Leading organizations worldwide are evolving their use of artificial intelligence (AI) in customer experience (CX) away from limited tactical deployments and toward an overarching approach focused on the entire customer journey. Organizations that are putting AI at the heart of their CX strategies are gaining a competitive advantage over the companies left behind, with greater improvements in customer loyalty and employee productivity and engagement. They share several beliefs and strategies that, when combined, mark them as leaders in the AI sphere.
Let’s look at what defines an AI leader. The Economist Impact (formerly Economist Intelligence Unit) collaborated with Genesys on a global survey of more than 750 senior customer service, marketing and sales executives across industries. According to the resulting report, “AI comes of age: Putting customers and employees at the heart of data-driven journeys,” AI leaders are respondents whose scores fell in the top one-third across all capabilities-related questions.
These leaders share the belief that AI is central to continually improving the customer experience and delivering CX that’s uniquely relevant to each customer. That belief is bolstered by the gains these leaders are achieving. For example, AI leaders are outperforming other businesses in their ability to increase customer and employee satisfaction, customer lifetime value, and customer loyalty.
The report identifies five factors that differentiate AI leaders from laggards.
1. AI Is a Strategic Asset for Improving CX
The best experiences make customers feel known and understood, and AI leaders use the technology to learn about their customers. Nearly 70% of AI leaders say that, over the next two years, they’ll prioritize the use of AI to identify customers and predict or drive outcomes. And, more than 40% consider using AI to personalize the customer experience a top strategic priority over the next two years.
2. AI Is a Listening Post for Customer and Employee Experiences
The more a company can learn about its customers, the better it can serve them. And AI leaders are listening; they’re more likely than peers to use AI to evaluate customer and employee feedback for improving skills, processes and the overall CX. Nearly 70% of AI leaders use AI for post-interaction analysis and quality assurance, compared to just 25% of AI laggards.
3. AI Is Geared Toward Creating Empathetic Customer Journeys
There are many reasons why a customer might not have a smooth experience. Perhaps their call dropped; they needed to repeat themselves; or their issue wasn’t resolved, and they required further support. AI leaders are more likely than other organizations to use AI to understand pain points in the customer journey; and 90% already do. They’re also more likely to agree that customers are responding well to their AI-driven customer experiences: 83% of AI leaders believe this versus 76% of other respondents. As a result, 87% of AI leaders believe using AI is helping their customer journey feel more empathetic to their customers.
4. AI Is Used Extensively Across the Employee Experience
The engagement and satisfaction of employees who interact with customers directly affects the quality of those experiences. So, AI leaders focus their efforts here, as well — across a variety of areas within the employee experience. More than 60% of leaders use AI to identify employee career growth opportunities; 61% use it for forecasting and scheduling, as well as to prompt next-best actions in real time. More than half (58%) use robotic process automation to reduce employee effort and assess employee sentiment and job satisfaction.
5. AI Spans Sales, Marketing and Service
AI leaders are using AI much more widely across sales, marketing and service than the average survey respondent. When asked about 10 different use cases, AI leaders have a much broader deployment than the rest of the sample. For instance, nearly two-thirds of leaders use AI for performance insights and post-interaction analysis, compared to just over 40% overall and less than 30% of laggards. And about 70% of leaders use AI for marketing automation, compared to less than 40% and less than 20% for average and laggard companies, respectively.
Continual Path of Discovery
AI leaders are leaders because they continually look for opportunities to use the technology to improve CX. The focus of their search for improvement is around CX quality and consistency, increasing customer loyalty, and differentiating from competitors through unique experiences.
The report quotes Amy Shore, Chief Customer Officer at Nationwide, who describes how the company uses AI to discover new insights. “We feel like we’ve achieved a great deal already, but at the same time, we’re probably just getting started, because the emerging applications and potential benefits of AI are so compelling for us,” stated Shore. Accordingly, 85% of AI leaders agree the technology will continue to be a critical part of their CX operations.
Businesses are seeing the greatest impact of AI in their loyalty-related metrics. More than 80% of leaders have benefited from increased customer satisfaction. And more than two-thirds from improved customer lifetime value, customer loyalty and employee satisfaction. About 70% have increased their revenue and reduced the cost to serve. And, when using AI for the employee experience, more than 60% of leaders have made gains in agent productivity and more than half saw improvements in engagement.
Finding Customer and Employee Accord
Using AI in the customer journey isn’t about replacing agents with chatbots or making the experience less human. It’s not about replacing employees with automation, either. It’s about creating a win-win for both staff and customers by predicting the right moment to engage them.
“AI is… helping our agents to engage with the customer at exactly the right moment, so that the customer has an easier experience and to ensure that we win that customer,” said Louis Lescoeur, Director of Customer Experience at France-based energy company Engie, when speaking to the authors of the report. Engaging customers quickly and efficiently, with the right information, at the moment they want to be engaged, makes for more satisfying interactions for customers and employees.
As AI continues to mature, leaders such as Vodafone Germany describe shifting toward a modular approach, where models can be trained faster and applied to many different situations. It’s about avoiding “one-trick ponies” says Peter Hillebrand, Head of Department for Customer Innovation Insights and Analytics at Vodafone Germany. “The decisions we make around AI today should have the potential to work for customer experiences we want to offer in future.”
The Future Is Individualized Experiences
With success comes confidence and creativity, and the report’s authors predict an increased application of AI across the breadth of the customer journey — creating value for sales, marketing and service teams. Among the AI leaders, the greatest areas of focus for the future are using AI to identify customers and predict or drive outcomes. By doing this, leaders can take the first steps toward creating meaningful and personalized experiences.
AI leaders are already showing us what’s possible. Where will you deploy AI next?