AI CX (Customer Experience): What You Need to Know

    AI CX is about leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the customer experience (CX) such as with chatbots. But this is not just about chatbots. AI CX involves a myriad of technologies like natural language understanding, sophisticated deep learning models, automatic speech recognition, contextual awareness, and task-oriented dialog. The systems are used across any channel, whether the web, social media, email, text, voice, or video. 

    “I like to think about AI CX with ‘A’ standing for ‘Access’ and ‘I’ standing for ‘Intimacy,’” said Puneet Mehta, CEO of Netomi. “AI CX enables this combination of access and intimacy between businesses and their customers in a very goal-driven way.”

    It’s about achieving true one-on-one interactions that scale.

    “AI CX replaces bland, generic customer experiences of yesteryear,” said Jaime Meritt, chief product officer at Verint.

    So, let’s take a deeper look at AI CX with a focus on its capabilities, use cases, and downsides.

    The Importance of CX

    CX is becoming a key differentiation and competitive advantage. Examples of this include Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Uber. They have disrupted major industries and built high-growth businesses. 

    But it is difficult to develop a strong CX platform, partly due to the reliance on a myriad of legacy systems that spread data across silos. The result is that it is challenging to get a holistic view of the customer journey. Companies also do not effectively analyze the data, such as for intent, sentiment, and emotion. For the most part, the approach is more of a guessing game.

    In the meantime, there are continuing labor shortages. This means it is difficult to hire and retain support agents to provide better service. 

    “Everyday, revenue teams are responsible for maintaining communications with large volumes of current and prospective customers,” said Erica Hansen, VP of customer success at Conversica. “Each of these contacts expects a highly personalized experience that is frankly impossible to deliver when each human representative is trying to juggle 50 or even 100 customers

    “In particular, customer account managers often end up prioritizing a few select high-value accounts while giving less attention to smaller, less invested customers.”

    Also read: MetaCX Brings Customer Experience Management to the Fore

    CX Powered by AI 

    Whenever it comes to solving a tough problem, it seems that AI is the reflex answer. However, artificial intelligence requires huge amounts of quality data as well as algorithms that are relevant, so it may not always be the best choice. But in regards to CX, artificial intelligence does make a lot of sense. 

    “AI CX is the perfect pairing of artificial intelligence and human intelligence meeting to satisfy the human customer,” said Muddu Sudhakar, CEO of Aisera.

    Yet, there are still challenges. Before an implementation, there needs to be a well-thought out plan that’s based on clear key performance indicators (KPIs). There also needs to be a unified environment where data is consolidated and easily integrated across customer touchpoints. It shouldn’t matter what channel a customer is using; the main focus is on getting the right insights. 

    Moreover, don’t try for a big-bang strategy. That is, you should focus on a particular use case. And yes, a good place to start is with the customer service department.

    “So much customer service friction stems from the time spent creating identity, such as ‘who am I talking to?,’ and establishing intent, such as with ‘what can I help you with?’” said Shawna Wolverton, EVP of product at Zendesk. “This is where AI can seamlessly handle the dance between the company and their customer.

    “Instead of people feeling the frustration of repeating themselves multiple times to multiple different agents, they have a better—and faster—experience.”

    The customer service department has a large number of tickets that AI models can process. The tickets also involve repetitive questions and issues. 

    “AI CX is much more advanced than rigid rules-based chatbots that rely on buttons and keywords,” said Mehta. “It needs to be able to decipher the intent of a person’s message using natural language understanding.

    “In one example, Comcast found that there are 1,700 ways a person might ask one straightforward question: ‘I want to pay my bill.’ Without training data, an AI might not be able to initially understand that ‘I’d like to settle my account’ has the same meaning.”

    Regardless of the sophistication of the AI, there still needs to be a seamless off-ramp to a human agent. But the heavy-lifting of the technology should allow for more time spent on value-add activities. AI can also help the human agent with recommendations on how to best handle a situation.

    Another way to improve CX is to be more proactive. 

    “AI can surface problems that need to be fixed before customers are aware of an issue and can predict and prevent future issues,” said Michael Ramsey, VP of product management and customer workflows at ServiceNow. “This drives up customer satisfaction.”

    There are certainly downsides to AI CX. Understanding human interactions is extremely complex, and misunderstandings can cause dissatisfaction with customers. Other downsides can include biased data, which could lead to discrimination and unfair treatment, and a myriad of privacy laws and regulations that will need to be considered before making any implementations.

    The Ongoing AI/CX Relationship

    While there are notable risks to AI CX, the benefits of the technology are too important to ignore. They can make a significant difference in boosting growth. The key is to continue to improve on the systems and focus on responsible AI. 

    “AI empowers organizations to deliver better customer experiences because it enables them to understand customer needs and context and to do it faster than ever before,” said Tara DeZao, product marketing director for AdTech and MarTech at Pega. “Today’s organizations have a near-infinite amount of customer data at their fingertips, but that means nothing if they’re not using that data to inform their customer interactions at the exact time they are. AI makes that process more accurate, efficient, informed, and most importantly, more customer-centric.”

    Read next: 6 Ways Your Business Can Benefit from DataOps

    Tom Taulli
    Tom Taulli
    Tom Taulli is the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems and Modern Mainframe Development: COBOL, Databases, and Next-Generation Approaches (will be published in February). He also teaches online courses for Pluralsight.

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