Consumers have moved nearly every aspect of their lives to digital channels, causing CX leaders to reevaluate the end-to-end journey. Now, the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) — especially generative AI — has further complicated this journey. But at the same time, it also promises opportunities for standout experiences to those who get strategic and organized.
In this third installment of our Considerations for 2024 CX Strategy Planning series, we’ll examine a key trend shaping the CX landscape: the convergence of AI and proactive customer engagement. Here’s a look at how we got here, where we’re headed in 2024, challenges and considerations as we forge ahead — and why we should, in fact, forge ahead.
The shift from transactional to proactive
Customer expectations have soared in recent years. Today, customers demand more than just a transactional relationship with companies. They expect personalized, real-time engagement, and they want businesses to anticipate their needs. This shift has given rise to a customer-centric approach where the onus is on companies to be proactive rather than reactive in their interactions.
AI as the catalyst
AI is the catalyst that's enabling this customer-centric, proactive approach. AI technologies, particularly machine learning and natural language processing, empower businesses to gather and analyze massive amounts of customer data, generating insights and predictions that drive proactive engagement
Having customer data isn’t new or revolutionary. Leading organizations have invested heavily in having a 360-degree view of the customer. But this data has mostly been used in reflection: We analyze data after events, then use findings to change strategies/activities. What AI is allowing us to do is to use real-time, contextual data during our customer interactions to be more proactive and offer a better and more personalized experience.
Here's how AI is helping create opportunities for proactive customer engagement in 2024:
- Real-time contextual data: AI enables the use of real-time, contextual data during customer interactions. This is big. Rather than relying solely on post-event analysis, AI will empower companies to adjust their approach on the fly. This dynamic adaptation will result in more immediate and relevant responses, enhancing the overall customer experience.
- Emotion analysis: AI will have the capacity to analyze customer emotions based on text, voice, or facial expressions. This analysis can help companies gauge customer sentiment and respond proactively to address concerns or provide support.
- Predictive analytics: AI algorithms can analyze historical customer data to predict future behavior. For instance, they can anticipate when a customer might need a product refill, schedule maintenance, or upgrade their subscription. This enables companies to reach out to customers at precisely the right moment, offering valuable solutions.
- Smarter chatbots and virtual assistants: Chatbots powered by AI have evolved significantly. The chatbot that asks, “How can I help you?” when a customer has been sitting idle on a webpage for 30 seconds will be replaced by meaningful, context-aware responses based on the customer’s unique journey. These chatbots will engage customers more effectively and at the right times, enhancing their experience.
- Knowing precisely when human guidance is needed: AI won’t replace human support, but it can help identify and predict exactly when human guidance is needed. By getting smarter about pinpointing these moments and “reaching in” with human guided CX, we can provide more seamless and positive experiences.
- Omnichannel integration: AI will help in connecting customer data and interactions across various channels, allowing businesses to maintain a consistent and proactive approach regardless of where customers engage with them.
- Personalized recommendations: AI-driven recommendation engines will become even more sophisticated in 2024. They will analyze customers' past behaviors, preferences, and the behavior of similar customers to suggest products or content tailored to the individual. This personalization will enhance customer satisfaction and drive sales.
In the realm of customer experience (CX), AI has been used to engage customers and enhance the efficiency of human agents during interactions. However, when deployed on a larger scale, organizations can leverage the data gathered to create a more proactive and personalized experience.
There are opportunities for drastic improvements in the customer journey, and customers see it too: according to Ipsos, 66% agree that AI-powered products and services will significantly change their daily life in the next 3-5 years. Companies that adapt and harness the power of AI in 2024 will provide exceptional experiences that boost retention, lift sales, and improve brand image.
Challenges and considerations
Implementing an AI-driven proactive CX strategy is not without challenges. A key challenge will be fostering human-AI collaboration. While AI can handle many tasks, it's essential to strike the right balance between automation and the human touch. Businesses must determine which interactions require empathy, complex decision-making, or situational understanding and ensure that these areas are managed by humans.
Companies will also need to ensure data privacy, transparency in AI decisions, and continuously refine AI models to avoid bias and errors. Slightly over half of consumers say that products and services that use AI make them nervous, making it important that customers feel secure and taken care of. When they understand when AI is being used and how, they won’t feel swindled by it. It’s a relatively new technology, so some education is needed to assure consumers that AI is being used to benefit them, not take advantage of them.
Why CX should embrace AI
So, why should CX embrace AI? Tom Martin, CEO, and David Butler, SVP Product & Strategy, recently shared their answers. They discuss how enterprises can leverage AI to improve customer experience without compromising data security, privacy, or ethics. Watch the presentation now by clicking the link below, and prepare for a future of CX excellence by implementing AI strategically.
Watch: Why CX Should Embrace AI