How AI and GenAI Are Shaking the Status Quo in Customer Experience (CX) – For Your Eyes Only
As you know, the potential for artificial intelligence and generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) to transform every part of customer experience, and everything surrounding us, is electrifying. Pioneers understand they can create competitive advantage over traditional firms by utilising the technology to serve customers with a better value proposition – at scale. AI is top of mind for all leaders, including you and I. They are piloting and embedding AI and GenAI around their core CX design.
There’s already a significant appetite for AI-enhanced CX. It’s being embedded into workflows and customer touchpoints. It’s being deployed to generate real-time insights from vast data sets to serve customers, automate campaigns, streamline processes, make data-led decisions and drive efficiencies. Predictive analytics are being used to anticipate customer needs, identify likely issues and and work out what comes next.
Then ChatGPT happens.
Like me, you’ll have read lots of stories in your feeds about how ChatGPT, the most famous GenAI tool on the block, is predicted to cause ‘internet-level disruption‘. There is also a huge development wave of other GenAI-powered tools and platforms. By 2026, two-thirds of business leaders expect to adopt GenAI to enhance customer service, according to Insight Enterprises.
We need to take a step back for a minute and analyse how all of these solutions address our customer needs. Any technology that makes CX poorer has no place on the roadmap. We need to understand the limitations. And mitigate the risk presented to our brands and reputations if we do not use it responsibly and carefully. Businesses are working to put guard rails in place. But, this article isn’t the place to discuss this. If you want to read further, I wrote about adopting AI responsibly here. Let’s continue.
In this article I want to deconstruct the real-world story behind the headlines and explore how CX leaders are successfully deploying AI and GenAI-powered tools and platforms to create meaningful experiences.
How CX leaders compete in the age of AI
Every time we use a service from business where AI ‘runs the show’ the value we get is served up by algorithms. Software is at the core of the business. This is the premise made in Competing in the Age of AI, written by two Harvard Business School professors, Marco Lansiti and Karim R. Lakhani. The book provides a practical approach for our reality. I highly recommend it. Leaders, whether they are a digital start-up, a maturing challenger or traditional brand, are utilising AI and GenAI to solve different gap in customer experience, services, and efficiency. Let’s look at some use cases.
Building loyalty here, there and everywhere – how European companies got faster at response times
Customers want their calls and queries answered on their preferred channel – yesterday. Globally, fast responses and issue resolution are among the biggest drivers of customer loyalty, according to customer service solutions provider Zendesk. Customer support ticket volumes are surging. And businesses are struggling to prioritise speed. (Zendesk reports that Siemens Financial Services, for example, has had to adapt to a 30% spike in volume).
The solutions provider noticed an anomaly in the data. European companies saw a 2% drop in response or resolution times while trying to handle a 2% spike (at least) in tickets. The reason? Small efficiency gains from utilising tools like macros, triggers, and automations.
Zendesk noticed a pattern. Companies in Europe getting faster at resolving issues were:
22% more likely to be adding automations
27% faster at adding automations
Using 10% more automations (on average)
They were also 25% more likely to have an agent or agents working across channels in a given day
Businesses were also 63% faster at increasing the number of multichannel, blended agents than other EMEA companies
Hypersonalisation – B2Bs delivering the best omnichannel experience are focussed on using customer data, analytics, AI and real time automation to deliver hyperpersonalised experiences. Experiences reflective of past interactions, and rooted in future relevance, across all touchpoints. CX is also being enriched and personalised by GenAI-powered predictive insights on buying behaviour, future purchasing intent or by surfacing issues customers will likely have. Medallia, for example, is developing new generative AI capabilities with Athena: “Athena will enable users to automate the mundane, democratise generative AI and anticipate the needs of every user. Intuitive, granular generative AI models should automatically be created to save teams hours of work and drive intelligent, automated actions,” says new CEO Joe Tyrell.
Automating customer support – AI frees up agent time to do more high value work – it automates manual and routine tasks, drives down costs and improves efficiency. It’s a tool ready for primetime in contact centres: “We have technology that can actually automate this mundane, repetitive work in a way that is not harming the consumer experience,” says Five9 CEO Rowan Trollope.
“We have technology that can actually automate this mundane, repetitive work in a way that is not harming the consumer experience” – Rowan Trollope
As just mentioned, GenAI also surfaces information to give front line staff full context on customer queries to solve issues and automate responses.
