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Top 5 things you need to do to ride the AI innovation wave

by Andy Traba

As our CEO Barak Eilam recently said, we’re amid a “technology super wave of far-reaching consequences” simultaneously shaping the world and the CX space.

I think the imagery of a superwave perfectly encapsulates the impact of artificial intelligence in transforming customer experience.

I’m reminded of 19th-century Japanese artist Hokusai’s famous Great Wave woodblock prints (some versions of which are in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago in my hometown). It’s easy to be captivated by this work of art. But simply focusing on the gigantic white-capped wave, you might miss the boats moving through a storm-tossed sea or Mount Fuji in the background if not taking the complete picture into account.

Similarly, only by looking at the big picture of AI’s capabilities can you grasp the magnitude of its beauty and immense power. After all, the sheer power of the AI wave can be intimidating unless you learn to catch it and ride it to your full benefit.

Riding the AI innovation wave requires a solid game plan, starting with the three critical ways to fast-track CX operations to surf the AI super-wave that our CEO Barak Eilam laid out at Interactions 2023.

1. Move to the cloud Companies that are off the cloud are behind the curve. They are using outdated systems that are not as scalable, secure or efficient as cloud-based systems, leaving them at a competitive disadvantage. Not moving to the cloud makes it extremely difficult to keep up with the latest trends and technologies and can ultimately lead to losing customers and revenue.

As the companies that have embarked on this journey can say, the true accomplishment lies in experiencing a substantial boost in innovation. Accelerating the pace in innovation can only be realized by replacing legacy technology infrastructure with a streamlined and cohesive cloud-native platform, marking an essential first step in advancing innovation to the max. Achieving cloud migration is pivotal and sets the stage for groundbreaking innovation.

2. Reboot your digital strategy When our CEO Barak Eilam advised organizations to reboot their digital strategy at Interactions 2023, it was a mic drop for the entire CX industry.

Digital CX initiatives of the past decade have largely fallen short of expectations. They have been siloed, disjointed and focused on individual touchpoints rather than the overall customer journey. As a result, customers have experienced a fragmented and frustrating experience.

To achieve a truly fluent customer journey, digital CX must be an inherent part of your overall CX strategy and a native part of a single platform. This means that every customer touchpoint—from website to mobile app to contact center—must be integrated and seamless.

It might be hard to imagine restarting your digital efforts, but the good news is AI is waiting in the wings to turbocharge your digital interactions by tapping into a new wellspring of information. AI has made it possible to zero in on the optimal conversations from top-performing agents to create smarter self-service that personalizes communications, anticipates customer needs and resolves issues quickly and efficiently.

In short, digital CX is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity for any company that wants to compete in today’s digital world.

3. Go big with AI—or go home As you choose a new AI infrastructure, don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Don’t create a siloed and complex “frankenstack.”

Instead, build a simple and robust platform that natively brings together all applications, data and AI to create more complete customer journeys.

Only then can you deliver the seamless, streamlined experiences that customers demand. Customer service is a highly specialized domain, and your AI efforts must be CX-specific and done at scale from day one.

This approach benefits the entire enterprise by extending and applying insights gained throughout the organization.

How to catch the AI wave without wiping out Building on the first three critical steps, let’s dig into the final two focus areas that can help organizations catch the wave with finesse and speed.

If you start by rightsizing your AI plan of attack by thinking big picture, you’ll be able to ride the wave in all the different ways necessary to enable managers, customers, and agents alike to harness the power of the AI wave.

4. Adopt a disciplined approach and timing to get wave-ready The term digital is one of those words that means different things to different people. The meaning of the word really depends on who you ask.

Digital marketing expert Tony Saldanha, who wrote “Why Digital Transformations Fail,” boiled down the issue plaguing many would-be digital strategies and pointed to the culprit: the often-murky language surrounding digital transformation.

“Around the world, organizations are spending about a trillion dollars a year on digital transformation. Seventy percent of those transformations fail. I believe that this is happening because language prevents business and public sector owners from setting the right end goal. It also prevents them from following a very disciplined approach to getting there,” he said.

