The Human-AI Balance Needed for Great CX

Bernie Lillis

Senior Vice President, Sales
, Altiam CX
April 17, 2024
min read

Everyone in the customer experience (CX) industry is focused on the potential and disruption connected to incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Let’s look closer at this source of potential growth and explore its impact on CX services in detail.

Start every initiative with customers

To start, customers are the lifeblood of any business, and their satisfaction hinges on our ability to meet their needs seamlessly. Repetitive tasks such as password resets, store hour inquiries, and billing questions lend themselves easily to AI and automation. These processes are predictable and occur frequently. After all, in many customer care settings, nearly 60% of interactions involve tasks like these and could be facilitated by AI and then complemented by live agent support.

Finding the AI-people balance

But where is the balance, and how do we strike it? It's crucial to ensure that our drive towards automation doesn't dehumanize customer interactions. The future CX model I and my colleagues envision over the next 18months sees live agents focusing on complex or emotionally charged conversations. These are the interactions where empathy and reassurance are paramount – areas where technology, as of now, cannot replicate the human touch.

Industry-specific considerations

In some industries, change will likely be embraced more quickly – retail being a prime example. Yet, we must also consider the varying emotional weight of different interactions. Daily banking tasks might lend themselves to automation, but when the decisions become significant – say, a major purchase or investment – then human conversation will continue to play an essential role in the transaction.

The role of demographics

We mustn't ignore demographics. Younger customers might have a preference for automated interactions, whereas more seasoned customers might value a personal touch. Recognizing these preferences is critical – it's not about replacing people with technology wholesale; it's about augmenting the human experience with AI where appropriate.

Keeping cost top of mind

Cost remains an essential factor in every decision regarding the CX function. However, we cannot let cost-cutting undermine customer satisfaction. The pursuit of efficiency should not mean a deterioration in service standards. We must meet our customers where they prefer to be met – adapting our processes to ensure those who want automation to get it and those desiring human contact receive it without compromise.

Incorporating AI with an eye to the future

Looking ahead, every client needs to envision how CX operations, incorporating AI and automation, can be central to planned growth and expansion. What will help is if any integration of AI into customer acquisition and retention strategies can be fluid and intuitive. Customer support starts the moment a customer engages with a company, and the most effective AI system will help reduce the need for reactionary support interactions – instead, allowing for a proactive and predictive engagement model. Correctly used, this technology will enhance customer loyalty and provide invaluable data that refines and personalizes every customer journey.

The power of data for better CX

Envision the data that will be collected and used to drive AI and automation systems. These insights into customers’ behaviors and preferences are a true goldmine. One elementary example is for a company like McDonald's that tailors offers to customers based on app usage, or even Amazon, whose predictive algorithms suggest reorders. The actionable data we gather will forge the path to a more personalized and efficient CX landscape. This data-driven approach can adjust your inventory, customize special offers, and increase engagement in near real-time, leaving your customers feeling understood and your business more agile.

AI also means challenges

Yet, the journey to CX automation isn't without obstacles. ACX operation can become a hindrance if it loses sight of its purpose. A good example is when a too-long Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system or prohibitive wait time turns what should be a simple interaction into a frustrating ordeal. In my experience, nothing disincentivizes repeat business or encourages customers to look elsewhere like a poor support experience.

What’s stopping the thoughtful move into AI

Where are businesses falling short in integrating AI into CX strategies? Often, it's in the lack of forward thinking. AI and automation are not merely passing trends. We're past the era where we marvel at the novelty of ordering a pizza without talking to a human – it's now an expectation. But this doesn't lessen the need for human-centric thinking. We must never let our customers feel like just another number in an algorithm. AI has already started transforming CX, but we're only scratching the surface of the good it can do and the progress it can facilitate. As we continue to adopt these technologies, let's do so with strategic purpose, empathetic foresight, and a commitment to balancing efficiency with the irreplaceable human element. Our customers deserve no less.

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