AI adoption is key to improving the customer experience

Customer experience executives must develop a deeper understanding of AI and its impact on customer acquisition, retention, and total lifetime value. In a post digital era, a differentiated customer experience will be highly dependent on delivery of AI-powered products, services, and new business models.

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New research regarding venture capital investments and business adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies validate the importance of AI as arguably the most important tool for improving customer experience (CX) in your company's digital transformation toolbox. In a hyper connected, mobile, and social knowledge sharing economy -- age of the connected customer - the customer experience is as important as your company's products or services. 

To better understand the linkage between customer experience and AI, I connected with one of the top technology senior analyst, with a primary research focus on emerging technologies and their impact on re-shaping the customer experience in a digital economy.

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Omer Minkara, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Aberdeen

Omer Minkara, the vice president and principal analyst at Aberdeen, is researching best-in-class practices and emerging trends in the technologies and business processes used to enhance customer experience across multiple interaction channels (e.g. social, mobile, web, email and call center). I asked Minkara to share his research and clarify what AI means for customer experience executives. Here is Minkara's Aberdeen research summary: 

What Does AI Mean for CX Executives?

It seems that artificial intelligence (AI) is a part of almost all technology discussions. Does your CRM have AI? Are your content management processes AI-driven? Did you decrease the number of agents in your contact center by managing customer service requests through AI? Those are just a few of the many questions I've heard CX leaders ask each other at industry events over the past several months. But what does AI really mean for customer experience (CX) executives? Is it just another buzzword or is it here to stay?

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What is AI?

Aberdeen recently surveyed 369 CX executives across the world from companies across all industries and sizes to reveal how CX leaders view AI and why they use it. First, we asked 'What is AI?' Findings from our survey show that 54% of CX leaders have an accurate understanding of AI -- Table 1. It refers to a set of technology capabilities (e.g., machine learning, predictive analytics, next-best action guidance and automation) that are incorporated within technology platforms such as CRM, ERP and contact center. These capabilities help employees across businesses more effectively and efficiently manage, use, and analyze data needed to meet and exceed customer needs. This is important, as findings from Aberdeen's March 2019 CX Executive's Agenda study shows that 73% of companies struggle with using data to achieve their CX goals.

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Table 1: Almost Half of CX Leaders Understand What AI Is

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While 54% of the CX leaders surveyed have an accurate understanding of AI, almost half (46%) of the respondents do not have accurate understanding. Some executives think of AI as a stand-alone technology, while others think that it's a theoretical framework or purely used in automating activities such as creating opportunities in a CRM system. Those 46% of firms that do not yet understand AI should see it as a set of technology capabilities that supercharge the effectiveness of technology solutions such as CRM, ERP, and contact center by making these solutions more accurate and useful for employees.

Why Use AI?

Now, on to why CX leaders currently use -- or plan to use -- AI as part of their activities. Aberdeen's survey findings revealed striking insights in this area. The top reason cited by CX leaders is to drive greater intelligence in their customer interactions -- Table 2. This is tightly aligned with our previously mentioned finding that 73% of CX leaders struggle using data to achieve their goals. Faced with this challenge and a wealth of insights available to meet and exceed customer needs, it is no wonder why CX leaders turn to AI to improve their ability to use data to achieve their goals.

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Table 2: Why Are CX Executives Using AI?

Even when firms may have the right data available to address customer needs, it will not help companies achieve desired results unless the data is easily accessible to employees. To this point, findings from Aberdeen's March 2019 CX study shows that on average, employees spend 17% of their time looking for data they need to do their jobs. The second top reason why CX leaders invest in AI is to minimize this challenge and empower employees with the right insights at the right time to do their jobs -- refer toTable 2.

While driving more intelligent customer conversations and employee empowerment are key to succeed in managing customer experiences, CX leaders also must aim to improve the financial health of their businesses. This is accomplished by driving revenue growth and cost reduction. To this point, CX leaders cite reducing labor costs by automating simple tasks as another reason why they're investing in AI. Additionally, this reduces inefficiencies related to manual processes that result in unnecessary costs as a result of repeat customer contact, product returns, etc.

Surprisingly, only 5% of CX leaders cited following their peers as a reason why they invest in AI capabilities. This is encouraging -- it means that companies investing in AI are not doing so because they feel it is the right thing to do to keep up with competitors. Rather, they have clearly defined goals for which they use AI capabilities to achieve. Having such clear expectations helps firms better tailor use of technology to maximize the likelihood of achieving their goals. You can learn more about the impact of emerging technologies on customer experience here

This article was co-authored by Omer Minkara (Twitter: @omerminkara), VP and Principle Analyst at Aberdeen