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The Best AI Is Invisible

The term AI is usually found not far from terms like innovative, cutting-edge, disruptive, and revolutionary. Yet, things like email, VoIP, or CCaaS got the same billing when they took off and today don’t even warrant a second thought. While large language models, artificial intelligence, GPTs, and other exciting terms continue to dominate our discussions, don’t forget the customers. They just don’t care. Customer experience should be like an iPhone: it should take incredible technology and make it so intuitive and frictionless that users neither understand nor care how it works. Here’s how to take a similarly grounded approach to AI.

See, AI Is a Means to an End

Artificial intelligence is a feature. There’s no standalone “AI” software that you just run on your desktop or phone.

What about Siri, you say? Siri is a combination of natural language understanding and automation and processes modeling technologies. After all, a Siri that just understands your words wouldn’t actually do anything. It would be like a waiter that only takes your order and then stands still, doing nothing. So, instead of kicking off an automated series of steps by pushing a button, you use your voice. Language understanding is merely giving you an additional interface to interact with technology on top of the classic monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

AI is already baked into a wide range of technologies in the same way that internet connectivity is, for example. Long gone are the days when applications ran solo on your desktop. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t use the internet for anything (even if just for software updates). AI has already started down that path.

Don’t Treat Service like a DIY Store

Your contact center needs to buy tools, but your customer wants the finished product. They didn’t order a heap of wood, nails, hammers, paint, etc. They ordered cabinets. In the same vein, customers don't want AI; they want resolutions to their problems.

The best AI implementations are those that are seamlessly integrated into solutions, enhancing the customer experience without drawing attention to the technology itself. It's about creating an environment where AI enhances human interactions, not replaces them. The keyword here is reducing customer effort, so if you’re already measuring customer effort score (CES), be sure to keep an eye on it after implementing new solutions, particularly in the realm of self-service.

Use AI as your Silent Partner

The invisibility of AI is its greatest strength. It acts as a silent partner, enhancing human capabilities without overshadowing them. This is particularly important in areas where human touch is irreplaceable, such as empathy, understanding nuances of customer sentiment, and building relationships. AI should empower, not overpower.
The ultimate goal should be to create a frictionless journey for the customer. This means leveraging AI to remove pain points, anticipate needs, and provide personalized experiences, all while maintaining simplicity and ease. It’s about using AI to streamline processes, not complicate them.

4 Ways to Reduce Customer Effort with Invisible AI

Here are some common examples of higher customer effort and how they can be made easier for customers using AI.

  1. Repeat contacts – Using AI to assist agents in real time on every channel means that every human agent, whether new or veteran, will get proactive support from AI during an inquiry reducing agent error rate. This includes sentiment analysis, automatically surfacing knowledge based on the customer’s statements, automating common processes and bringing them directly into the agent desktop (e.g., a return or replacement) and next-best actions. While nothing is perfect, this will reduce errors particularly for new hires, thereby reducing repeated inquiries.
  2. Wait times – While passive, even waiting on hold requires effort and a great deal of frustration. Replacing a tree-based IVR with a conversational one powered by AI ensures that every contact on every channel can be answered at once and at least partially processed if it needs to go to an agent.
  3. Device-agnostic – Having to switch from chat to a phone call, or from your mobile device to desktop is annoying, and honestly unnecessary. Using conversational AI, for example, you can cover all your channels while maintaining conversation context independently.
  4. Customers repeating themselves – By maintaining channel-independent context, a customer may begin with chat or in a self-service process, but when transferred, the history and context come with it (bonus: summarize it with generative AI for a faster start), meaning no more starting over several times.

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The best AI is the AI you don't see. It's the technology that quietly powers solutions, making them more efficient and effective without being the center of attention. In a world where AI is becoming a staple in various industries, the focus should remain on how it can enhance human experiences, rather than replace them. By keeping AI in the background and focusing on the human aspect of technology, businesses can create truly transformative customer experiences.