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For Customer Experience, 2024 is the Banner Year for Acceptance of AI
With all the hype around artificial intelligence over the past few years, you’d think we would be tired of AI and moving on to the next big thing in customer experience (CX) by now. However, per our sneak peek at Metrigy’s upcoming research study, AI for Business Success 2024-25, 2024 will be a banner year for AI in terms of company acceptance of the technology.
Though 2023 also was a huge year for AI, particularly generative AI, it was more educational than transformational with 18% of companies citing it as their turning-point year. That’s not to say they didn’t use AI in 2023 or before then. In fact, more than 80% already use AI for their customer interactions to some extent. But for many, it not widely accepted or aggressively promoted. That’s poised to change in 2024, as nearly 83% said business leaders say they have begun to recognize the value of AI in the workplace.
In AI for Business Success 2024-25, the preliminary response shows about 39% of IT, CX, and business unit leaders say 2024 will be the turning point for their company’s acceptance of using AI for customer interactions. Another 20% say that will happen in 2025.
So, what does that all mean, practically speaking, for 2024? A lot, including increased spending on AI in both customer and employee experience. Here are some of the specific areas of growth for 2024:
Agent Experience Will Expand
Agent experience will become a bigger focal point, as CX leaders have recognized that with happy agents come happy customers. According to our research, they will implement or expand AI in virtual assistants for agents, transcription, translation, quality management, training, sentiment analysis, and predictive analysis.
Business metrics will improve because of the focus on using technologies to improve both agent and supervisor effectiveness. Sales, for example, will increase because of virtual assistants that leverage predictive analysis. Customer service will become more efficient with technologies such as transcription and translation. And all contact center agent performance will improve with quality management, AI-powered coaching, and sentiment analysis. The result of all of these technology improvements will be better customer satisfaction.
We already have seen companies offer their customers self-service options. That will accelerate in 2024 for a couple of reasons.
First, IT and content teams have been spending a lot of time in the past two years improving the knowledge base from which self-service applications pull answers for customers. In 2022, nearly 70% of respondents said self-service capabilities needed improvements, according to Metrigy’s Customer Experience Transformation research study. Companies have since been updating their self-service tools, added more content, and validated the accuracy of content. We expect them to focus even more heavily on data integration in 2024.
Second, generative AI is making self-service more functional, as customers can speak or type questions in natural language and get detailed responses. As of mid-2023, only about 39% of companies were using conversational AI to assist customers, but we expect those numbers to rise in 2024, as vendors have improved their chatbot/voicebots capabilities with more targeted and well-trained solutions.
Voice of the Customer Programs Grow in Importance
Without a Voice of the Customer program generating timely customer insights, any company is at a disadvantage. The information gleaned from customers directly, or through AI-based analysis, guides CX leaders on how their customers like or dislike technology, interaction channels, and agent performance. It also can help other areas of the company. For example, marketing and sales teams can determine if campaigns are effective, while product development can use customer feedback to guide their next releases.
AI helps considerably with Voice of the Customer programs. An emerging area, called inferred sentiment, uses AI to observe a call or text interaction and assign a customer satisfaction score based on tone of voice, word choices, result of the interaction, and more. In our preliminary research, more than 35% of companies are using this technology now, vs. only 15% that were using it one year ago.
AI also can read through open-ended comments from customers and provide summaries, theme classification, and links to actual comments that reflect each of the themes.
Despite all the new technology advancements (driven largely by AI), there will be more and more disconnects between what vendors offer, what companies buy and implement, and what consumers truly want. We saw this in 2023, and given the pace of change with AI, we expect it to only widen in 2024.
For example, vendors are offering many chatbot-related options, with more coming out every week. But only 39% of companies are using them, and only 13% of consumers prefer chatbots; in fact, 39% of consumers actively avoid them! Similarly, vendors are weaving generative AI into many CX offerings, but only 20% of business leaders fully trust the technology, and less than 13% of consumers do.
Figures like these tell us that we need more alignment across all of these groups moving forward. Vendors always overhang the market a bit, but the question is, by how much will be acceptable as the pace of innovation accelerates?
Education is key across the board – vendors need to educate their business customers, while businesses must inform and educate consumers and employees about the value of the technologies. That means sometimes, vendors will need to slow down rather than speed up to ensure the value of innovation is understood—and that business leaders have time to evaluate and change their processes to fully leverage technology.