Can artificial intelligence really improve customer experience?

  • Solutions
  • AI and Automation
  • 2022
  • Dave Wright
February 22, 2022

AI in customer experience: woman in mall looking at her smartphone

“Try turning it off and on again.” This advice normally works for my mom, but not for me.

When I needed to present at an event last year, I got frustrated when I couldn’t connect to the network. The front desk at the venue referred me to technical services.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Here we go.” But I was wrong.

The technical services person quickly assessed my level of know-how and adjusted her talk track to cater to my needs. She sorted my laptop and iPad access so I could edit my slides. And I presented to my first live audience in a long time, no problem. I was on the receiving end of a great customer experience.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can do the same thing: collaborate with humans and adjust according to their needs—at scale. Leaders are wrapping their minds around the concept and starting to understand how to use AI to make work better and improve the customer experience.

Benefits of AI chatbots

We tend to think of AI as external-facing. The most common use cases are around deflection and direction—chatbots that manage incoming requests, enable self-service, and/or route inquiries to the best qualified agent.

When chatbots are powered by natural language understanding, they’re capable of much more than chat. ServiceNow® Virtual Agent, for example, does the technological equivalent of reading the room: interpreting customer sentiment and responding appropriately.

Because AI is great at taking tribal knowledge and synthesizing it down, it trawls knowledge bases, surfaces relevant nuggets, and tailors a response. And it does all this at speed and scale, freeing people from mundane and repetitive tasks to focus on the things that matter most.

Companies of all sizes are benefiting. One of our banking clients saw case volumes decrease 90% and response times decrease 75%. AI-enabled self-service powered a 70% reduction in requests for support for a travel retailer. And a leading telecoms provider reduced its status request calls by 43%.

Of course, virtual agents don’t have all the answers. When your knowledge base is lacking, AI highlights what’s missing so you can plug the gaps. When it can’t resolve issues, it escalates them to the most appropriate human expert. I saw firsthand how this helped a US state’s social services department reduce inquiry assignment times by 99%.

Artificial intelligence can collaborate with humans and adjust according to their needs—at scale.

Data-driven predictions

AI isn’t always outward-facing. In reality, the same technologies we’ve just discussed can be flipped around and used to support your internal teams. I predict we’ll see a lot more AI being used to get employees up to speed faster, making them more productive and effective.

When organizations have enough high-quality data, they can start to make predictions that power better experiences. By constantly inspecting what’s going on around it, and linking similar cases, AI can provide early warning of a potential issue so we can help prevent it from happening.

When a problem does occur, AI helps us see who’s affected now and who’s likely to be affected soon. Armed with this information, we can give customers advance notice, predict more accurate resolution times, and keep people informed.

To be useful, predictions need to be prioritized. ServiceNow worked with a manufacturing company that was drowning in alerts. We implemented AI to determine which alerts mattered most and suppressed those that weren’t critical to the business. The company now has the insight needed to act fast and consistently delivers experiences its customers demand and deserve.

Prescribing solutions

When AI moves from prediction to prescription, we’ll start to see a step change in customer experience. It’s one thing to say, “Yes, I see that coming.” It’s quite another to be able to say, “Yes, I see that coming and, based on all the times it’s happened before, this is what I need to do to keep it from happening again.” Potential problems are more palatable when they’re packaged with potential solutions.

I’m excited by the way ServiceNow customers are using technologies to support other technologies. AI is helping a utilities company not only predict abnormalities in its gas pipelines, but also prescribe the most appropriate solution. This minimizes downtime, reduces costs, and helps ensure field service technicians can work smarter and safer.

I predict we’ll see a lot more AI being used to get employees up to speed faster, making them more productive and effective.

A world of possibilities

Beyond AI prescription, I think we’ll start to see self-automating systems driven by AI. By analyzing issues and recommending AI models for auto-assignment or auto-classification, and identifying opportunities for virtual agents, AI will help drive the experience agenda.

AI could also change the way we interface with systems. Voice technology has given us a glimpse of what’s possible. I imagine more dynamic interfaces where AI uses its understanding of each customer to curate the ideal interface for that individual. Being able to present the right information to the right person in the right way could transform customer experience.

In that brave new world, my mom will still be asked if she tried turning it off and on. But I’ll never hear those words again.

Discover five ways to strengthen customer experience with AI in our ebook.

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