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One in three firms look to AI to boost customer experience

Pranay Desai, head of enterprise marketing at Freshworks.
Pranay Desai, head of enterprise marketing at Freshworks.

About 30% of SA’s businesses are currently experimenting with integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into their customer service channels, while 16% have already deployed AI. On the other end of the scale, 25% have not adopted AI in any form at all.

These are some of the key findings of the recent AI & CX Survey that was conducted by ITWeb, in partnership with cloud-based customer engagement software provider, Freshworks.

"The survey found that 46% of respondents have implemented, or are experimenting with, AI in customer service. In the coming months, AI will play a major role in improving the customer experience with instant service.

Companies that have implemented AI will find it easier to optimise their contact centre costs by managing high workloads without adding staff," says Pranay Desai, head of enterprise marketing at Freshworks.

Those who have adopted AI, or are at least experimenting with it, are mostly using it to detect customer frustration and deflect routine customer queries.

While 33% of respondents believe AI provides insights and ‘next best actions’ within their helpdesk, 13% declared they use AI but are not sure if it helps.

The survey found that 46% of respondents have implemented, or are experimenting with, AI in customer service.

According to the survey, by far the biggest barrier to AI adoption is the challenge of integrating AI into existing processes. Lack of know-how, company culture and change management issues also make the top-three problem list.

"Most companies are unsure of where to start or how to integrate AI into their business processes; it's up to the vendors to make it simple,” comments Desai.

“For our part, Freshworks offers nocode chatbots that can be configured and deployed in minutes. The AI technology in our products can be used to automate workflows, help agents with actions and data entry, and works out-of-box without any configuration."

An overwhelming majority of respondents expect that using AI should improve customer engagement and overall customer experience, as well as streamline and automate operations.

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When it comes to what organisations are providing in terms of self-service, nearly 60% offer customers knowledge-based articles, and 40% make use of chatbots and have an online discussion forum.

Despite all the talk about the customercentric CX-driven economy we live in, the survey shows that customer service is too often seen as a cost centre. "While 53% of all companies still view customer service as a cost centre, our research has found that 56% of consumers have stopped doing business with brands due to a bad experience,” says Desai. “Experience has overtaken brand and price as the driver for purchase decisions and most companies have still not adapted to this reality."

Having a single view of the customer is the ultimate goal, but what’s hampering companies from attaining it? Most often, the reason (cited by 36% of respondents) is that they have multiple customer channels that are not integrated.

It’s evident that current or future investment in AI is expected to bring significant benefits, most notably the ability to implement strategic business innovation and achieve incremental cost reductions and revenue growth.

Finally, the survey asked respondents who is in charge of CX strategy and implementation. In 24% of the participating companies, it’s the CEO; in 23% it’s the CIO; and only 14% have a dedicated customer experience officer. Interestingly, chief marketing officers are involved in only 4% of the cases.

About the survey

The 2020 ITWeb/Freshworks AI & CX Survey ran on ITWeb during April and was completed by 318 respondents from a range of customer-facing industry sectors.

Of the respondents, 70% are decision-makers, with 26% being C-level executives and a further 44% in mid management roles.

Follow the Key Findings and the Graphs links