AI Is Redefining How Companies Engage With Customers

July 10, 2023  |  Mark Hillary

The CXOutsourcers conference took place recently in Glasgow, Scotland. Peter Ryan, from Ryan Strategic Advisory, is one of the organizers of this event and he arranges the agenda so it explores the latest trends in customer experience (CX) systems and processes.

As I have often said over the years, CX is an interesting area of business for a number of reasons. It is the frontline where customers interact with brands – in fact for most people it is their only interaction with a brand other than using the products. It is also an area of business where emerging technologies are tested out first.

One of the main discussion areas at the conference was the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and how this is going to change CX processes.

IBA Group has been advising on AI for a long time. In fact, I can remember the IBA team being present at the 2019 CX Outsourcers event in Windsor, UK, talking about robotic process automation and the use of AI to improve automation. That was before the pandemic meant that travel and events closed for about two years.

There were two important angles to the discussion in Scotland:
  1. How can AI improve the way that brands directly engage with customers?
  2. How can AI assist employees inside contact centers?

The first option was demonstrated in a presentation by innovation expert Simon Kriss, visiting from Australia. Simon talked about the large language models and how generative AI can create answers from a body of knowledge. It doesn’t need any decision tree as it can formulate new answers to each question, based on the data it has learned from.

A good example is the energy company Octopus in the UK. They started allowing an AI engine to reply to customer emails. As soon as an email arrives, the AI figures out the correct answer and sends it back immediately. In a survey, Octopus found that 65% of customers were satisfied with the answer they got from a human, but over 80% were happy with the AI reply. Now the AI is doing the work of over 250 customer service email writers.

This can also apply to realtime chatbots. We are all used to bots that are quite useless, but if a generative AI bot is trained on all the materials that describe a service or product then it should be able to answer almost any questions – at least any about the product itself.

The second option is perhaps even more interesting as it can be applied more easily in most cases – if the experiment fails, it only fails for employees, not customers.

The idea is to create virtual assistants for the agents in a contact center. It knows what training they need, it can offer real-time coaching based on their real performance, it can help with quality control by advising on how to handle customer contact better next time. It can monitor all calls and messages and advise supervisors to specific problem calls that may need to be reviewed. It can even listen into a customer conversation and put documents or information on screen in front of the agent automatically – without them ever needing to search for it. The agent no longer needs to say ‘I’ll just put you on hold while I find the right information’ – it’s already there.

I think this is a very interesting demonstration of where AI is changing real businesses across many different industries. The interaction with customers has always been important, but AI is now changing how this works beyond recognition.

Many media stories focus on jobs being replaced by robots when they talk about AI, but I think the more interesting reality is how people will be enhanced by AI. Humans can do more and be more productive with these assistants. How are you using them in your business?

Read more about how AI and ChatGPT can change your company and its processes.

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