Why despite the hype AI could be failing your customer experience strategy

Arun Mani is president of Freshworks Europe.

Though 80% of senior decision makers in the UK rate their customer service as ‘excellent’, their customers aren’t feeling quite the same. Our report ‘The Good, The Bot and The Customer Experience’ found there is a significant disconnect between what customers expect and what brands think they are delivering.

In fact, a whopping 91% of UK consumers say they have been left feeling frustrated by the customer service they receive, with top grievances including being left on hold too long and needing to repeat their issue multiple times.

Many organisations are turning to AI to improve their customer service offering. However, despite investing in new technologies such as chatbots, virtual assistants, facial recognition and natural language processing, businesses are still not getting it right. 48% of consumers don’t see a benefit of interacting with a chatbot to solve issues, while 44% would prefer to never interact with one.

Surely the point of businesses deploying AI-powered bots is that they enable businesses to work more efficiently, improve customer experience and garner loyalty? So, is it the case that brands are not using them correctly? We found there are several factors that could be causing a disconnect between brands and consumers:

Not seeing AI as a strategic entity

The introduction of technologies such as AI simply to optimise operations is a wasted opportunity. Brands must be strategic, using it to augment existing teams and provide decision-makers with usable insights to truly impact customer experience. From marketing and sales to support operations, AI can help each department be better aligned, more productive, deliver greater customer satisfaction and, ultimately, deeper brand loyalty. 

Establishing “why” organisations are deploying AI

Cutting costs and improving efficiency are perfectly acceptable goals for adopting AI, but they should be secondary aims to the overall objective of delivering a better, more personal customer experience. This can only be achieved by taking a strategic view and understanding how a combination of front and back office deployment will enhance customer service outcomes.

Confusion over who is responsible for AI in customer experience

There is marked inconsistency over whose job it is to lead on AI in UK businesses – 46% who use AI in their customer service operations put the responsibility on the CEO, with the CTO (14%), CFO (9%), CMO (6%) and COO (11%) also identified as leading AI initiatives. Added to that, a quarter (26%) of companies have no one driving adoption. For AI deployment to be successful, there needs to be a clear vision on who is responsible for how customers feel about the brand to build out a successful strategy and deploy tech effectively. 

A lack of investment

Though investment in AI is high, a business often has many competing priorities, and this may not be translating to customer service. It may be challenging to secure additional investment, but if brands persist in underfunding chatbots, they will continue to see mistakes being made, customers being put off by poor experiences, and potential revenue heading elsewhere. Businesses must therefore build this into a good business case to the organisation

Viewing bots as human replacements

Over a quarter (27%) of UK consumers said that bots responded with answers that were not personal and didn’t solve the problem. Yet, customers still want a personal service. That’s why brands should be deploying bots, and AI in general, alongside human agents, not replacing them

Perfecting the customer experience

Brands should be applauded for embracing AI to improve their customer service performance. However, it is clear that most companies are still only scratching the surface of how it can be used effectively to improve the customer experience.

It is up to brands to improve their strategic deployment of AI powered customer service, whether in the use of chatbots or in integration across systems for a more consistent customer experience. From the outset, they need to be assigning responsibility for the deployment in AI, suitably investing in the technology and using it to enhance internal teams and provide decision-makers with practical insights.

Importantly, with consumers still prizing human interaction, they also need to use AI to enhance, not replace human customer service agents. In doing so, businesses can develop AIs that mimic the behaviour of their best agents, while freeing up headcount to focus on more complex cases. This will ultimately lead to more positive outcomes, better all-round customer experiences, greater brand loyalty and increased long-term value.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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