Artificial Intelligence and Customer Engagement

When I was asked about my takeaways from CRM Evolution by the audio-visual team at the event in Washington D.C. last week, I didn´t doubt for a second: The theme of the moment clearly is the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) in CRM, CX and Customer Engagement. All the sessions I attended, both key-note as well as break-out, had one or more mentioning of AI in it. Some of the sessions, were about AI full stop.

At CRM Evolution I had the pleasure and honor to be one of the break-out session speakers. And my theme being about Organizational Alignment toward Customer Engagement, I did not mention the word technology at all, let alone talk about AI. But, in hindsight, I should have dedicated it some time, because the impact of AI on organizational alignment is huge. And because I didn´t talk about it then, I´ll do it now.

Artificial Intelligence is on the rise, an unstoppable, unthinkably impacting and very useful to engage with customers and employees if used wisely. But it implies a mindset change. If through AI the customer experience can be more seamless, we should be embracing it. Repetitive tasks and questions can be dealt with much better and quicker using AI technology than done by humans, this means work becomes more fun, customers and better experiences and companies would get an ROI and reduce operating costs.

Thinking about what it would mean for me as a customer, I realize that in many occasions AI would certainly save me some angry tweets every now and then. I would no longer have to shout, “I want to talk to a human being” to the Vodafone IVR, for example. And, as I learnt on the CRM Evolution conference, AI is continuously developing more intelligence: AI is learning. It is evolving in such a way that the bots, robots etc. keep on learning, are even taught emotions, to show empathy even. The secret behind that all is the intelligent use of data of course.

Let´s go back to Organizational Alignment toward Customer Engagement. With AI, we´ll have to take care of another type of internal customer. You select and hire (acquire) it, it has it needs introduction (programming), it has educational needs, it comes with an operating cost, it delivers results, it has performance reviews, and it needs maintenance. Somebody or some department needs to take ownership. It learns through interaction, it usually has a name and a role profile, so it has an employee journey.

Should it be rewarded too? To what extend does it need motivation, and can it help motivate human talent? Can it have a role in taking the Customer Engagement strategy and vision forward? Can it help to making a Customer Centric Organization sustainable? Treating AI as another group of talent within the organization, would be exciting. It´s challenging, but around the corner.

However, I have a deeper and more fundamental worry when it comes to AI. My guess is that while AI takes care of the repetitive “chores” and customer interactions, not all employees are able to take on a more intelligently demanding role. Even if they would like to do a more complex role when bots take over their tasks, would they, with all the training and motivation we can think of, really be able to take on other tasks? And if indeed AI keeps on learning and improving, where will it end? To me, it´s all a bit too “Black Mirror-ish”, and its scares me a bit.

Imagine there were hardly any average or bad customer experiences because of AI. Imagine everything goes smoothly. Wouldn´t live be a bit boring? What would we talk about during the coffee break if it wasn´t for our bad customer experiences? Would AI come up to my room in the Marriot from the front-desk to tell me with a smile how my coffee-machine works? Would AI glow with pride because it tells me it made a great decision, and would this make me go all emotional? ¿Would AI tell me all about his home country Ethiopia while driving me to the airport?

These are some of the questions on AI that did not get attention in CRM Evolution, and I am, as you can read, left with a lot of questions. I would love to have a debate about this. Please feel free to join the discussion!

This post is also available in: Spanish

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