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More than three-quarters of senior business leaders agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will be a critical part of their customer experience (CX) operations in the coming years. But it’s all too easy to get distracted by the AI hype, which can impede progress when using the technology to build a competitive edge.
At a recent Contact Center West 2023: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, acclaimed speaker and AI expert Christina “CK” Kerley debunked 10 misconceptions CX leaders have about what contact center AI can do. During her keynote “Shock, Awe & AI,” she reframed the AI hype into the following AI truths.
1. AI will collaborate, not compete, with humans. What humans and AI each do well are not the same. We excel at critical thinking while AI excels at doing exactly what it’s programmed to do — in nanoseconds and at scale. AI is here to assist and elevate us in every way possible. “We’re moving from working on machines to working with machines,” said Kerly.
At a time when customer expectations and CX technologies are changing rapidly, AI can be an excellent collaborator, she said. Imagine every frontline employee having an AI coach to help them resolve issues and continue learning. And imagine how powerful it is to detect issues and proactively resolve them before they escalate to an influx of calls from frustrated customers.
2. AI will elevate jobs, not completely automate them. AI will assist, amplify and elevate customer experience employees in their work and make the most of their time and talents. It will be their customer interaction sidekick, their data whiz and their innovation guru, said Kerley. AI will increase jobs focused on training models and generating prompts, where agents’ knowledge of customer interactions and expectations will be invaluable.
3. The real AI job story is reskilling, not replacement. Organizations “invest” in research and development but “spend” on learning and development (L&D). Kerley asserts that investing in L&D should be a strategic imperative. Learning how to get the most from AI and using the technology to personalize learning pathways should be top priorities. The more we use AI and other new technologies, the easier it gets. And the easier it gets, the more we’ll use them, she added.
“People aren’t as easily updated as apps,” she said, adding that 50% of employees will need reskilling by 2025 and up to 90% will need reskilling by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.
4. The rise of robots will rehumanize, not dehumanize us. “We’ve been doing robots’ jobs for far too long,” said Kerley, citing the rote tasks AI is often designed to take on. “The real news is the human renaissance.”
CX employees need digital literacy, but as they take on more complex interactions, soft skills like emotional intelligence and empathy are back. Adaptability, communication and leadership are more important than ever in customer experience. “The better our human-to-machine insight, the better our human-to-human experience. AI frees employees to be more human,” noted Kerley.
5. In an AI world, the most valuable skill is asking the right questions. Asking “Why?” and being curious are default mode as humans, said Kerley. Critical thinking is invaluable in business — especially in solving complex customer problems. It’s all about curiosity and asking questions.
“The smartest person in the room is the one with all the questions we need to ask,” to solve our problems and reach our goals, she said.
6. Today’s winners will have the best ideas, not simply the best budgets and SEO. AI is the “Age of Ideas,” said Kerley. Generative AI is democratizing the processes of creation and ideation and making them more accessible, affordable and scalable. Now is the time to explore how to use AI to reinvent, personalize and streamline service processes — to set them distinctly apart from the competition.
7. Businesses must focus on humans, not just on AI. There’s too much focus on technology, at the risk of dehumanizing customer and employee experiences. If we shape our tools first, without considering how they affect users, then the tools will shape us. Consider how the mobile phone has changed people’s behaviors and expectations, Kerley pointed out.
“We’re in the expectation economy. Real time is rearview,” she said. Now, consumers want brands to predict what they need. Hyper-personalization will become the expected. That means organizations that focus on human wants and needs will win.
“The technology is always a tool. The strategy is reinvention. The goal is relevance,” said Kerley.
8. AI success requires new models, not only new strategies. “Organizations can’t just dump new technology on old business models. They need reinvention,” said Kerley. If someone launched a business now, how would its service operation be different?
Flip the model. Move from reactive customer care to proactive service. Move from generalized employee training to personalized education.
9. AI will focus on us; we won’t hyper-focus on AI. We need technology, but today we give so much input for so little output, noted Kerley. AI will help organizations focus more on customers and employees. Businesses can use it to improve experiences by making interactions more contextual and personal, as well as more conversational, gestural, hearable, intellectual and visual.
10. The best thing we’ll get from AI is time, not tools. AI will give customers time back because it will personalize, simplify and streamline their interactions. It will give employees time back as it takes on more rote elements of their job.
“AI is taking on the tasks best suited to it, and leaving the tasks best suited to us,” said Kerley. “It’ll give us more time to spend on the projects, passions and people we value the most.”
AI will help CX leaders reinvent experiences — but only if they’re not misled by the siren’s song of where AI could take them. As Kerley emphasized: “AI is not ‘shock and awe’, it’s ‘wonder and awe’ — and it’s meant to support us.”
Watch the on-demand webinar “Unleashing the power and possibility of AI” to learn how to apply AI across your contact center.