Once more with empathy – more human-like conversations
CX is a human endeavour. We should never go far from this. But, as Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin says: “AI’s ability to understand human emotion and continuously learn from experiences has the potential to make business more human, not less.
Platforms are working towards combining automated empathy and human interaction. “I think the underlying framework of empathy can be automated, and we’ve built that systematically. And it’s just a continuous learning loop. But I want to be clear that will often include humans in that equation. This is not “everything’s going to be replaced by bots, and we’re going to have AI that can emulate the human empathy,” says Genesys CEO Tony Bates.
“I think the underlying framework of empathy can be automated, and we’ve built that systematically … But I want to be clear that will often include humans in that equation” – Tony Bates
The rise of the empathetic chatbot
Leaders are working out to how train AI to be more naturally conversational. There is a huge potential for businesses to enhance CX by utilising GenAI as a more intelligent and empathetic chatbot. These bots and virtual assistants can simulate human-like interactions making customers heard, understood and less frustrated. Interactions are based on conversations, not keywords.
Unlike previous incarnations, the new wave of chatbots and virtual assistants can answer customer queries and provide 24/7 support more intelligently and with a degree of empathy. Now is a good time to meet Aida.
Aida – your AI-powered digital human
NTT DATA has built the it.human platform to help organisations in multiple sectors combine the best of digital and human interactions. The company has created 3D avatars which replicate human movement and sound, using gestures, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. This all adds a human element to the traditional self-service interface. The avatar can be used on desktops, smartphones and in physical locations in kiosks.
Krifa, Denmark’s largest unemployment insurance fund and trade union, is an early adopter. The company was struggling to realise the benefits of its reception staff. So it installed one of NTT’s digital humans, Aida, in a kiosk in reception. Receptionists are now able to take up different positions in the business as Aida takes care of repetitive tasks such as answering common questions or administrative duties.
Enhancing customer journeys – patterns, pain points and predictions – machines can analyse data sets on a scale beyond the capabilities of the human mind. GenAI can identify patterns and generate insights to improve the customer journey, identify pain points and anticipate future needs.
Using AI as your first line of defence (your new Tier One)
Triaging and routing customer enquiries
GenAI can triage queries based on intent to the right person.
Adding a chatbot to a website to triage enquiries and route them to the right person means engagement is not lost. Almost two-thirds (62%) B2B buyers say online search is one of the first three resources they use to learn about a solution, according to WBR Insights.
If people are frustrated and they find your site hard to navigate they’ll click away in seconds. You’ve lost engagement and Google is noticing that your bounce rates are high. Bounce rates are one of hundreds of factors that Google uses to calculate your search rankings.
Hubspot’shomepage chatbot not only routes enquiries. It also asks for an email address in case they become disconnected.
There’s so much to think about here.
AI is top of mind with leaders who are integrating the technology into CX workflows and touchpoints to transform what customers experience, drive down costs and boost efficiencies. AI is not new and GenAI is still in a nascent stage. ChatGPT, Bard and other GenAI-powered tools and platforms are bringing profound changes to the way we approach CX. Customers are also riding the wave and are excited about what it means to their experience.
However, there needs to be trust that businesses are using the technology responsibly and in a way that creates customer value. AI for AI’s sake will satisfy no-one. I hope you have found these use cases helpful. I’ll be looking at how GenAI is being utilised to create content in an upcoming post. If you’ve experimented with ChatGPT already you’ll know that there are wins and losses. There are also big questions about reliability, trust, safety and accuracy. I’ll also explore how organisations are addressing the challenges. Be sure to check back in.
Ricardo Saltz Gulko is the Eglobalis managing director, a global strategist, thought leader, practitioner, and keynote speaker in the areas of simplification and change, customer experience, experience design, and global professional services. Ricardo has worked at numerous global technology companies, such as Oracle, Ericsson, Amdocs, Redknee, Inttra, Samsung among others as a global executive, focusing on enterprise technologies. He currently works with tech global companies aiming to transform themselves around simplification models, culture and digital transformation, customer and employee experience as professional services. He holds an MBA at J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Evanston, IL USA, and Undergraduate studies in Information Systems and Industrial Engineering. Ricardo is also a global citizen fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, and German. He is the co-founder of the European Customer Experience Organization and currently resides in Munich, Germany with his family.