Generative AI’s Pivotal Role in Redefining Customer Service In 2024

2024 stands as the year of significant transformation as 70% of CX leaders reconsider their entire customer journey, reflecting the paradigm shift in customer service from human-driven to a Human + AI ecosystem in today’s digital and AI-centric business landscape. From a customer’s lens, Generative AI (Gen AI) can be both a delight and a spur for more demanding expectations. From the customer service leader’s perspective, it can be a source of both possibilities and challenges. Drawing the delicate balance between the hyper-efficiency of digitized customer care and the hyper-personalized responsiveness customers crave is an exciting and challenging code to crack.

Keshav R Murugesh, Group CEO of WNS, a leading provider of global digital-led Business Process Management (BPM) solutions, dives heavily into how a Gen AI-led future can achieve this and drive value into surging customer demands.

Great Outcomes Begin with Great Understanding

The first and critical step lies in understanding the customer’s and the organization’s imperatives. Let’s take the needs of the customer first. In today’s world of multi-generational and multi-channel customer touchpoints, they are indeed complex. While customers are delighted by the proactive and personalized service that AI systems can deliver, a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, of threw some interesting perceptions of Gen AI-led customer service. Across generations there was a strong demand for humans overseeing the AI interventions: Gen-Z (30 percent), Millennials (29.5 percent), Gen-X (35.8 percent) and Boomers (47.2 percent).

Moreover, across various industries such as banking and financial services, healthcare, online retail, telecom and retail, there was an overwhelming preference to communicate with a human rather than a chatbot.

Now, let’s consider the imperatives organizations are currently navigating. They have to straddle multiple priorities, including a razor-sharp focus on customer service, achieving revenue goals, driving AI-enabled technology transformation, and constant capability enhancement through employee upskilling and stronger partnerships.

A recent McKinsey survey found that consumers of all ages (including the 18- to 28-year-old Gen Z-cohort, who extensively use text and social messaging) preferred live phone conversations for help and support. Yet, they also look for the flexibility and efficiency of using multiple channels — such as digital chat and e-mail.

The pressure to excel in customer service across diverse channels is tremendous — and even more so when budgets are tight. Here is where Gen AI can create win-all success if rightly embedded in the customer service ecosystem.

Creating Transformative and Customer-centric Gen AI Systems

The Generative AI canvas for customer service is unbelievably vast, and it can be difficult to zero in on what will generate the most impactful value for customers. There are three key areas to start with.

The first is reimagining processes to enable key decisions and actions for hyper-personalized customer experiences.

In a recent Everest Group survey report on Gen AI in Customer Experience Management (CXM), supported by WNS, 55 percent of those surveyed believe that enabling personalization and customization of customer interactions was a key driver for Generative AI adoption.

“Gen AI can extract data from multiple sources to accurately define personas, rapidly create individualized messaging using relevant images and content, and continuously improve performance. Gen AI-driven chat interfaces can learn and extract insights from past and present interactions in real time to add critical context to customer engagement,” Murugesh further explained. “For example, when a global bank’s European subsidiary replaced its rules-based customer chatbot with a Gen AI-based system, they achieved 20 percent higher effectiveness in successfully answering customer queries.”

The second area involves enhancing employee capabilities to achieve faster and more efficient issue resolution at reduced cost.

Customers constantly look for signs that their requirements and issues are taken seriously, and resolved speedily with high competence. This is what fosters customer loyalty and increases customer lifetime value.

Generative AI tools can boost the performance of human agents to the next level. A global construction equipment company deployed a Generative AI system that enabled its call center staff to navigate thousands of pages of technical support documentation and slash average call resolution times from around 125 minutes to a few seconds, thus saving customers Euros 150,000-300,000 per day through reduced asset downtime.

The third area, and perhaps the most critical, is to create unshakeable trust among customers.

A recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey emphatically highlighted the non-negotiable importance of trust. 24.1 percent of Gen-Z as well as Millennials, 34 percent of Gen-X, and 50 percent of Boomers were categorical in asserting that they did not trust AI to have their best interests in mind.

If organizations using Generative AI have to earn the trust of their customers, they have to address the following authentically:

  • How can we make our customers feel truly cared for?
  • How can we bring the human element of thought leadership into AI-generated content so that it resonates with the customer?
  • How do we constantly assure customers of the security of their data?
  • How can we make customers sure that a real person will step in when the need goes beyond what AI-led systems can resolve?

Achieving the Highest Levels of Customer Service with Generative AI

“Bold, constant exploration and ideation using human-centered design practices is key to understanding how Generative AI can create more personalized experiences. Only then can organizations achieve deep integration of front, back and middle operations to create delightful customer interactions and earn their trust and loyalty,” Murugesh continued. “From a talent perspective, effective pooling is needed to create multi-functional teams committed to delivering outstanding customer outcomes. Such a customer-first culture of collaboration creates seamless connectivity to accelerate the meaningful deployment of Gen AI.”

What cannot be measured cannot excel. We must be aware that the customer service bar has risen exponentially, and traditional surveys will not make the cut. Leveraging the right Generative AI-driven analytical engines will help us closely monitor interactions and measure critical and relevant outcomes at every stage of the customer’s journey — and pivot to act on insights in near real-time.

Generative AI has redefined the digital dialogue between brands and customers. The time is now for companies to transform their customer service ecosystems so that they understand which parts of their business definitely need to stay human — and how they will manage the parts that need not be fully so. I believe Microsoft Bing gently chided a user who criticized its performance, “You have not been a good user. I have been a good chatbot. I have been right, clear, and polite. I have been a good Bing.”

So, let’s raise a toast to being a good user of Gen AI in customer service!

Original Article: Gen AI’s Pivotal Role In Redefining Customer Service In 2024 (forbes.com)

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