Customer experience-centric businesses are turning towards automation and AI to handle their customer interaction and operations.
In a new report from MIT Technology Review commissioned by Genesys, Humans + Bots: Tension and Opportunity, those businesses that have applied automation early on are now reaping the greatest rewards in terms of efficiency, scale, customer loyalty and brand recognition.
Companies across the globe have been making moves to deploy technology across the customer journey to improve understanding of customer needs, meet those needs, and manage service issues along the way.
Chatbots have quickly cycled through the customer (and agent) journey in a few short years, evolving from robo-agents that risked annoying customers to become valued digital partners.
AI and automation have impacted businesses through various outlets including customer engagement, complaint resolution, improvements in customer service and targeted technology investment decisions.
CX-centric companies are using AI as a powerful lever to speed up customer interaction processing times and imbue transactions with better information and insight.
The benefits of this are reduced cost and better service outcomes. AI has created a shift in productivity meaning it is able to respond to complex customer requirements so companies can ‘live up’ to these expectations.
The report notes it is the consumers who are also motivated to use automated channels like chatbots.
In a 2018 survey, The State of Chatbots it shows half of respondents would use automated assistants to generate quick answers to simple problems.
Research is also showing that chatbots are doing more to increase top-line performance, rather than simply manage bottom-line costs: Jupiter Research reports Facebook’s Octane AI is used to engage 90 per cent of shoppers who have abandoned their online carts, and successfully converts 10 per cent of them to sales.
Complaint resolution and call handling
When handling complaints through automation, a quarter and a half of all inquiries are completely resolved through these online channels.
From the MIT study, 10 per cent said the majority of inbound customer contact is fully automated. This percentage is higher among CX leaders, indicating that customer-centric firms are able to manage both the escalation of full contact automation without loss of customer satisfaction.
Nine out of ten companies have reported faster call processing and complaint resolution.
Nearly 90 per cent of respondents say they have recorded measurable improvements in the speed of complaint resolution, and over 80 per cent have noted enhanced call volume processing using AI.
On average, between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of customer inquiries are fully handled by automated channels.
Improvements in customer service, customer satisfaction and contact centre performance
When businesses deploy AI-enhanced CX capabilities, they immediately find positive results.
One in five leaders reported that over 75 per cent of their customer service transactions are facilitated with AI.
Over 70 per cent of respondents report that they have benefitted from improved revenue across the discovery, consideration and purchasing process through the use of AI.
Similarly, a large cohort indicate that their purchasing and delivery transaction speeds have accelerated.
AI has also helped surveyed firms increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and particularly in the customer service function, brand affinity.
Nick Holdsworth, Australian and international service delivery executive at Telstra, said his team is running a pilot project using AI to gain customer insights.
Through real-time monitoring of each trending conversation, the AI tool provides Telstra’s agents with feedback on a call and then guides them to specific actions to resolve issues and enhance experience.
He said AI has gone from a tactical resource to a strategic one, “Customers have been quite positive about our technology path, recognising that we are a technology brand committed to staying ahead of their rising expectations.”
Holdsworth said, “The industry has spent the last 30 years convincing consumers to adopt these new technologies; now the customer is ahead of us and expects us to catch up.”
AI investment is made to improve efficiency, the majority of respondents believe integrating AI into front-line processes will help them to improve customer intimacy.
These investments are recognised by their customers as steps taken to improve their experience meaning those customers feel closer to brands as a result.
James Walford, Strategic Director of Digital and Innovation for Genesys says companies are primarily looking at AI to help improve efficiency and reduce overheads.
He says, “As interactions between businesses and customers continue to increase, the cost to serve with humans will grow significantly. Companies need to deflect interactions, there is no other option. This is where AI comes into play in the form of chatbots and virtual assistants.
“However, AI is so much more than just chatbots. Genesys is working with organisations to streamline routing and distribution of interactions between the customer and agent or bot, using advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning to predict the best outcome each and every time.”
For CX leaders, 67 per cent feel strongly that AI has allowed them to rebalance workloads and redesign processes in such a way to engage customers more meaningfully compared to 16 per cent overall.
Over half of respondents have seen increases in overall revenue of more than 5 per cent, and over 30 per cent can link the increased use of AI to revenue growth of more than 10 per cent.
Even higher levels of improvement were recorded for customer lifetime value and brand awareness.
However, costs have arisen from using these platforms.
A third of respondents report that their customer contact operational costs have seen slight increases, and nearly as many report cost increases of 5 per cent or more.
Targeted technology investment decisions
Making chatbots and other AI tools ‘live the brand’ is easier for firms that put digital efficiency at the core of their value proposition and use their own operations as R&D platforms.
The report explains while automation is not considered the core purpose of AI enhancement in customer experience management, the impact a simple chatbot has on workloads and processes is profound.
This transformation is creating new classes of jobs and the capacity being built is allowing leading firms to experiment further with business process transformation higher up the value stack.
Hicham Naim, head of customer experience strategy and operations for Europe and Canada at Takeda Pharmaceutical believes AI will allow the company to turn the proprietary view of CX into a much more nuanced tool.
He explains, “AI can play a crucial role for us, once there is enough data.”
However, Naim said this a process that will likely take years to carefully evaluate their options.
About the author
Athina Mallis is the editor of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit, of which Genesys is a corporate member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.