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The 2024 CX Landscape: Navigating Through AI Innovation

In an era where technological advancement is relentless, the realm of customer experience (CX) stands on the cusp of a revolution, primarily driven by artificial intelligence (AI). The latest findings from CX Network, in partnership with AWS, have illuminated the critical role AI plays in shaping the future of customer interactions. In fact, their research identified artificial intelligence (AI) as the leading investment focus for organizations globally, highlighting an emphasis on conversational AI, chatbots, and virtual assistants. With organizations worldwide designating AI as their principal investment priority, customer experience (CX) professionals are eager to arm themselves with the most advanced tools available.

Redefining CX Through AI: A Fresh Business Perspective

Artificial intelligence (AI) has fundamentally transformed the customer experience (CX) landscape in recent years, empowering organizations to utilize their data for crafting personalized, competitive experiences. Throughout 2023, we saw the introduction of advanced chat and automation tools, including sophisticated large language models (LLMs). 

Nima Jarvandi, the global head of integrated marketing at AWS Marketplace, identifies personalization, chatbots, virtual assistants, sentiment analysis, predictive analytics, and voice and speech recognition as the key AI-powered CX capabilities that organizations need at present. He explains, "AI is being used in many ways and the capabilities it enables are driving both organizational efficiency as well as customer satisfaction.” “For example, chatbots improve customer service efficiency via text or voice interfaces, creating an omnichannel experience that can be budget friendly,” he continues. “When it comes to AI-driven voice and speech technologies it is possible to enhance customer interfaces, offering a more natural and convenient way for customers to interact with systems. Sentiment analysis allows an organization to determine whether a customer’s sentiment is positive, negative, or neutral.”

(Image Source: Salesforce)

Practical Applications of AI: Insights from the Real World

Real-world applications are already showcasing the potential of AI in enhancing CX. Cox Automotive, for instance, has integrated AI in quality analytics, offering deeper insights into customer interactions and agent performance. Through its AI-powered quality analytics platform, Cox Automotive facilitates a thorough examination of support interactions, providing a deep understanding of client sentiment and the overall customer experience. This platform enhances the accuracy of evaluating agent performance by analyzing thousands of interactions, a significant leap from the limited number previously feasible. Moving forward, Cox Automotive plans to implement Real Time Agent Assist AI to streamline the process of concluding calls, thereby reducing the average handling time. Lydia Clayton, Sr. Director of Technical Customer Care at Cox Automotive, emphasizes the benefits, stating, "The ability to summarize call notes directly in the CRM and other case management tools will reduce friction for the agents while allowing them to focus on delighting our clients."

Similarly, Freshpet introduced its chatbot, Scout, in late 2022, aiming to alleviate the workload on agents so they could concentrate on more pressing inquiries. Lisa Diehl, Director of Consumer Care at Freshpet, spearheaded this initiative to diversify and optimize support channels without expanding the team. "We had some untapped channels within our suite of tools and as I looked at our processes, I knew we were not meeting our pet parents on the channels of their choice. They needed to be top priority in laying out a new infrastructure within consumer care," Diehl explained. She strategically chose to focus on conversational AI and social interactions “to address the low hanging fruit”. As a result, she deployed Scout across 3 main channels: the main website, social, and mobile.

"Much like how you would train a puppy, we’re continually training Scout. We monitor the types of questions and responses and if he does not get a question right the first time, we are building out those responses so that he gets it right next time. With AI, the learning is continuous." Diehl shared. 

Since Scout's implementation, there has been a 39% decrease in calls to consumer care agents and a 29% reduction in waiting times, with Scout's accuracy averaging at 97%. "Having Scout offsets quite a bit of our volume," Diehl remarked. "This allows the consumer care team to focus on addressing higher priority consumer issues that require a human touch. It also helps me to ensure agents are better skilled to be able to handle some of those more complicated questions. If a pet parent’s dog is sick, you don’t want Scout to handle that."

Real-world applications of AI in organizations like Cox Automotive and Freshpet underscore the tangible benefits of integrating AI into CX strategies. Cox Automotive's AI-driven analytics platform offers a granular view of customer interactions, facilitating enhanced quality control and operational insights. Similarly, Freshpet's deployment of conversational AI not only streamlines customer interactions but also empowers customer service agents by allowing them to focus on more complex queries, thereby elevating the overall customer service experience.

AI, Empowered Employees and Operational Efficiency

The narrative of AI in CX transcends the enhancement of customer interactions. It extends into operational efficiency and employee empowerment, with organizations finding a balance between technological advancement and human insight. 

Companies like Digital Italian bank Banca Progetto have leveraged AI to streamline operations without expanding their workforce, highlighting AI's role in augmenting human capabilities rather than replacing them. This integration not only boosted operational efficiency but also empowered employees to innovate and manage new automation processes, showcasing AI's potential to revolutionize the workplace and redefine the relationship between technology and human talent.

With 30 active robots now on the team, 1,000 daily tasks are handled through automation across various processes. Not to mention, average handling times are now 70% lower. This has led to a significant reduction in errors and improved customer satisfaction.

