Automation-human partnerships: CX ecosystems of the future

AI and customer ecosystems of the future
"…chat bots, IVRs, self-service portals, mobile applications, etc., form an ecosystem that must be tightly coupled with humans…. we must be thoughtful about how we work together with our machines in this interconnected ecosystem."

In an environment where any interaction could spell success or failure, organizations must consistently deliver outstanding customer experience (CX). But how do we do this? Essentially, we’re signing up to aspire to CX perfection, and do it faster, more efficiently than today, and with less labor cost. Sounds daunting.

We’re going to need help. To reach this goal, we’ll need ultra-intelligent systems that sense (and even anticipate) customer needs, automate tasks across a plethora of channels, and assist in bringing work to swift completion – raising the bar further with each success. Like us, these systems will be constantly asked to do more, to orchestrate inputs from employees, partners, suppliers, accounting, marketing, and others. And then to make decisions, escalate to humans when appropriate, and in some cases, perform work from start to finish.

But these systems do not operate independently from their creators or operators. Instead, these machines (chat bots, IVRs, self-service portals, mobile applications, etc.) form an ecosystem that must be tightly coupled with humans. As technology evolves, our roles must evolve, and so we must be thoughtful about how we work together with our machines in this interconnected ecosystem. Get it right, and customers, employees, and bottom lines will benefit.

So, how can artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging automation technologies shape this ecosystem? To examine this, Marketforce and Pega conducted a global survey of 845 senior executives across a range of industries. Here’s what we found.

Workers welcome modern technology.

Contrary to Hollywood hype and AI doomsayers, workers are not fearful of AI and automation technologies. Quite the opposite, they’re embracing them. They realize these systems will play key roles in the future of work. In fact, 69 percent of the executives surveyed expect the term “workforce” to be defined as including human employees and intelligent machines. Moreover, 88 percent say they are comfortable with the prospect of working with intelligent machines (good thing, since many already are), and 91 percent are comfortable with the prospect of managing intelligent machines. This is all great news as we plow forward into this brave new world where we must optimize AI, automation, and human ecosystems.

AI will support human workers, not replace them.

Within a customer ecosystem, the executives we surveyed view AI and automation technologies playing primarily a supporting role. Sixty-two percent expect that AI and automation will improve the customer experience. They envision these systems being deployed for tasks such as scheduling, task allocation, work coordination and routing, matching agents with customers, intelligent escalations, and quality control. And with systemic data collection, increasing processing power, and rich analytics, AI is evolving rapidly. Many expect even more applications to emerge that find meaningful insights, anticipate customer’s needs, and suggest the next-best-actions for customer service agents.

But humans will still be in control.

Machine improvements aside, executives are not signaling their willingness to completely hand over the decision-making keys to these systems. As the study reveals, some jobs require emotional intelligence, nuanced judgment, and cultural understanding that AI technologies and automated machines can’t replace – at least not yet. And although 52 percent say they currently deploy AI in limited ways to support or replace human decision making, only two percent trust AI to reach decisions without human input and intervention. Further, 80 percent would be uncomfortable with an intelligent machine managing them. In short, human workers are comfortable working alongside these systems, but they don’t want to be controlled by them.

Leverage AI, automation, and humans to provide outstanding customer experience.

As we’ve seen, workers are not opposed to AI technologies and automation-human partnerships. They believe that these ecosystems will allow staff to focus on more complex, high-value functions. Additionally, they see AI’s role in facilitating collaboration between teams ultimately resulting in better customer service.

Savvy businesspeople see these technologies not as a threat, but as an opportunity to make quantum leaps in efficiency and effectiveness – a win-win for them and their customers. For example, AI systems that intuitively surface timely customer information help agents provide fast and accurate service. And software robots that quickly fetch essential data from external systems and partners automate integrations and lead to faster resolution, plus help optimize case completion. All of this means happier employees and happier customers.

Companies (and their customers) will experience transformative results with the right automation-human partnerships

The automation-human partnership, when properly architected, brings tremendous benefits to customer experience – speed, accuracy, seamless integrations, optimal decision making, and intelligent guidance. The resulting customer-centric solutions are built from the ground up with one primary goal – serving and thrilling customers by marrying machines with people into one system. And, as the survey suggests, these ecosystems are anticipated and welcomed by workers. We should all feel more confident that incorporating more AI and automation technologies (carefully blended with human involvement) will produce unprecedented levels of customer satisfaction. That’s a goal worth shooting for.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Jeffs, Pega’s director of strategy & product marketing, focuses on AI and customer engagement strategy. An active conference speaker who writes extensively on AI and customer centricity for sites like CustomerThink.com, Vince helps clients transform their customer experience through the effective use of technology.