Artificial intelligence will jazz up the customer experience, IT leaders hope

Survey finds IT executives are turning their attention and resources to the next great frontier of corporate growth -- giving customers personalized experiences to remember.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

When it comes to providing the best customer experience possible within budget, expect to see more machines picking up the slack. (Emphasis on within budget, of course.) There will be more interactions between AI-driven interfaces, and fewer human contacts, by phone, mobile and web, especially for routine questions and transactions. AI will boost personalization on a mass scale, and enable more profound product customization and tracking of orders. Recommendations will get less klutzy and repetitive. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's how a number of IT executives see things playing out in the months and years to come as they shift their attention and resources to the next great frontier of corporate growth -- giving customers personalized experiences to remember. It's now a top priority, as found in a recent survey of 1,000 IT decision-makers released by Adobe. 

IT executives expect to put more AI and ML into the customer experience. Forty-one percent of those surveyed said AI and machine learning will provide the most value in improving CX, followed by the Internet of Things (22%), voice (14%), and immersive technologies including virtual and augmented realities (12%) and chatbot technology (11%).  

In some cases, AI and ML are already part of CX delivery. More than one in four IT executives, 26%, give AI and ML high marks for "streamlining and speeding up" their processes. Another 27% report progress on this front. Currently, 19% of IT projects now involve AI and ML, the survey shows.

SEE: Managing AI and ML in the enterprise (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Getting to well-performing, high-performing AI and ML, of course, requires data -- lots of it, and of the highest quality and relevance. Silos need to be brought down, as fast as possible. Sixty-three percent of IT executives report they said they have been successful in integrating their various data sources, and 59% said they have successfully cleaned their data to minimize inaccuracies. Another 59% said they are using the data effectively to personalize the customer experience.  For the year ahead, more than one-third, 35%, expect to be doing more work to reduce data silos that get in the way of having a more holistic view of their customers. 

Getting the right data from the right places in the right context requires cooperaton from across the enterprise. A majority, 53%, say IT and the business are working collaboratively toward digitizing the customer experience in a more profound way. Of course, that means quite a few, 47%, are not together in the process. Another 27% say IT simply implements what the business tells it what it wants. At the other extreme, 20% say IT sets the course, with some input from the business.

(Disclosure: I was a guest at Adobe's recent Summit conference.)

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