Creating Extraordinary Customer Experiences with AI and Automation

By Sarah Mason, Staff Writer
November 15, 2021 • 4 minute read

Everest Group Founder and CEO Peter Bendor-Samuel joins Amelia Founder and CEO Chetan Dube to discuss AI-powered Digital Transformation and CX.

Business operations and priorities have dramatically shifted during the past year and a half. With COVID-19, digital experiences are now widely adopted across industries, flexible workplaces are increasingly accepted and offered by employers, and — as evidenced in our recent hybrid seminar, What’s Next in AI-Powered Digital Transformation — extraordinary customer experiences are of paramount importance for today’s enterprises.

In the final What’s Next hybrid seminar event of 2021, we focused on AI’s and automation’s role in transforming customer experiences. Our guest speaker, Everest Group Founder and CEO Peter Bendor-Samuel, and Amelia Founder and CEO Chetan Dube participated in a fireside chat to explore this topic, following a live demo of Amelia, the market-leading Conversational AI, led by Amelia Director of Cognitive Delivery and Implementation Joshua Schechter. (Click here to watch the full seminar replay.)

As the seminar commenced, audience members were asked to complete several poll questions on digital transformation and AI, starting with: “What is your company’s most important business outcome?" Of those who responded, 52% of audience members selected customer experience as their most important organizational outcome, well ahead of revenue growth (16%), profitability growth (9%) and cost containment (2%). The second highest answer was employee experience (21%).

This result signifies a shift in priorities for today’s businesses, from cost-reduction to customer experience. Peter reflected on how in the past “we’ve run our companies around cost containment, and we’ve missed on the experience piece.” Although many corporate priorities changed as a result of the pandemic, the one toward customer experience is likely here to stay. “We believe at Everest that yes, it is [permanent], and we’re just at the beginning of that journey,” Peter said.

With an increased focus on customer experience, companies must look at how they can differentiate their customer experience delivery in order to remain competitive and stand out. For example, for companies in traditional industries such as banking to differentiate, they need to move from the “commoditization of the core, to the edges,” according to Chetan. “The edge is on the customer experience.”

Making an Extraordinary Customer Experience

Peter said he believes there are two types of intents that companies follow when considering customer experience: reduce costs and drive efficiency, and deliver extraordinary customer experiences.

Everest Group determined three key components to build and maintain extraordinary customer experiences, which begins with the ability to anticipate your customers’ needs. “When you can anticipate, you can really start changing the conversation,” he said. The next component is that interactions with customers need to be complete, so that customers are never left hanging with half-completed transactions, processes or inquiries. Finally, customer experience needs to be timely. Everest Group calls this structure “ACT” — Anticipate, Complete, Timely.

Although reducing costs and delivering extraordinary customer experiences can co-exist, Peter explained that companies “really have to decide which is the dominant one." When efficiency and cost-reduction are the dominant intents, companies often add layers of AI and automation to their customer service operation as a substitute for people. However, he warned that AI technology like Conversational AI is not solely sufficient for delivering game-changing customer experiences.

“In today’s world, if you want to ACT, if you want to anticipate, be complete and be timely, you need AI. You need a robust AI engine to serve that,” he explained. “A manifestation of that robust AI is Conversational AI, but that’s just the tip of the sphere.” In order to deliver truly extraordinary customer experiences, “you need very sophisticated technology [and] you need super smart people” working intimately with the technology.

For example, Peter relayed the work of one Everest Group client, which dramatically enhanced customer experience through substantial investment to deliver services “on-time and in-full,” and by deploying the necessary technology and people around that objective. The company took the bold step of closing its offshore call centers and invested in a call center in Houston, equipped with automation tools to support agents. The company ultimately reduced its service costs by three-quarters, and grew its market share by ten points, despite not intending initially to achieve these metrics.

“That’s the absurd part,” Peter said about companies that pursue customer experiences as a core objective. “You didn’t go after the cheap, you went after the extraordinary, and you got efficiency.”

A similar sentiment was reflected in the seminar poll, where 77% of respondents indicated that they sought improved customer experience as one of the business outcomes of their company’s digital transformation efforts (respondents were allowed to select more than one outcome).

In addition, 57% of viewers answered that a consistent, high-quality experience across all touch points and communication channels had the most substantial impact on customer experience, whereas only 20% felt that was true of high-quality products and services.

Conversational AI-Powered Virtual Agents Enable Extraordinary CX

Increasingly more companies are deploying AI technologies within their organizations. According to the seminar poll, 64% of respondents said they are currently using AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) in their organization as part of their digital transformation journeys.

Chetan explained that when AI-powered agents like Amelia know “different planes” of an end-users' life, the agents can provide a richer customer experience than if the agent and user were “meeting cold.” This knowledge, based on “different snapshots of [an end user's] life,” helps the virtual agent anticipate customers’ needs. However, in order to capture the required knowledge, Chetan explained that AI needs to be capable of not only being taught, but of learning on its own as well.

For the full seminar recording, including the live Amelia demo and the fireside chat with Peter and Chetan, click here to watch the replay.

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