experience data at scale. 

Whichever camp you fall into though, AI tools are varied enough that there will be solutions that work for you. 

Pitfalls to avoid when investing in AI for CX

1. Not defining your goals

As we’ve suggested, it can feel compelling to get on board with new technology as fast as possible. But it’s unwise to do so before you’ve set goals and understood how AI fits into your business strategy. After all, implementing AI is costly, so you need to make sure in advance that it will deliver. 

2. An infrastructure that’s not AI-ready

AI needs to integrate with your existing systems in a way that enables it. Frequently, AI operates best when there are large volumes of data it can process in order to make predictions and identify trends. Make sure your current setup is collecting the right kind of data at a suitable scale. 

3. Forgetting the customer’s perspective

As we learned before, some customers are likely to be hesitant about AI, especially when it comes to their data. And some leaders may be swayed by the speed at which their industry is adopting AI. Before making a decision, use your listening channels to understand how customers feel about AI being used in your business. 

Should you build your own AI for CX, or buy it in?

For some large enterprises, there is enough knowledge, capacity and ongoing resource in-house to make building an AI-enabled CX platform from the ground up a wise decision.

Outsourcing to a third party, however, is often the best choice if you need to marshal your resources more strictly. Third party providers take on the work of developing, maintaining and updating the AI CX function, removing these pressures from your business and allowing you to focus exclusively on using the tools. Choosing a vendor that can adapt to your business with a highly customisable product gives you the flexibility and scalability you need without the ongoing commitment. 

What can AI tools do for your contact centre?

From day-to-day time-saving for your agents to a more substantial role in running things, AI tools for the contact centre are varied. The combination of features you choose will vary with your level of AI-readiness and the stage your CX programme is at – and of course, it can be updated over time as your business grows. 

Capabilities that make agents’ lives easier include:

  • Conversational options for the agent to use, generated from topics within the ongoing call
  • Automated post-call summaries that are produced by the ‘listening’ AI
  • Collating and presenting customer data from multiple sources, automatically

For organisations looking for deeper AI integration, consider:

  • Real-time agent coaching that supports employee development and goal-setting
  • Performance data that’s based on 100% of an agent’s calls, giving agents and their managers a solid basis for reviews, recognition and rewards
  • Intelligent survey flows that collect customer feedback data in a conversational style, adapting to what you already know about the individual
  • Offers and promotions that are personalised according to a customer’s segment and preferences, without any manual input from agents

To learn more about AI’s role in your contact centre, watch Qualtrics’ free on-demand webinar.

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