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AI Is Threatening Customer Experiences. Are You Ready?

AI Is Threatening Customer Experiences. Are You Ready?

by Scott DeKoster and Bailey Nelson

Story Highlights

  • Tech-driven customer service has the potential to fail fast without humans
  • Customer analytics are powerless if companies don't respond quickly
  • Leaders must empower their employees to deliver world-class care

Slowly but surely, AI is creeping into the realm of customer service and B2B interactions.

Customers are interacting with brands via automated channels every day. Scheduling a doctor's appointment digitally. Chatting with an interactive bot while browsing a retail website. Selecting features on a custom car.

Tech-driven customer service can benefit organizations and their customers. Businesses can provide more service for less money. And customers are happy when AI streamlines and expedites their experiences.


But when technology gets it wrong -- say by misunderstanding the customer request -- customer experiences go seriously awry.

This is all the more true when customers have fewer human-to-human interactions with a brand because of the rise of technology. In the absence of positive human connections, problems that would otherwise be molehills can become mountains for the customer.

Consider a customer who orders a pair of shoes online. If those sneakers aren't 100% accurate, the customer has a disappointing, brand-damaging experience. Had that customer interacted with a friendly, helpful employee as part of the purchase process, any problems in product quality would be buffered by the customer's positive human-to-human experience.

What does this mean for leaders? In the age of AI, it's more critical than ever to safeguard the customer experience and foster organizational agility. Every and any human-to-human interaction with a customer is a chance to form a meaningful connection that drives loyalty and profitability.

Consider these three strategies for leaders:

1. Help employees excel by hiring exceptional managers.

It's true that employees can make or break customers' experiences. But it's managers who wield enormous influence over employee performance - and, by extension, how employees serve customers.

Great managers fuel performance excellence by investing in their people. For instance, great managers communicate that they care, continually develop employees' strengths and help employees see how their role connects to customer outcomes.

In fact, Gallup analytics show that managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement. When employees have a manager who coaches and engages them, they have everything they need to excel on their teams and this enables the organization to deliver best-in-class customer experiences.

For this reason, hiring, training and developing exceptional managers should be at the core of any customer service strategy.

2. Use the right analytics to understand customers.

Meaningful connections with customers are the byproduct of proactive efforts, not wishful thinking. To create exceptional experiences, businesses need a nuanced understanding of what customers are looking for.

Customer analytics are instrumental in this endeavor. With the right data, leaders can define and deliver the ultimate customer experience. Just as important, analytics empower leaders to continually monitor customer perceptions and zero in on strategies for optimizing customer experiences.

Meaningful connections with customers are the byproduct of proactive efforts, not wishful thinking.

In fact, companies that use analytics to implement targeted interventions for emotionally engaging customers can realize 50% higher revenue, 34% higher profitability and 55% higher share of wallet.

3. Cultivate a customer-centric workplace culture.

Even the most advanced customer analytics are powerless if companies don't respond with action. Successful leaders encourage desired actions - and, in turn, promote world-class customer experiences -- by creating a workplace culture that revolves around customers.

A customer-oriented culture always puts customers first and equips employees to fulfill brand promises with every customer interaction. Creating such a culture requires implementing processes, systems and service values that support top-shelf customer experiences.

For instance, are employees incentivized to resolve customer complaints as rapidly as possible? Or are they encouraged to empathize with customers and go the extra mile to meet customers' needs?

In the age of AI, customer service may never be the same. But one constant remains: the profound importance of employee-customer interactions. As enterprises use AI to save money and streamline customer experiences, leaders must continually empower their employees to deliver unparalleled customer service.

Partner with us to build a strategy that puts customers at the center of everything you do. Begin by:


Scott DeKoster is a Senior Managing Consultant at Gallup.

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