Improve customer experience with AI and conversational service

To produce the personalised experience that keeps customers coming back, companies must first navigate a unique set of challenges that may ultimately stand in the way of growing their customer base — and their business.

By Adrian McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, Zendesk

Published April 7, 2022
Last updated April 7, 2022

 

   

     

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of customer service. This is because 73% of companies now report a direct link between customer service and business performance, according to our 2022 Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report, and 60% of customers will now walk away after just one bad experience – a 22% jump from the previous year.

Delivering high-quality customer experiences can help businesses stand out among agile competitors and translate to a revenue-generating growth engine. In this follow-up to our global CX Trends research, we’ve identified two key capabilities that are critical to produce the personalised, efficient experiences that keep customers coming back: artificial intelligence (AI) and conversational customer service. To get there, companies must first navigate the unique set of challenges that may ultimately stand in the way of growing their customer base – and their business.

A smart CX strategy understands where AI shines – and where it doesn’t

AI isn’t perfect, but there has been so much progress over the years and AI works incredibly well when used in the right places. It can stretch the resources and abilities of any service team, making it possible to deliver answers outside of business hours, introduce recommendations and predict customer needs. No surprise that AI is one of the top investment areas, with nearly 40% of customer service leaders spending at least a quarter of their budget on the technology.

Without a clear understanding of where AI works best, businesses risk frustrating customers.

Without a clear understanding of where AI works best today, businesses risk frustrating customers by sacrificing that personalised human-centric experience where it’s really needed. AI isn’t a means to an end when it comes to customer service. It has to be used in the right ways to remove moments of friction for the customer and also enhance an agent’s abilities, efficacy and reach. Unfortunately, more than half of companies admit that they’ve had an ad hoc approach to AI implementation, rather than strategically utilising where it works best.

Develop an intelligent AI approach

AI works best when it's part of a well-laid plan that plays to its current strengths. In customer service, this means:

  • Automation: removing repetitive work and freeing up humans to work on higher value tasks
  • Recommendation: amplifying the ability of human agents to be more effective when interacting with customers
  • Prediction: spotting trends that humans can’t see and helping support teams anticipate things they need to be aware of

 

   

     

Looking ahead, we’re shifting toward a future where all customer interactions will start with a bot. Customers are embracing this level of efficiency, with 65% expecting AI to save them time and prevent them from repeating themselves. To sidestep potential challenges and reap the greatest return on their AI investments, businesses must:

  1. Focus on what’s working, rather than waiting for AI to be perfect
  2. Prioritise necessary planning and training
  3. Be prepared to rethink existing workflows

Dive deeper into our data and recommendations by downloading our free new AI and automation report.

Many companies aren’t prepared for a conversational future

AI isn’t the only critical capability that companies need to deliver on promises of faster, more personalised support – conversational service is helping them build deeper relationships that serve their customers and their business.

Messaging completely changed how brands and customers communicate, but it also opened the door for a service experience that doesn’t just stop and start each time a customer reaches out. Instead, past conversations inform future engagements — including a company’s ability to tailor recommendations, reach out proactively or use customer insights to make improvements along the way.

The majority of businesses are lagging when it comes to developing the capabilities needed to succeed in a conversational future.

In our research, 70% of customers already seek conversational experiences every time they reach out. This means delivering a continuous, unified experience that begins when they first visit a store or website and extends across the lifetime of their relationship with the company.

A conversational future isn’t just possible, it’s inevitable. Yet the majority of businesses are lagging when it comes to developing capabilities needed to succeed. Without foundational tools like a single platform that connects all service channels, companies aren’t able to capture a complete view of their customers or connect customer data to other critical areas of the business. This makes it harder to get to know their customers better, personalise future interactions, and turn rich insights into actionable feedback.

 

Join the conversation

Hear Adrian's discussion on AI and conversational service with Pedro Coehlo, principal engineering lead at Zendesk, and Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

 

   

     

Conversational experiences should exist at every stage of the customer journey – not just when customers need help. But even though most business leaders say they’re making better customer service a number one priority this year, many are still only scratching the surface with their capabilities and plans. Here are a few ways that businesses can avoid potential obstacles on the road to conversational success:

  1. Understand that major changes to workflows and processes are likely needed
  2. Start with omnichannel adoption, but don’t stop there
  3. Ensure that agents have the proper tools and training needed to succeed

Learn how to build informed, personalised experiences that benefit your customers and your bottom line with our free report on conversational customer service.

Chart a course for customer service success

With such a clear-cut business case for better customer service, companies must move quickly to pair their CX investments with a thoughtful approach to change. Both AI and conversational customer service can get companies on the path to delivering faster, more personalised experiences – earning them repeat business and a competitive advantage in treating customers well.

Uplevel your CX

Make customer service your competitive advantage by downloading our free new CX Trends chapters on AI and conversational service.

Uplevel your CX

Make customer service your competitive advantage by downloading our free new CX Trends chapters on AI and conversational service.

Download now