Adding the human touch to AI for better customer experience
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Insights: Adding the human touch to AI for better customer experience

Insights: Adding the human touch to AI for better customer experience

Artificial intelligence models can actively mine customer interactions for ideas on how to improve products, services and experiences


Just when regional business leaders think their customers cannot get any more demanding, those customers find a way. For example, in a recent Oracle study, 90 per cent of the respondents said they thought brands could “do more” to “deliver happiness”.

UAE businesses have always sought to get the customer experience just right, but up until recently, these efforts centred on keeping promises, delivering quality goods and services, catering to omnichannel engagement and making sure that digital workflows were intuitive, responsive and always on. Now customers, jaded by the pandemic years, require even more.

At the heart of this challenge lies visibility. Customers may take to channels outside of corporate control to vent their frustrations, which is vital information lost to stakeholders. And even where the customer shares their concerns with the business, by way of complaint or query, engagement channels can often be split across roles, with one team in charge of email and others in charge of social, chat or voice.

See far, see wide
Brands must be able to see the customer experience as it happens to the customer. This is the only way to deliver rapid resolution of issues. The ultimate goal is first-contact resolution, of course, but mainly, customers need to feel heard and need to have confidence that their concern is being addressed. Digitisation would appear to answer many of these concerns, and it certainly goes a long way towards optimal service. Automation tools such as chatbots can handle the standard queries so that talent resources can be deployed to tackle more complex issues.

But there are indications that digitisation on its own may not be enough. A recent ServiceNow and ThoughtLab global survey found that investment in digital transformation can lead to deeper customer insights and subsequently to greater loyalty and retention, as well as better security and privacy. But across five industries and 1,000 polled executives, the survey found little reduction in complaints. Only around 25 per cent saw any improvement. The pattern that emerged was that silos of engagement and information were holding back organisations’ ability to head issues off at the pass.

Without having access to the required 360-degree view of a customer’s engagement and purchasing history, it is difficult for a brand to infuse its engagements with the right level of personalisation.

The human touch
The lesson that emerges is one of an urgent need for human-centred technology. All the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots in the world are not going to deliver the personal touch that today’s consumers are seeking. But by combining human ingenuity and empathy with the efficiency and speed of AI, businesses can get a step closer to perfect customer experience (CX).

The implications for such an approach are far-reaching for the human side of the equation. Not only can human agents react in real-time to actionable information gleaned by AI systems, but decision-makers can adjust policy, or even their approaches to making policy, by analysing insights at scale. In other words, one complaint can be handled through real-time insights, but a spike in complaints can be studied after the fact to determine a root cause, leading to valuable adjustments to long-term strategies.

Artificial intelligence platforms can also be teachers, guiding customer-facing agents to improve their performance and technique, both in real time and over time. Virtual assistants can keep employees on track in adhering to company guidelines, reminding them of how to greet the customer, how to end a call, and everything in between.

Continuous improvement
Other AI models can actively mine customer interactions for ideas on how to improve products, services and experiences. The forward-thinking businesses that leverage AI in this way will not wait for net promoter scores and other metrics to tell them how to act; they will move on real-time data and get enhanced experiences to market more quickly than their industry peers. Actions need not necessarily be tweaks to a product or service or even a digital platform. They could be as simple as new guidelines for agents on how to resolve a regularly occurring complaint.

The curious thing is that many enterprises already have the technology in place to implement human-centric solutions. They merely need to take the time and set aside the budget to discover ways in which their talent and their tools can come together to produce a new CX. Once the organisation is set up in a way that allows customer feedback and innovation to be a continuous cycle, customers will be brand ambassadors, and employees will be in it for the long haul. And this is a recipe for longevity.

Mark Ackerman is the area vice president – MEA, ServiceNow

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