“I see a marked enthusiasm among our workforce,” says Cosimo Papagna, the bank’s digital operations and innovation head. “Team members, now freed from bulk repetitive tasks, begin their days focusing on more essential duties.” “We have moved beyond quick-win, high-volume processes, looking into automating even smaller tasks to free up our employees, focusing on controlling and evolving the robotic workforce,” Papagna says. 

The Future for AI in CX in 2024

Looking ahead, the demand for hyper-personalized and efficient customer experiences will only escalate, underscoring the necessity for organizations to keep pace with technological advancements to remain competitive.

Nima Jarvandi, the global head of integrated marketing at AWS Marketplace, says organizations should consider incorporating the following AI powered capabilities to remain competitive in an evolving CX landscape:

  • Hyper-personalization: Going beyond basic personalization, hyper-personalization involves extremely tailored experiences based on real-time data, ensuring a deeper connection with customers. 
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Integrating AR and VR technologies into CX can create immersive experiences, especially in industries like retail and tourism. 
  • Automated customer journey mapping: AI can play a key role in automating the analysis of customer journeys, identifying pain points, and optimizing the overall customer experience. 
  • AI-powered productivity tools: AI solutions have advanced to the point where they can seamlessly generate code for enhanced applications. Front line employees can leverage AI-powered personal assistants to deliver rapid, pertinent answers. 

The Emergence of Generative AI for CX

Research released by Zendesk towards the end of 2023 reveals that 80% of IT leaders intend to increase their budgets within the next year, with 89% recognizing the importance of incorporating AI across the customer journey. 

Shortly after the debut of ChatGPT 3.5, initial applications of generative AI in customer experience began to surface. Following this, prominent companies including Coca-Cola, Expedia, Fifth Third Bank, and Duolingo have declared their exploration of generative AI for a range of purposes, spanning from advertising to enhancing customer service.

Hussein Dajani, partner and CMO at Deloitte Digital, points out that while numerous brands are exploring generative AI for content generation and chat functionalities, its applications extend far beyond these areas. He highlights that with the right human oversight, generative AI can significantly enhance CRM systems and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. 

“Generative AI can literally get involved in every facet of your business and eventually, every single organization is going to jump into generative AI in one way or another,” Dajani says. With so many potential applications it can be difficult to know where to start. As with all AI projects, Dajani advises starting with clear targets. “You need to start with the why. What is the end objective, what are the KPIs that you want to achieve and do you have the resources to roll out those tools, and the appropriate budget and plans to update that generative AI. There are multiple tools available, and you need to know which tools will achieve your goals,” he says. 

Selecting and Working with an AI Provider

In today’s competitive environment, the imperative to deliver measurable outcomes makes choosing the right partners crucial for businesses integrating AI into their customer experience (CX) strategies. Saki Takeda, Netflix’s director of product management and customer service, highlights the dilemma many companies face: the need to innovate without straying from their primary mission. He expresses enthusiasm for external partnerships over in-house development, stating, “When you think, for example about Netflix, our core activity is not building customer service systems, we’re in the business of entertaining the world. It makes more sense to take advantage of a third-party solution that is rapidly evolving in the industry.”

To forge these partnerships effectively, Freshpet’s approach, as described by Lisa Diehl, involves a deep dive into the existing technology infrastructure and a proactive engagement with vendors to explore upcoming capabilities and best practices. This strategy is about more than just adopting new technology; it’s about envisioning how these tools fit into the company’s ecosystem and enhance agent interaction and training for future advancements. Diehl emphasizes the importance of aligning technology choices with strategic business objectives, considering the company's direction and demographic trends. “Think about what makes sense for your company. How you stay within the strategic goals that your company has and looking at your demographics, where those are going,” she advises.

Echoing this sentiment, Nima Jarvandi offers five key considerations for selecting an AI partner:

  1. Clearly articulate your CX objectives and the challenges you aim to solve with AI.
  2. Opt for solutions that support your business's growth and can integrate smoothly with your current systems.
  3. Prioritize vendors that commit to high-level data security and comply with industry regulations to safeguard your information.
  4. Seek customizable solutions that can adjust to your unique needs and future changes.
  5. Ensure the AI tools are user-friendly to facilitate seamless adoption by your team.

The choice of AI partners and solutions must not only meet immediate needs but also guarantee long-term viability and scalability. By meticulously selecting AI partners that align with these principles, businesses can enhance their operational efficiency, maintain service continuity, and achieve their strategic objectives.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the integration of AI in CX is not merely a trend; it's a strategic imperative for organizations aiming to thrive in the digital age.Despite concerns over AI potentially displacing human jobs, forward-thinking companies are leveraging AI to augment human work, not replace it. This approach is improving operational efficiency, thereby yielding measurable improvements in both customer and employee experiences (CX and EX). 

The growing necessity for deployments tailored to specific organizational needs has spurred interest in low- and no-code AI solutions, which can be adopted without extensive developer input. This trend indicates that AI's expanding role in CX is not diminishing the importance of human workers but rather transforming and elevating their contributions within the industry.

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