The artificial intelligence (AI) movement is upon us, and with recent advancements, it’s the perfect time for customer experience (CX) leaders to reexamine their existing use of AI, explore what is now possible, or reconsider it as a viable solution.
But wait, where do we begin? We’ve all heard horror stories about AI implementations gone wrong, and the last thing we want is to compromise our brand with poor experiences.
Yet we need a plan and to have answers at the ready when the C-suite asks how we are planning to use ChatGPT and Generative AI and how soon can we launch it.
If you believe the best offense is a good defense, this article is for you. Understanding some of the key risks and ways to mitigate them is a critical part of being successful in the AI revolution.
To get you on the best path, let’s examine four of the most common obstacles to AI implementation and ways to overcome them.
Obstacle 1: Trust and Acceptance
Regarding implementations, two negative storylines appear in the headlines regularly: AI has gone awry and AI is replacing humans.
This prevalence and exposure stoke fear among two important stakeholder groups: your employees and your customers. And, while that’s understandable, these trepidations can be addressed and overcome.
From the employee perspective, fear of job loss or displacement is a primary concern. Employees may perceive that the advances in and expansion of AI will render their skills (and therefore their jobs) obsolete.
In fact, recent research reveals that “more than two-thirds of employees (68%) believe that some jobs are at risk because of AI and 23% believe their jobs are at risk.”
They also may have a fear of the unknown, leading to worry about changes to their roles, expectations, and performance measurements. Further, employees may lack trust in AI, viewing it as error-prone, incapable of resolving complex issues, and biased in its responses.
Trust can also be an issue for customers, who may want to interact with humans to ensure their needs are understood and addressed while their data and privacy are protected.
In addition to the many customers that value the personal touch of a human-to-human interaction for some issues, customers also may be concerned about the security of their personal information when dealing with AI systems.
Many worry that this technology may misuse or mishandle their data, exposing them to identity theft or data breaches.
To overcome this obstacle, organizations might double down on ways to foster trust and create buy-in with these important stakeholder groups.
First and foremost, companies can build an isolated environment for AI test-and-learn activities, creating ways for employees and customers to be part of this experimentation.
These tests should be conducted in a manner that minimizes the influence of bias or prejudice, such as using the scientific method, which provides an objective, standardized approach and improves results.
Secondly, organizations can gather and listen to the voice of the employee and customers throughout the development lifecycle, including the planning, design, testing, implementation, and maintenance phases. Including these groups just before and after implementation is not enough.
Conducting focus groups to gather perceptions, crowdsourcing to generate ideas, and upvoting to prioritize focus areas are meaningful and effective ways to include stakeholders at all phases of the project.
An effective way to engage employees and customers is to have them experience AI-powered interactions; these efforts will increase transparency and give them something specific and tangible to respond to.
This context and experience are critical. In addition, this technique will help bring them along throughout the journey.
Another important tactic is to keep them informed and updated on progress, success, failures, and next actions. Look for ways to increase awareness of this important work across the employee and customer populations.
One valuable way to do this is to create a dedicated campaign with communication channels that are always up to date on what’s been done, how it went, and what’s next.
These steps will help organizations create an inclusive process that builds trust and acceptance of AI technology and its applications to improve interactions, experiences, and outcomes.
Creating a collaborative and transparent environment where humans and technology work together to achieve mutual success is imperative in the AI revolution.
Obstacle 2: The Balance of Human vs. Digital
The second challenge that organizations face when joining the AI revolution is the balance between human interactions and digital experiences. Striking the right balance is tough.
Overreliance on AI can deliver impersonal interactions, while a limited amount of automation may sub-optimize the scale and cost-effectiveness, hindering the achievement of business goals. CX leaders can consider a variety of ways to strike this important human vs. digital balance.
A good starting point is for organizations to create a contact matrix to reveal where opportunity exists. By examining and categorizing top contact types, CX teams can identify the interactions that stay with humans and those that AI can best handle.
For instance, interactions that are emotionally charged and require empathy and judgment should remain with humans for resolution.
The same is true for complicated interactions that need a human to connect the dots to resolve the issue as well as contact types that typically require multiple touches to complete. Conversely, contacts that are simple, routine, and/or mundane generally are ideal for AI to handle end-to-end.
