In today’s hyper-competitive business landscape, AI has emerged as a critical component of a successful CX strategy. By leveraging AI, businesses can expect to enhance customer satisfaction, streamline operations, and unlock new avenues for business growth. But how much should brands invest in AI and in what areas of their business should they be focusing on?
The answers largely depend on the nature of your business and your specific goals. AI can offer numerous advantages that can propel your business forward, but it is essential to assess whether its implementation aligns with your objectives and overall strategy. Tim Sheedy, VP of Research at Ecosystm, points out that for AI to work effectively it needs data to learn from, he says, “The common thing about AI is that you need data to learn from. So, the best areas of your organisation you should be focusing your AI lens on are areas of your business that generate significant data.”
Sheedy also recommends looking at areas where AI is already baked into your systems and applications. When integrated with CRM systems, for example, artificial intelligence can analyse won versus lost deals to detect trends that can inform lead generation as well as prioritising opportunities and accounts that need to be managed. “The CRM tells you which accounts to prioritise because it’s gone out and read the industry data that you get from business information providers. It’s seen your interactions and looked at the data to determine which companies are most likely to buy your product and why.”
AI has emerged as a critical component of a successful CX strategy. By investing in AI, businesses can unlock significant opportunities for growth, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency. Rod Lester, Managing Director ANZ, NICE, comments “Artificial intelligence (AI) can be invaluable to organisations looking to drive efficiencies and deliver frictionless experiences for agents and customers alike. With access to massive volumes of data, AI can provide deep insights into customer behaviours and preferences, empowering businesses to understand, anticipate, and cater to customer needs more effectively by providing a more personalised approach to service.”
Automation and efficiency
AI automation can streamline repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable employee time for more complex and creative activities. From automating order processing to optimising inventory management, AI-powered systems improve operational efficiency and reduce human error, resulting in cost savings and improved productivity. Sheedy says, “There’s some really obvious opportunities for CX around conversational intelligence. Your contact centre is most probably listening to and recording calls. You can start to take a bit of intelligence out of those calls to understand what customers are saying and interrogate knowledge articles.”
“So, if a customer rings up and complains about, let’s say their NBN connection, the AI can interrogate the knowledge base and then send a prompt to a contact centre agent to recommend the next steps to solve the problem. The AI can also handle most of the post call work such as writing up notes and all the boring, routine stuff agents have to do after the call.”
From analysing vast amounts of data, AI allows the business to develop a more profound understanding of customer preferences, behaviours, and purchase history. These insights can be utilised to provide a more seamless and personalised experience for customers. But organisations need to be very careful as Sheedy highlights, “Security and data privacy are major concerns. Consumers are asking – why are you collecting my data, it’s my data not your data. Looking at a recent scandal, why did a telco keep driver licence information for 15 years, when it only needed it for 30 seconds?
“There are two approaches to AI. Companies may adopt the approach of: we’ve got so much data we’re going to collect everything and just see what we can learn versus I want to be able to reduce the time to sale by 20% by using these three particular data points, so that’s what we’re going to collect.
“We are seeing some organisations push their AI ethical policies forward, which is helping to drive a culture in their business that says when I do something with AI these are the principles that I must consider around the privacy of customers”.
Lester adds, “AI should be used to enhance operations, but not at the risk of compromising on security or the user experience, for example. Businesses must conduct their due diligence to ensure that AI solutions are developed with security front of mind, to ensure customer data isn’t at risk of exposure and to prevent the business from falling into non-compliance with relevant industry or government regulations. At the same time, AI solutions should deliver a consistent user and customer experience, regardless of where agents are located.”
Data-driven decision making
AI algorithms can process and analyse vast volumes of data in real-time, extracting valuable insights to drive data-driven decision-making. By leveraging predictive AI, businesses can proactively identify patterns, trends, and customer preferences, and develop models that can forecast future events or customer behaviours.
Lester comments, “With machine learning capabilities, AI solutions can analyse historical data to predict future customer behaviour, ultimately enhancing a company’s ability to anticipate and prepare for customer needs. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide 24/7 customer support, addressing common inquiries and freeing up human agents to complete more complex tasks.”
24 x 7 support
AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide round-the-clock customer support. These intelligent systems can quickly address customer queries, resolve common issues, and provide self-service options, ensuring timely and efficient support even outside of regular business hours. “Customer service is one of the most critical business functions that can be enhanced with AI, as innovative AI solutions can, among other applications, handle inquiries via intelligent and generative chatbots and even use predictive analytics for more proactive service,” says Lester.
AI can analyse customer feedback, social media sentiment, and online reviews to gauge customer sentiment accurately. This allows businesses to identify potential issues, trends, and areas for improvement, empowering them to address concerns promptly and enhance overall customer satisfaction.
How much should you invest in AI?
While the benefits of AI in CX are evident, determining the appropriate investment can be challenging. Sheedy advises, “It shouldn’t be any different than any business investment. It should go through the standard investment guidelines. But some factors you’ll have to consider more with AI is around culture and ethics, managing change and the availability of relevant skills. Being a new field in high demand, it may be harder or more expensive to find the skills for an AI initiative, you probably don’t have them in your organisation today. If you have them, they might already be busy with many other initiatives.”
When you go to market to find an AI solution be extensive in your research of available options. Try to gain a deep understanding of the AI solutions you are evaluating. Explore the core technology, algorithms, and underlying principles of each solution. Sheedy advises that a lot of the solutions currently on the market are quite expensive and you need to look beyond the obvious to find the ones that might be suitable for your industry and your budget.
Likewise, Lester warns, “Businesses must consider the costs involved in AI deployments, including the initial investment, ongoing maintenance, and employee training, as well as the expected returns. Return on investment (ROI) can be difficult to quantify directly; however, it’s important to keep in mind that, while upfront costs may be high, the long-term benefits—such as increased efficiency and improved customer service—will justify the investment.”
When looking for the best fit solution some factors to consider are:
Business size and goals: The investment in AI should align with your business’s size, industry, and growth objectives. Start by assessing your specific CX pain points and the potential impact AI can have on addressing them. “So instead of being an AI investment it’s more – we want to improve the way we select suppliers for example, but how can we use AI to make it happen. I think there’s going to be a cultural change around putting AI into every investment so everything can be intelligent”, says Sheedy.
Scalability and flexibility: Consider an AI solution that can scale with your business as it grows. Choose technologies that offer flexibility and adaptability to evolving customer needs and market trends.
Data requirements: AI solutions heavily rely on data. Assess the data requirements of the solutions under evaluation. Consider the quality, quantity, and diversity of data necessary for effective performance. Evaluate data collection, preprocessing, and data augmentation capabilities. Ensure that the solution you choose can handle your data volume and is compliant with data protection regulations.
AI may offer your organisation significant benefits for business growth, but its adoption should be based on careful evaluation of specific needs, resources, and ethical considerations. Businesses should assess whether AI aligns with their goals, evaluate the potential return on investment, and consider the long-term implications. Lester concludes, “AI is becoming increasingly valuable to modern businesses and can be used in a myriad of ways across operations. As a first step, business leaders will benefit from conducting a cost-benefit analysis that helps them understand their company’s unique positioning and how AI deployments will benefit their business. AI is most effective when it is used to address specific business challenges, such as improving customer service or increasing operational efficiency or identifying risk across an entire database of otherwise unmonitored contacts.”