Why AI Will Change the Customer Experience Forever

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the big trend in today’s market. The AI market is expected to grow by 21.8% annually (CAGR) — from $6.8 billion in 2021 to $18.4 billion in 2026. We can leverage AI in a very significant way toward a much better customer experience (CX). The key here is to take advantage of AI in this early adopter stage of its growth to create and enhance experiences for your customers and prospects.

This blog was written by Steve Leaden, Founder and President of Leaden Associates, Inc.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the big trend in today’s market. The AI market is expected to grow by 21.8% annually (CAGR) — from $6.8 billion in 2021 to $18.4 billion in 2026. We can leverage AI in a very significant way toward a much better customer experience (CX). The key here is to take advantage of AI in this early adopter stage of its growth to create and enhance experiences for your customers and prospects.

Let’s get beyond the AI hype.

Think of AI as that next generation of tools available in the contact center across all voice and digital channels. Most of us know about the fundamentals of contact centers — we’ve been using IVR for close to two generations to automate customer service, CTI to reduce call time by having the customer calls record at our fingertips at the start of the call and workforce management (WFM) for better staffing models. These are established tools — and we don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” to leverage AI in the contact center.

But something on a grand scale happened in 2020 and it now permeates our entire world. In 2013, Walker, an experience management firm, predicted that by the year 2020 customer experience would exceed price and product as the main driver for doing business with that organization. That was a bold statement back then — and it came true in 2020.

Now, everything is about the customer experience.

Customer experience has increased expectations for a better call or chat experience.

  • For voice calls, customers expect shorter wait times. The 80/20 rule, where 80% of calls are answered in 20 seconds, has become the minimum measurement/SLA for many contact centers. And some organizations have actually migrated to a 100/0 SLA model, where 100% of calls are answered without any hold.
  • Virtual hold/callback and expected wait time notifications are now de facto expected requirements in contact centers.
  • Chat discussions are now expected as real-time — with little to no wait between chats.

In fact, a recent Genesys study showed that voice channel CX has gone down in the last year, even as new tools are being implemented. From my own vantage point, the answer is clear: Customer expectations have risen sharply since customer experience has come front and center.

Organizations are quickly seeing that they need to move to better CX by leveraging voicebots and chatbots for appointment reminders, online bill payments, and password resets. And they need these to be more to be competitive, too.

By leveraging tools like IVR, CTI and WFM in a new AI world, we can enhance those tools when they’re AI-powered.

AI Examples in the Contact Center

Several examples of AI include the following:

Chatbots: AI-powered voicebots and digital chatbots have started to become integral parts of the customer experience. These bots can handle routine inquiries, troubleshoot common problems and provide near-instant responses to customer questions. By automating these tasks, contact centers can free up agents to focus on more complex and value-added interactions, enhancing the overall customer experience.

AI-driven chatbots are also available 24/7, providing round-the-clock support for basic queries. This ensures that customers can get assistance at any time, with the intent of increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Voicebots and chatbots also learn from every interaction, improving their responses and accuracy over time, ensuring customers receive timely support.

Leveraging customer data: AI can analyze customer data and use it to personalize customer interactions. By understanding customer preferences, purchase history and behavior, contact centers can offer tailored recommendations and solutions. This level of personalization can improve the overall customer experience and help facilitate customer loyalty.

Predictive analytics: Predictive analytics can anticipate customer needs and issues, allowing contact center agents to be proactive rather than reactive. For example, AI can identify a potential problem with a product or service and alert the customer or agent before it becomes a major issue. This saves time and resources and improves on the overall CX.

Intelligent call routing: AI can intelligently route calls to the most appropriate agent based on their skills and the nature of the inquiry. This ensures that customers are connected to the right person or specific group to solve their problem, which reduces call handle times and improves first-call resolution rates.

Natural language processing: NLP enables systems to understand and respond to human language effectively. It allows contact centers to analyze customer inquiries for sentiment and intent, providing more context-aware responses. As a result, customers experience more meaningful interactions and issues can be resolved quickly, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

Cost savings: AI can significantly reduce operational costs in contact centers. By automating routine tasks and improving efficiency, contact centers can serve more customers with the same resources. An ROI analysis is always a requirement to show the project and technology cost savings leveraging AI.

3 Key Areas for Leveraging Contact Center AI

There are 3 key areas in which organizations can leverage contact center AI to enhance the customer and employee experiences.

1. Voicebots and chatbots for basic calls

For both voice and digital channels, organizations can use voicebots and chatbots to enhance the customer experience and free up agents’ time. By handling basic queries, calls or real-time messaging, bots can provide quick answers to basic questions and issues, such as password resets, billing balances or basic troubleshooting questions. Depending on how it’s set up and your own environment and industry, a percentage of calls can easily be moved to these chatbots and completed on the first call. This, of course, frees up agents for more complex calls.

2. Voicebots and chatbots for more complex calls

Organizations can leverage the same voicebots and chatbots for more complex calls for initial data gathering and then transfer to a live agent. These initial queries for more complex calls can be handled by the voicebot or chatbot. Additionally, data forms can be completed automatically in a CRM solution and then transferred to a live agent to complete the call and service the customer on the first call. This frees up the agent time for basic queries and shortens the length of the call, which enhances the overall customer experience.

In both cases above, consider the voicebot and digital chatbot to be conversational in nature. Better AI engines make customers “feel” as though they’re actually talking to a real person.

3. AI agent assist

AI agent assist is a powerful tool to help agents facilitate answers quickly and completely the first time. By leveraging agent assist, the AI engine prompts the agent and shows possible answers on the screen as it listens in and uses this data from speech and text analytics for a better experience. Agent assist can also leverage knowledge management from the CRM solution, FAQs and other big data available for a more accurate answer. Knowledge management can help agents become specialists in a short period of time.

The result is a better CX; first-call resolutions; and a more committed, loyal customer with more favorable feedback.

Additionally, AI agent assist significantly helps with compliance. The AI engine can listen in on the conversation to ensure that specific compliance factors are completed during the course of the call. It shows the agent on the screen when those areas have been completed.

Ultimately, organizations can leverage AI to improve on the three basics of any contact center:

  • Shorter (or no) hold times (voice or digital)
  • Fewer abandoned calls or chats
  • First-call resolution on every call or chat

If we leverage AI and stick with these basic goals, customers will experience a much richer experience and increased loyalty over time.

The Power of AI: Striking the Balance Between Technology and the Human Touch

Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool that can enhance any contact center. By automating routine tasks, personalizing interactions and providing valuable insights, AI can improve the customer experience, increase efficiency and reduce operational costs.

Contact centers that embrace AI can better meet rising customer expectations and gain a competitive edge in the ever-evolving world of customer service. As technology continues to advance, the potential for contact center AI will only continue to grow, making it an essential part of any modern customer service strategy.

By striking a balance between technology and human touch, businesses will be able to unlock the full potential of AI to create exceptional customer experiences. As AI continues to evolve, it will unquestionably become an integral part of the customer experience landscape — benefiting organizations and their customers.

For an AI checklist or to discuss your organization’s AI needs, visit Leaden Associates, Inc., online, email Steve at sleaden@leaden.com or call him directly at (845) 414-8651.