Another tactic to help achieve balance is to define the handoff points and create smooth transitions between AI and human agents. Implementing intelligent routing systems that escalate customer interactions from AI to humans when the complexity exceeds the AI’s capabilities or when a customer requests human assistance is critical to delivering positive experiences and achieving business objectives.
Finally, over-indexing the use of AI to support agents is a tried-and-true approach. Empowering human agents with AI-driven tools to enhance their productivity and decision-making while creating consistency from interaction to interaction is a great way to balance the use of human and AI skills.
Using AI to provide real-time suggestions, recommend solutions, and offer relevant knowledge resources enables agents to respond more effectively to customer needs.
This use of technology also creates a more personalized agent experience, which comes full circle to increase trust and acceptance of AI systems and applications.
Obstacle 3: Building Your Business Case
In today’s hyper-competitive business landscape, CX has emerged as a critical differentiator for organizations seeking to thrive and grow.
With advancements in AI, businesses now have access to powerful tools that can revolutionize their CX strategies.
However, to implement an AI CX solution successfully, it is essential to build a compelling business case that justifies the investment and outlines the potential benefits. In this article, we will explore the key steps to building a strong business case for an AI CX solution.
1. Identify CX Pain Points:
The first step in building a business case is to identify your organization’s existing CX pain points. Conduct thorough research, analyze customer feedback, and engage with frontline employees to understand the challenges faced during the customer journey.
Common pain points may include long wait times, repetitive queries, inconsistent service quality, and a lack of personalization. Documenting these pain points helps establish the need for an AI-powered solution.
2. Define Objectives and Benefits:
Clearly define the objectives you aim to achieve with an AI CX solution. These may include improving customer satisfaction, reducing customer churn, increasing operational efficiency, enhancing personalization, or optimizing resource allocation.
Additionally, outline the expected benefits, such as improved customer loyalty, increased revenue, cost savings, and competitive advantage. Quantify these benefits wherever possible to make the business case more persuasive.
3. Understand AI CX Solution Capabilities:
Thoroughly research AI CX solutions available in the market to understand their capabilities and how they align with your objectives.
Evaluate different tools and technologies, such as natural language processing (NLP), sentiment analysis, chatbots, voice assistants, and machine learning algorithms. Identify specific features and functionalities that address your pain points and have the potential to deliver the desired outcomes.
4. Assess Financial Impact:
An important aspect of the business case is assessing the financial impact of implementing an AI CX solution. Estimate the initial investment required, including software licensing, infrastructure, and employee training costs.
Balance this against the expected returns, such as increased revenue through improved customer satisfaction, reduced operational costs, and potential upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
Consider the return on investment (ROI) and payback period to demonstrate the financial viability of the project.
5. Conduct a Risk Analysis:
Every business case should include a risk analysis to address potential challenges and mitigate risks associated with implementing an AI CX solution.
Identify potential risks, such as data privacy and security concerns, system integration complexities, resistance from employees or customers, or regulatory compliance issues.
Develop a risk mitigation strategy that outlines steps to address these risks and ensure a smooth implementation and adoption process.
6. Highlight Competitive Advantage:
Demonstrate how an AI CX solution can give your organization a competitive edge in the market. Research your industry and identify key competitors who have already implemented AI in their CX strategies.
Highlight their success stories and how they have leveraged AI to improve customer satisfaction and gain a competitive advantage. Showcase how your proposed solution can help you stay ahead of the curve and meet evolving customer expectations.
7. Create an Implementation Roadmap:
Develop a detailed implementation roadmap that outlines the steps required to deploy the AI CX solution. Identify the necessary resources, timelines, and key milestones.
Consider factors such as data preparation, system integration, staff training, and change management. Present a well-thought-out plan that demonstrates your organization’s readiness to execute the project successfully.
Building a strong business case for an AI CX solution requires a thorough understanding of the organization’s pain points, objectives, and potential benefits.
By demonstrating the financial impact, addressing potential risks, and highlighting the competitive advantage, you can effectively convince stakeholders of the value of implementing an AI-powered solution.
With a compelling business case, your organization can embark on a transformative journey to enhance customer experience, boost operational efficiency, and drive sustainable growth in today’s dynamic business environment.
