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This article is by Featured Blogger Muddu Sudhakar from his Blog Page. Republished with the author’s permission.
These days, it’s almost a truism that the CIO role has transformed from the sometimes pedestrian task of “running IT systems” to guiding the organization’s growth and success amid a burgeoning technology landscape. And increasingly, that success path leads through the customer experience. A CIO must now aggregate people, processes and technology to serve up that defining, five-star customer experience. Highly visible, and under steady pressure to get it right, CIOs are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Deloitte further validates this in its 2018 Global CIO Survey.
Tellingly, Gartner predicts that by 2023, customers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service customer interactions, rising from 40% today. There’s little question that AI and ML will play a pivotal role in improving customer experience and how businesses are digitally transforming. I’ve personally witnessed these trends gaining momentum in customer service and the help desk, from 2011, when I worked in the AI/ML wave taking form at VMware. At my current companies, I've watched the power of applied AI and ML expand across ITSM, IT operations and customer service. A revolution is underway.
What does such a revolution mean for today’s CIO? For one, customer-facing functions such as sales, marketing and customer support are receptive, visible arenas for investing in digital transformation initiatives. But to succeed in this new landscape, CIOs have to move beyond overriding concerns with cost savings and internal operations; instead, they should think expansively and strive to embrace the customer-obsessed culture, which will drive growth in turn. Further, there is an undeniable link between customer experience and employee experience. Multiple studies have shown that investing in employee experience impacts the overall customer experience, with its highly desirable and significant return on investment.
These days, customers expect omnichannel support — and while this is desirable and convenient for the customer, it creates new challenges for the organization, tasked to ensure that it effectively shapes the latest technology advances to those high customer expectations. That means not only selecting best-of-breed products but figuring out how to integrate them to yield that vaunted exceptional customer experience. Because this challenge requires sophisticated automation, organizations are exploring two core technologies: customer-centric robotic process automation (RPA) and conversational AI. With these two technologies in place, they can confidently offer dynamic and personalized customer experience.
Practically speaking, these technologies dramatically streamline the customer experience by proactively remediating common customer requests and inquiries. Automating multistep conversations and understanding customers’ broader intents, sentiments and critical messages can lead to quick resolutions and gratifying upward surges in CSAT and NPS scores.
The route to standout customer service leads through best practices.
Many customers and users are, at this stage, skeptical and perhaps even cynical about the ability of an AI solution to make jobs and lives easier in a meaningful way. So a CIO’s approach and timing are crucial to success. For one, choose a path to automation that offers the highest assurance of positive outcomes. It’s worthwhile to analyze historical tickets and cases, which can help decide the optimal usages and levels of automation to commit to. Examine your knowledge base, determine how rich it is and identify any gaps or lingering issues that could affect the project’s success.
If conversational RPA is on your horizon, make sure your team has the right controls and mechanisms in place to enable meaningful actions and progress; make available the requisite APIs and action controls to carry out the implementation. Assess which functions should be automated and which should continue to be handled by a human agent. Develop a route to increase buy-in from human team members by convincingly showing that the project promises progress that’s essential to a customer-obsessed culture.
Where To Automate (And Where Not To)
In IT, the most obvious areas to approach are also those most probable of success with AI. Take advantage of that fact and consider customer support, IT service desk, operations, cloud and DevOps. In HR, for example, accounting, basic legal, facilities and shared services are ripe for AI. But look for any repetitive actions and manual work that would be improved and sped up by automation. If tasks can be broken down to multiple sub-tasks, that’s a good sign they’re amenable to AI. Data that doesn’t display a path to automation such as complex decision-making, areas that call for subjective analysis and where algorithms don’t apply will remain the domain of human workers. And of course, when a human prefers to speak with another human, that ability should remain accessible, available and inviolable.
Excellent Customer Service: The Basic Philosophy
The fundamental reasons for embarking on AI to improve Customer Service are so momentous, they risk being forgotten amid the details of implementation. Keep the larger goals in mind: to resolve customer issues quickly via self-service; to massively reduce customer churn; to succeed at personalization; to offer proactive, predictive support that better anticipates and responds to customer issues; and to deliver prescriptive support that resolves concerns promptly. These translate into an excellent, ongoing, satisfying customer experience.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
“Robotic” customer experience is to be avoided, so ensure that the solution presents a credible, positive and intelligent interface. Also, know the truth: Qualitative results are key to assessing value, so make sure that results show fidelity and accuracy. Remember that people these days are impatient and have high expectations, so training needs to be intuitive and the solution needs to offer true autonomy to workers.
In a nutshell, AI and ML nurture customer experience by automating repetitive and mundane tasks, which tremendously helps customer service teams channel their creativity, passion and imagination towards functions that provide higher value to the organization. The time is right for all organizations to commit to the AI-driven customer experience.