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How AI can help businesses hedge against uncertainty

For businesses, resilience isn’t a mantra; it’s a must have. That’s why many are turning to AI – and their CX teams – to help them navigate challenging times.

By Cristina Fonseca, Head of AI at Zendesk

Last updated August 30, 2023

In the eyes of customers, you’re only as good as their last experience with you. This means that consistency is key – whether you’re facing economic headwinds or an unexpected spike in customers needing help.

AI helps teams boost their productivity, increase efficiency and meet rising customer expectations at a time when many are being asked to do more with much less. In fact, 76% of the business leaders we surveyed said they plan to lean more heavily on their CX teams this year to retain customers. The pressure isn’t just coming from above: 61% of customers say they’ll walk away after just one bad experience.

Nearly three in four business leaders plan to prioritise AI across their customer experiences this year, according to Zendesk research.

Economic uncertainty is a powerful incentive to promote agility across your business, but the benefits to doing so will have a lasting impact. There’s a reason that nearly three in four business leaders plan to prioritise AI across their customer experiences this year. AI empowers teams to deliver consistently great customer experiences no matter what they’re going through – be it tightening budgets or simply the normal, everyday pressures of running a company.

Punch above your CX weight – without adding headcount

Meeting customer expectations is hard enough without the added hurdle of a scaled-back budget. But fewer resources don’t have to translate into a lower-quality experience. AI can stretch the reach and impact of your existing team by:

Whether you’re engaging with 100 people or 100,000, AI makes it possible to scale and deliver the kinds of experiences that keep customers returning – all while keeping costs in check. We found that 68% of business leaders expect AI to drive a large cost savings over the next few years. That’s more money you can use elsewhere if and when you need it.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, automation done right can build better relationships with customers. Not everyone needs to speak with a human agent. In fact, the majority of customers are often better served by a bot, which can provide fast, efficient – even empathetic – service, all while lightening the load on the rest of your team.

The benefits of bots

Business leaders agree: AI is enabling better experiences for all involved – even with more tickets in the queue:

  • 70% say that AI and bots help to bring CX continuity when support teams are lean

  • 63% say they believe that AI can deliver hyper-personalised experiences to customers

  • 62% say that AI and bots have increased customer satisfaction

How AI can build agility into your business

Though businesses will always face challenges, they should remain invisible to your customers. Whether you’re facing staffing shortages, high service demand or a difficult economic climate, the experiences you deliver should remain the same.

Zendesk’s customers have deflected up to 60% of their ticket volume with AI – all without compromising the quality of their service experience.

Nearly three in four business leaders say that the economic downturn brings increased pressure to deliver a great experience. Here are six ways that AI can help you scale to meet any obstacle and ensure that your agents and operations are optimised to perform at their very best:

  1. Keep ticket levels low

    At most companies, 50 to 70% of customer service requests are driven by just 20 to 30 topics. AI can help you understand what these topics are and automate responses to them, freeing up your human agents to focus on higher value tasks.
    We have seen Zendesk customers deflect up to 60% of their ticket volume with AI – all without compromising the quality of their service experience.
  2. Boost agent productivity

    Zendesk AI can double agent productivity by getting them quickly up to speed on a customer’s history or issue. It can also boost efficiency by offering point-and-click responses and links to relevant help centre content where necessary. This means less time spent hunting around for information and faster answers for customers.
  3. Ensure high agent retention and easier onboarding

    We all know that attrition is a major blow to any team. Besides the loss of knowledge, there’s additional time spent having to interview, hire and train new agents. Our AI can boost retention by improving job satisfaction. And in cases where new hires are necessary, it can reduce the time needed to onboard and begin helping customers.
  4. Promote ongoing improvements to workflows and resources

    To keep deflections up and ticket levels low, AI can help ensure that your resources are up-to-date and optimised for any changes to customer needs. If AI detects a surge in new questions about a specific topic, for example, it can recommend workflow changes or additions to your help centre content – reducing the need for human agents to get involved.
  5. Build customer loyalty

    Customer experience has become an increasingly important differentiator among competitors. In fact, 80% of business leaders cite the critical role that excellent service plays in helping to future-proof against economic uncertainty.
    According to our research, companies using Zendesk AI saw notable performance improvements in two key areas: 30% faster resolution times and a CSAT boost of two % points year over year.
  6. Lower customer service costs

    Agility is about maintaining the same performance level under pressure, but AI can actually reduce customer service costs over time – freeing up budget for other important uses elsewhere. 59% of organisations have already seen a positive ROI on their AI investments in relation to CX.

Stay prepared for whatever comes next

Change may be the only constant, but it shouldn’t affect your ability to deliver consistently great experiences for your customers. Expectations may be high, but having AI in your corner ensures that you can support your customers and your company – both now and in the future – no matter what comes your way.

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