Obstacle 4: Existing System Integration
Integrating multiple technology solutions can be tricky and adding AI to an existing system is no exception. Although integration is required to ensure smooth interoperability and compatibility with legacy systems, this work can pose several challenges.
Legacy systems that were not designed to work with AI, data compatibility issues, and scalability and performance limitations are among the most common integration complications.
At a minimum, AI integration into an existing technology stack is a complex, time-consuming, and resource-intensive effort.
To overcome integration challenges, organizations should start by assessing their existing systems against AI implementation requirements.
Conducting a compatibility assessment of platforms, databases, and ticketing systems to understand the architecture, data formats, and integration capabilities is a key first step. A primary output of this work is the identification of potential gaps to be addressed.
From there, organizations can clearly define integration requirements and identify the specific functionalities and data exchange points where AI can add value.
These actions lead to the development of a clear integration strategy and roadmap that outlines the steps, resources, and timing for integration.
This upfront work will help prioritize integration efforts, ensure a detailed and focused approach, and help everyone on the team understand the opportunity — all contributing to the success of the integration.
A modular approach is often more manageable and successful when planning the integration. Rather than trying to overhaul an entire system, consider adopting a segmented or phased approach.
A good way to achieve this is to break down the integration work into smaller, manageable components or modules.
Organizations should consider the use of application programming interfaces (APIs), middleware, or similar protocols to facilitate communication and interoperability between the existing systems and AI.
This approach has several advantages:
- Allows for incremental implementation
- Reduces the risk of disrupting the entire customer service ecosystem
- Decreases the complexity of integration, making it more manageable
- Coordinates the interactions between different systems to ensure seamless communication
Obstacle 5: Understanding the Long-Term Support Vision
In the ever-evolving landscape of AI, understanding the long-term support vision for AI in enhancing CX has become a pressing challenge for organizations. As AI technologies rapidly advance, so do the expectations of customers.
Teams must evaluate and educate themselves on the potential of AI, as the future of customer service hinges upon their ability to harness its power effectively.
By taking the time to understand the capabilities and limitations of AI, teams can unlock its potential and ensure that their services not only meet but exceed the ever-rising bar of customer satisfaction.
AI models, including generative AI, require ongoing updates and improvements to stay relevant and accurate. Organizations can plan for regular model updates, feature enhancements, and bug fixes by understanding the long-term support vision.
This proactive approach ensures that the AI system continues to evolve and perform optimally, leading to better customer support over time.
Scalability and Efficiency:
Generative AI can automate various tasks and processes, allowing organizations to handle customer inquiries and requests at scale. However, as customer demands evolve, AI systems must adapt and accommodate new requirements.
By understanding the long-term support vision, organizations can design AI architectures and infrastructure that can scale seamlessly, ensuring efficient and effective customer support even as the customer base grows, or requirements change.
Generative AI raises ethical considerations around privacy, data security, and the potential impact on society. Organizations should consider the long-term implications of AI usage to ensure ethical and responsible practices.
By understanding the long-term support vision, organizations can assess and mitigate risks, develop robust data governance frameworks, and establish guidelines for AI usage that align with their customers’ values and societal expectations.
The New Era of Innovation Is Here to Stay
We all know that the new era of innovation is here … and it is here to stay! We see it daily in the news, in industry emails and publications, and in our day-to-day life and work. Even though the risks are real, when done well, the benefits of AI in CX far outweigh the challenges.
The urgency to evaluate and educate teams cannot be overstated. As the AI landscape continues to evolve at breakneck speed, organizations that fail to embrace the possibilities of AI risk falling behind their competitors.
By fostering a culture of continuous learning and exploration, leaders can empower their teams to embrace AI and embrace the opportunities it presents.
Together, we can shape a future where AI-driven customer experiences are seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, delighting customers and propelling organizations to new heights of success.
It’s time to seize the reins of change and steer our organizations toward a future where customer expectations are met with confidence and innovation.
As always, with careful planning and attention, you can overcome these common obstacles and be successful in implementing AI.
This resurgence of AI technology is transforming the way customer and employee interactions are managed. It’s an opportunity multiplier to build efficiencies, be effective, and be poised to deliver exceptional CX.