It’s not enough to say, “we already have digital channels.” Your consumers want you to prove it. Organizations may already be supporting chat, email and SMS but this is where thinking big picture comes into play again. To be a leader in digital, organizations need to have a five-year plan to be ready for adding the next new channel.

Even with the digital channels they have, routing is disparate, so agents become siloed. Voice agents don’t do chat.

Chat agents don’t do messaging or social. So, the result is everything that’s great about the seamlessness of digital gets lost. These point solutions are often focused on solving a specific problem rather than providing a comprehensive customer experience. To be fully leveraged, they need to be integrated into a broader customer experience strategy to address specific challenges and enhance various aspects of the customer journey.

However, it’s important to ensure that these solutions work cohesively to deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience.

Organizations with point solutions are often confronted with additional layers of complexity as every routing rule, workflow, agent experience or report has to be different. Or integration is so complex—it becomes fragile and costly to develop and maintain.

An all-in-one platform provides a solid foundation for capturing the momentum of artificial intelligence.

A unified platform allows organizations to add channels as needed, and support over 30 different channels, and build on that when adding a new channel down the road. It’s a smarter plan than relying on a “rinse and repeat” method where you’re forced to start over with a new vendor who may not be as well versed in digital.

In essence, a unified platform will get you wave-ready.

5. Find your center of gravity to grow CX at scale A good foundation enables organizations to achieve balance. Finding that center of gravity to ride the AI wave requires an overarching CX strategy to enable growth at scale, and only a unified platform can serve as a fundamental underpinning providing stability, strength and a solid starting point for artificial intelligence endeavors.

But how do you find your center of gravity? Stay true to that big picture vision without shifting too far in one direction or another. Focus on your core goals by asking what’s most important to consumers. Once you recognize this, you can guide your decision-making and ensure that you are always moving in the right direction.

That’s what consumers want and demand. Of those surveyed, 61% of consumers wanted issues solved the first time and 31% desire a choice of which service channels they use, according to ContactBabel’s Exceeding US Customer Expectations Report. ContactBabel also found offering multiple channels means that customers will move between them as they see fit, depending not only on the quality of the channel’s service, but also on what they wish to do, their personalities and experience, and many other factors, so offering a “seamless, contextual omnichannel experience is necessary to reduce customer effort, and make sure they don’t have to start from the beginning in the next channel.”

Using a little AI here and there sounds experimental, not strategic. Also, a piecemeal approach can easily fall apart so it’s critical to incorporate AI to support interactions at every level, including:

  • AI for managers

  • AI for customers

  • AI for agents

Follow this checklist to scale your business with AI-powered solutions The following can serve as a checklist for organizations to make sure they’re hitting—more than missing—when it comes to serving consumers with AI-powered solutions. Does your tech allow you to: Support the channels customers want

  • Can agents interact with customers in their channel of choice?

  • Are you protecting your customer base and winning new customers by meeting them wherever they are?

  • Do agents have the tools to provide amazing interactions across all channels to help satisfy customers and keep them loyal?

Make introducing digital channels easy and affordable

  • Are you using one solution for each channel?

  • Can you flexibly and affordably deploy any of over 30 digital channels whenever needed?

  • Can you effectively manage the rapid rise in customer contacts, both synchronous and asynchronous, due to the influx in digital channels and scale up and down as needed by blending self-service / AI, inbound and outbound voice and digital channels?

Help make it easier to handle, administer and maintain digital channels

  • Are agents using one intuitive interface for handling all interaction channels?

  • Do managers have a single interface to administer all channels supported in the contact center?

  • Do the platform managers work to unify routing, reporting and Workforce Management across channels?

By thinking big picture, your organization can see the entire AI landscape, including all of the interconnected parts. Big picture thinking is about seeing the forest for the trees, and understanding how different tools are connected and how they impact each other. And it is about preparing for the long run.

Riding the AI wave for the long term is challenging, but within reach. Just get into position early and anticipate the future by continuing to stay centered, balanced and focused.

About the Author Andy Traba Andy Traba is Vice President of Product Marketing at NICE, helping brands create experiences that flow. With nearly 20 years of experience in product management, data science and business operations, Traba has led startups and large enterprises in driving AI-powered innovation strategies and go-to-market initiatives.

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