Adding the human touch to AI for a better customer experience

Just when regional business leaders think their customers can’t get any more demanding, those customers find a way. For example, in a recent Oracle study, 90 percent of respondents said they felt brands “could do more” to “offer happiness.”

Businesses in the UAE have always sought to get the customer experience just right, but until recently those efforts have focused on delivering on promises, delivering quality goods and services, addressing omnichannel engagement, and ensuring that digital workflows intuitive, responsive and always available. Now customers, exhausted from the pandemic years, are demanding even more.

At the heart of this challenge is visibility. Customers can use channels outside of the company’s control to vent their frustration, thereby losing important information to stakeholders. And even if the customer communicates their concerns to the company through a complaint or inquiry, the interaction channels can often be split into roles, with one team responsible for email and others for social media, chat or voice.

See far, see far
Brands need to be able to see the customer experience as it happens to the customer. This is the only way to solve problems quickly. The ultimate goal is of course first contact resolution, but most importantly, customers need to feel heard and confident that their concerns are being addressed. Digitization seems to answer many of these concerns, and it certainly goes a long way toward providing optimal service. Automation tools like chatbots can handle the standard queries, freeing up talent resources to tackle more complex problems.

However, there is evidence that digitization alone may not be enough. A recent global survey by ServiceNow and ThoughtLab found that investments in digital transformation can lead to deeper customer insights and, as a result, greater loyalty and retention, as well as better security and privacy. However, across five industries and among 1,000 executives surveyed, the survey found only a small decrease in complaints. Only around 25 percent saw an improvement. The emerging pattern was that engagement and information silos prevented organizations from averting passport issues.

Without access to the required 360-degree view of a customer’s engagement and purchase history, it’s difficult for a brand to add the right level of personalization to their engagements.

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

The implications of such an approach are far-reaching on the human side of the equation. Not only can human agents react in real-time to actionable information gathered by AI systems, but decision-makers can adapt policy, or even their approach to policy-making, by analyzing insights at scale. In other words, a complaint can be addressed through real-time insights, but a spike in complaints can be investigated retrospectively to identify 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 update employees on compliance with company policies, reminding them how to greet the customer, end a call, and everything in between.

Continuous improvement
Other AI models can actively scan customer interactions for ideas to improve products, services, and experiences. The forward-thinking companies that use AI in this way will not wait for Net Promoter Scores and other metrics to tell them how to act. They will move to real-time data and bring improved experiences to market faster than their industry peers. Promotions do not necessarily have to be improvements to a product or service or even a digital platform. They could be as simple as new guidelines for agents to resolve a recurring complaint.

The strange thing is that many companies already have the technology to implement user-centric solutions. All they have to do is set aside the time and budget to find ways for their talent and tools to come together to produce a new CX. Once the organization is set up so that customer feedback and innovation is a continuous cycle, customers will become brand ambassadors and employees will be there for the long haul. And that’s a recipe for longevity.

Mark Ackerman is Area Vice President – MEA, ServiceNow