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How AI Can Optimize the Customer Experience and Shape the Modern Organization

By Special Guest
Tom Heiser, CEO of ClickSoftware
December 12, 2016

Most CEOs would agree that exceptional customer experiences are critical to business success. But a professed customer focus can be treated like a platitude on a poster, or a compass pointing the way to the right outcomes—and actionable plans. One poor service experience can send a customer to a competitor, but an exceptional one can create a lifelong advocate and recurring revenue. Getting there requires more than good intentions. Businesses need the right metrics on customer satisfaction, and sophisticated technology to help deliver on customer expectations. Employing artificial intelligence (AI) will be part of the next wave of advancing customer experiences

A recent Aberdeen report found that three-fourths of “best-in-class” service organizations use customer feedback to measure employee and service performance. These top companies know that their customers are in the driver's seat, and they adapt service practices to meet customer demands. While customer experience can be enhanced and supported by various departments within a business, it’s ultimately the front-line service professionals who will interact with customers. Often, they’re the only point of direct contact between the customer and a brand.

Technological advances and saturated markets have led to products and offerings that are largely comparable, and sometimes indistinguishable from one another, competing on price with narrow margins. Customers who expect quality products and good value from several vendors have little incentive to stay loyal. Fortunately, today’s innovative technology is helping shape next-generation customer service, making it easier to manage and achieve than ever before. Examples include the many platforms available for customer communication, including websites, messenger, mobile apps, and social media—leaving no excuse for a sub-par experience.

Artificial Intelligence and Customer Service

For many businesses, interactive chat bots already help solve the problem of long hold times, and are often able to solve a customer’s problem without wasting time waiting for a person to respond. AI can also be employed to optimize various aspects of service delivery—from technician travel routes, to scheduling service, to diagnosing issues from connected devices, for example—without the need for employee intervention. It’s a powerful and efficient way to turn the vast amount of data collected about customers and service interactions into action and meaningful improvements.

Andy Peart of Artificial Solutions said, “By 2020 Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be as critical to business and customer service as the website was 20 years ago, or the mobile app was [five] years ago.” And Gartner predicts that by 2018 robots will supervise more than 3 million human workers. In fact, AI is already being adopted in several industries and this will just grow as the technology matures.

Experts agree that AI is still in its infancy, and, while we can surmise about the future, the seemingly endless potential and human-like capabilities of AI look very promising. By helping manage simple customer interactions and streamlining complex processes behind the scenes, AI can become a secret weapon for supercharging customer experience.

Artificial Intelligence and the Human Touch

This doesn’t mean people should start cleaning out their desks just yet. Sure, AI is capable of things humans aren’t, such as processing large amounts of data in seconds. But even with technology it’s important to remember that humans are at least as important for customer interactions. Some problems can only be solved by humans, and there will always be technology-averse customers who prefer speaking with a person to solve even simple problems.

To truly satisfy every customer, businesses need to find a balance between demands for digital and human customer service. Artificial intelligence shouldn’t replace jobs; it needs to be skillfully maintained by people in order to maximize its potential. AI should be used to close the gap between the human touch and the digital tasks that present a challenge in the absence of technology. In other words, it’s meant to empower people with technology, not undermine their value.

The New Reality

As customers demand better, faster service at lower prices, organizations must improve processes or risk losing business. Increasingly exceptional customer service is the one factor that can make your business stand out against others.

While the promise of AI is not yet fully realized, there are already many ways to integrate it into existing support channels. This will not only free employees to focus on important tasks, but it will also create new ways to delight and retain customers.

Even if AI has a long way to go before it resembles The Matrix, now is the time to plan for making it your competitive edge. Its myriad applications are already being used by forward-thinking businesses to successfully engage with their most valuable asset—loyal customers.

 About the Author

Tom has more than three decades of operational and executive technology leadership experience, with a strong track record of organic and inorganic growth and cloud delivery. Before joining ClickSoftware, Tom was interim-CEO at Arxan Technology, a TA Associates portfolio company. Prior to that, Tom served in operational and executive roles with EMC Corporation. Additionally, he served on the board of directors of Cyber-Ark Software, one of the most successful NASDAQ IPOs of 2014. Tom holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting Information Systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Edited by Alicia Young

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