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AI and customer experience management

Businesses can embrace both innovation and improvement, by embracing AI.

With ongoing debate rife – futurists, philosophers and even award-winning physicists all speculating as to the future of artificial intelligence and its potential impact to the human race, concluding both good and bad– I have been investigating this area for some time. Although my approach is albeit less sci-fi, I have been exploring what this may mean for the future of customer experience.

A large number of vendors, increasingly evident at the UK’s main contact centre exhibition held in London this March, are touting AI and perhaps, more appropriately, chat-bots, as the future of customer contact.

Customer experience management in 2018

Customer experience management (CEM) carries critical challenges for all organisations in the UK; from a high street bank to a patient experience leader within a local NHS trust. The challenge has always been a subtle balance between cost and service, each measured in numerous ways.

Any technology innovation within the CEM space must always have a leading ROI in one or many of these areas; increasing customer satisfaction by X or reducing cost to serve by Y.

AI/Bots are an interesting conundrum in the CEM space, with many claims from some leading analysts suggesting large percentages of customer contacts will be handled by machines, with the numbers increasing over time for the next few years. As with previous innovative technologies, such as IVR and webchat – both likewise promising huge reductions in handle costs – organisations need to think carefully about the ramifications of implementing technology badly and not take the plunge without first establishing the contribution to their CEM strategy.

A CEM strategy in 2018 dictates vital consideration for a number of key areas, all of which align to common outcomes, examples being:

  • knowing your customer and treating them accordingly
  • creating positive emotional experiences
  • empowering and optimising your workforce
  • consistent KPIs and business measures.

With these in mind, we need to ensure that AI can at least adhere to – and more importantly contribute to – the overall strategy. At face value it would be easy to conclude that this new world of machine learning and automation does just that, but a machine in principle is only as good as the information it has at its disposal and could arguably never replace the emotive engagement of a human.

Finding a place for AI

So how do we ensure, as organisations, that we embrace innovation but still improve upon the service we deliver? Whilst not easy, it is possible to establish a positive place for AI in customer experience. If we consider the challenge of the modern consumer; website demand is higher than ever, decisions are made based on reviews and peer recommendations, changing suppliers/service providers can be done in a heartbeat and, ultimately, we still want to talk to a human being when things get tough. In psychology terms, we still want and seek an empathetic mind to hear our plight and find a solution to queries we may have in real-time.

First, we need to take a good look at how customers engage with us today –  customer journey mapping is key, as are analytics tools which can quickly determine pinch points in the service or process. Both work towards answering the question of appropriateness, and at what point during the engagement AI/Bots would best apply. Second, where does the knowledge exist and is it reference-able quickly? There’s little point in all of this if we simply fail to answer the most simplest of queries; we either lose customers at this point or drive those emotional experiences in the wrong direction: South. Lastly, what role does the advisor now take? For a very long time the advisor has been the front-line to customer experience engagement. Assuming all of the easy interactions have been taken care of, surely that means that what’s left is more complex? Do our front line employees have the requisite skills and empowerment to handle the influx of more complicated queries, those that our new AI platform can’t handle?

We’ve been toying with this concept for some time at Capita and we believe we have a solution: an augmented bot/human interaction. We recently did some work on the back of some insurance research, which clearly indicated an opportunity to revolutionise the way in which insurance companies could handle policy changes and additions. Rather than building an app and creating a new channel in isolation, with an AI/Bot interaction, we looked at ways to make the experience flow to ensure positivity in terms of outcome and emotion. When things got tough and the Bot could no longer deal with the demand of said customer we brought an empowered advisor into the mix. Rather than handing off, which traditionally organisations have done, we created a 3-way interaction: Customer, Bot and Advisor. More importantly, the advisor had relevant experience and a unique passion, one specific to the customer’s particular need, insuring their pride and joy; in this case, a chopper. Context-based routing ticks the box from a ‘knowing your customer’ perspective and also ensures a positive emotional experience. By working in this manner, we were able to ensure that AI aligned to the CEM strategy, saving cost while improving experience and frankly making the whole interaction easy.

In conclusion, AI/Bots have a massive role to play in customer experience management but we need to think carefully about applicability and, importantly, ensure that they deliver measurable improvement within the customer engagement ecosystem.  

This article was first published by techUK.

Photo of David Cousins

David Cousins

Head of solution consulting, Capita Network Solutions

David is a passionate advocate of getting the simple things right, while looking at outcomes-based transformation initiatives to improve the relationship between businesses and consumers. He has spent most of his career working for and with organisations, across a number of industries, to help drive and shape evolutionary behaviour to influence customer experience, digital transformation, engagement optimisation and voice of the customer methodologies.

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