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The AI Divide

The AI Divide

The AI Divide

And how contact centers can help bridge it.

There’s a clear divide emerging between consumers and business leaders when it comes to adoption, enthusiasm, and education around artificial intelligence (AI).

That’s the bad news. But for contact center leaders, the silver lining is that you’re part of the group that has the best shot at closing it.

Here are the facts: according to LivePerson’s State of Customer Conversations 2024 report, 91% of business leaders feel positive about using AI to engage with customers. Yet only 50% of consumers say the same.

While contact center leaders already know that Conversational AI can help streamline support and provide quick, relevant answers, there’s a real risk that consumers will opt out of using it if the hype continues to fade.

This setback in consumer sentiment is emerging at the exact time that businesses of all kinds double down on AI and automation.

In fact, 84% of business leaders say they currently use AI to engage with customers, with just over half saying they’re now prioritizing messaging with AI over channels like phone, email, and ticketing systems. This means, at least from the business perspective, that we’re past the tipping point for AI.

But was this the right choice?

The data should give you pause. When given the choice between interacting with a human being or interacting with a chatbot, business leaders overestimate the percentage of consumers who would choose chatbots by an average of 19%.

This enthusiasm gap persists when asked directly how “excited” they are for AI to make an impact on customer service experiences: 93% of business leaders say yes, compared to only 53% of consumers.

Can This Divide Be Crossed?

Of course, the average customer may simply not be as bullish on AI as the average business leader for one very good reason: they’re just not as familiar with it or need some more time building confidence.

Unlike business leaders, 92% of whom say they are learning how to work with AI to better do their jobs, only 36% of the general consumer population has used AI for work.

So, it’s not uncommon for a consumer’s first experience with AI to be through customer service channels. This means that the contact center is the place where you can really make an impact on how customers first get to know AI.

Now let’s go back to that silver lining. Among the good news in the report is that despite their current skepticism, two out of every three consumers expect the way they work with businesses to improve over the next five years thanks to AI.

This means that any contact center leader who gets ahead of those expectations can expect to surprise and delight their customers.

...91% of business leaders feel positive about using AI to engage with customers. Yet only 50% of consumers say the same.

On top of that, the AI divide changes depending upon who you consider your customers.

From a generational perspective, Baby Boomers and Gen Z feel very differently about AI and automation. 64% of 18-24 year olds are more comfortable engaging with a company via AI year over year, compared to just 36% of consumers 65 and up.

And when asked if their loyalty to a company would increase if they could communicate with automations for faster service, 80% of 18-24 year olds said yes, as opposed to only 34% of seniors.

Of course, all your customers are equally important, so it’s important to remember that you can’t just flip a switch and hand over everything to newer, digital-first experiences.

Many consumers, especially older ones, still want the option to pick up the phone and call when they need it. AI can help future-proof your business, but for now, choosing between traditional experiences and digital ones is not an either/or proposition. You need both to build a sturdy bridge to the future.

How to Start Bridging

So, if contact center leaders are to lead the charge in shaping opinions about AI, where do they start in bridging that divide?

If you're a contact center leader, you might be surprised to learn that you’re on the vanguard of AI...

Below is a framework that my company calls the “Conversational Flywheel”: a tried-and-true methodology created out of our work with our clientele. It’s a way to get started and then it keeps improving over time.

There are four components to this flywheel that contact center leaders should get to know.

  1. Understand. First, analyze your conversational data from voice and messaging transcripts, and uncover the most common and valuable intents. For example, what questions keep surfacing the most? This component will help you understand what matters most to your customers: and where automation can start to make the most impact.
  2. Connect. Next, integrate digital channels like Apple Business Chat and web messaging and backend systems like CRM, data exchange APIs, and telephony systems. This will help you start connecting conversations across voice and messaging. The latter is where AI can take on a huge volume of conversations.
  3. Assist. Give your agents widgets, tools, and Generative AI-powered answers and insights to increase their productivity and train the models. Use your agents’ knowledge and insights to help fine-tune the AI without incurring the risk of putting it directly in front of customers.
  4. Automate. Finally, use customer-facing AI to allow customers to self-serve and resolve issues at scale. Automation allows you to enhance and grow your conversational data set, which then feeds back into the Understand component of the flywheel.

If you’re a contact center leader, you might be surprised to learn that you’re on the vanguard of AI, at least when it comes to using it in real life.

It’s time to dig in and start building the foundation of a long-term strategy that not only leverages AI to help your bottom line, but also to bring your customers on board with the brighter, and more helpful future of customer engagement.

Avoiding the IVR Trap

Ten minutes is not a lot of time. Yet three out of every five customers say they will hang up if they have to wait 10 minutes on hold, according to a LivePerson survey of U.S. consumers about how they engage with artificial intelligence (AI).

With the vast majority of consumers (73%) reporting they are more critical of how businesses interact with them today compared to a year ago, 10 minutes is approximately how long (at most) businesses have before their customers seriously consider going to a competitor.

This means that traditional IVR systems may be holding many brands back. While on top of newer channels - like messaging - many customers still want the option to call companies, many brands fall into the trap of believing that these legacy systems are allowing them to have conversations with customers.

But there’s no personalization to many of these interactions. And although IVR systems are intended to improve the customer experience, the lack of personalization, long hold times, lack of integration, and menu fatigue have contributed to making them a less-than-positive experience.

In fact, our survey found that:

  • 60% would skip their morning coffee if it meant they could skip being on hold.
  • 57% would rather do a load of laundry than interact with an IVR.
  • 54% would rather wash the dishes.
  • 41% would rather clean a toilet.

That’s a lot of numbers. But the big picture is that businesses must provide an alternative to traditional phone calls if they hope to compete in today’s market. Especially considering the high expectations the general public now has for customer service.

The good news is that there are digital-first options that can make a big difference.

Voice-to-Digital complements traditional contact center solutions by giving consumers the option to communicate in their channel of choice.

They can instantly transfer from phone calls into AI-powered conversations via digital channels, including SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple Messages for Business, or even the brands’ own mobile apps.

Common use cases include handling inquiries about order status, sharing product and pricing details, and scheduling appointments.

This gives brands the opportunity to connect voice calls with cheaper and more efficient channels, but even more importantly, creates a better overall experience for the customers: and makes waiting on hold a thing of the past.

Voice AI takes this one step further, leveraging Generative AI and large language models (LLMs) to safely automate calls in ways that feel more human and natural.

For example, a voice bot can recognize a customer’s phone number and pull up their account information, eliminating the need for the customer to go through multiple authentication steps.

When integrated with backend systems like CRM, it can also use customer data and history to better personalize solutions or recommendations.

Both Voice-to-Digital and Voice AI solutions are highly scalable, allowing businesses to quickly and easily add capacity to handle customer contact surges as needed.

These tools not only provide better journeys for customers and better results for brands, but also better experiences for agents in the contact centers. Thereby allowing them to be more efficient, focus on high-value conversations, and relieve the stress of multiple phone conversations.

Nirali Amin

Nirali Amin

Nirali Amin is SVP, Solutions at LivePerson, the enterprise leader in digital customer conversations. She helps brands deploy and optimize experiences on consumers’ preferred channels so they can hold conversations with millions of their customers as personally as they would with one.

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