Most business leaders today don’t need convincing about the power of artificial intelligence (AI). They are swayed by the promise of efficient and personalized interactions at every step of the customer journey. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022 shows that 57 percent of leaders plan to increase their AI investment by at least 25 percent over the next year.

But the challenge lies in the next step after companies adopt AI solutions: using AI to improve the customer experience. This objective is vital because 61 percent of customers will leave brands after just one poor customer service experience.

Luckily, we’ve got a few ideas on how you can use the technology to improve the buyer’s journey and provide positive customer experiences.

What is AI customer experience?

AI customer experience is the practice of using AI technology—such as machine learning, chatbots, and conversational UX—to make every touchpoint as efficient and hassle-free as possible. Essentially, support agents get a virtual assistant to help them complete repetitive tasks. This means customers with simple inquiries quickly get what they need, and agents gain more time to handle complex tickets.

AI customer experience examples

At times, it might be challenging to see how AI can improve the customer experience and your existing business processes. But it can—and to help you picture its benefits, we have some examples to inspire you.

Unity, a 3D development platform, experienced a surge in incoming tickets. The company successfully deflected almost 8,000 tickets by implementing Zendesk’s AI-powered self-service options and saved roughly $1.3 million in a year. Automation also boosted Unity’s first-response time by 83 percent, and this naturally resulted in happier customers—the company’s customer satisfaction (CSAT) score rose to 93 percent.

Coda Payments provides payment services for digital content creators selling digital products. The company reduced the number of tickets and agents’ workloads once it started using a bot to handle simple queries and filter spam tickets. Thanks to more reasonable workloads, the employee Net Promoter Score® increased to 85 percent. Support agents weren’t the only ones who benefited—customers are more satisfied than ever, too. Coda’s CSAT score is currently 90 percent.

FullStory is a digital experience intelligence platform that helps companies drive growth through quantitative and qualitative data analytics. Zendesk enabled FullStory to streamline its workflows, saving agents from having to switch between different apps to escalate support inquiries to other teams. Now, agents can automatically notify the correct department directly within the Zendesk interface without switching apps. Each agent saved 1.5 hours each week—or almost two work weeks annually.

10 ways AI can improve the customer experience

Here’s how an artificial intelligence customer experience can increase customer satisfaction and retention and, in turn, boost your bottom line.

  1. Offer 24/7 customer support with AI-driven self-serviceAI-powered self-service options (such as chatbots) allow you to quickly support customers and address concerns while they’re learning about your product or service.AI-powered chatbots empower customers to solve problems independently.Zendesk uses AI to answer basic questions and collect key customer information in real-time. Our bot can suggest help center articles, instructional guides, and other resources that customers may find helpful.Plus, AI-powered chatbots empower customers to solve problems independently—no matter if it’s outside of business hours—so support teams can keep their ticket backlog manageable. With bots handling simple inquiries, agents have more time to resolve complex issues, leading to faster resolutions and a better customer experience.When it comes to help centers, you can use AI to analyze and manage your content. Zendesk’s Content Cues, for instance, leverages machine learning technology to organize and identify high-performing and underperforming help center articles. This feature enables your team to adjust and update articles as needed to ensure they’re as relevant as possible for readers.
  2. Provide quicker resolutionsProvide quicker resolutions, hourglasses in handsAccording to our CX Trends Report, 65 percent of customers believe that AI should save them time when they contact a business. Faster first-response times, decreased handle times, and shorter wait times are benefits customers will enjoy when you use AI to improve their experience. AI chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR) technology support swift, contactless resolutions.A chatbot can instantly pull up relevant answers from your help center or self-service portal to resolve customer inquiries. Bots can also filter spam messages, helping to ensure agents don’t waste their time on ingenuine tickets. Your support team’s first-response times will improve, and your customers will thank you for it.With IVR, customers don’t need to wait on an agent if their issue is easy enough to resolve via automation. And for complex issues that need human intervention, you can include an IVR greeting that encourages customers to use the callback feature. The call will end, but customers remain in the queue and can attend to other matters until an agent calls them.
  3. Reduce errorsWhether it’s a typo or an agent forgetting to include important details, errors inevitably occur when your team manually handles every customer support inquiry. These mistakes can make your team look unprofessional to customers or leave them feeling confused if responses contain incorrect information.Plus, agents may need to spend time fixing mistakes. Suppose an agent spends 30 minutes a day correcting errors. That amounts to almost a month’s worth of work going to corrections annually. Chatbots can minimize human error by capturing customer details automatically and giving agents all the context they need to handle a problem satisfactorily.AI’s ability to analyze large sets of customer data also prevents confirmation bias from creeping in during decision-making. This helps you make more accurate predictions about customer churn, offer personalized recommendations, and better anticipate customers’ needs.
  4. Route incoming calls or messages to the right agentsRoute incoming calls or messages to the right agents, two people on the phoneRouting means assigning incoming customer tickets to agents based on the type of issue and an agent’s expertise. AI uses keywords in the message to detect the skills necessary to resolve a problem and automatically notifies the appropriate agent. For example, you can direct incoming messages from Portuguese-speaking customers to Portuguese-speaking agents. This is called skills-based routing.You can define “skills” based on your company’s needs so that the algorithm routes any incoming messages that fit your preset conditions to the right agent. It can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you want.For instance, you can send a customer with technical problems to an agent who has the required technical expertise and can speak the customer’s language. You can also route messages to your agents based on their availability or working hours. Agents in the U.S. will attend to customers during American working hours, and agents in Europe will handle customer inquiries during European business hours.This epitomizes the power of AI—smooth background operations help deliver stellar customer experiences.
  5. Deliver personalized recommendationsCompanies can analyze customer behavior, demographics, and personal preferences with AI to highlight relevant products and resources during the onboarding process.Take Netflix, for example. The streaming service leverages AI to create a personalized home screen for every subscriber. When viewers create a new Netflix account, they’re asked to pick a few of their favorite movies and TV shows. Using AI, Netflix provides recommendations for similar programming and continues to customize its suggestions based on what you’re watching, how long you’ve been watching, and what device you’re using.60% of consumers say they’ll likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retailer.Likewise, Amazon uses AI and machine learning to understand the reasoning behind each query, so searchers get the most relevant results. Based on a customer’s search history, Amazon will also display similar items the customer may like. The company even offers a personal shopping service for Prime members. Customers complete a survey about their style preferences, and a consultant picks out customized clothing items for them.Delivering personalized experiences helps customers get what they need faster and provides a better overall experience that keeps them coming back. In Segment’s State of Personalization 2021 report, 60 percent of consumers say they’ll likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a retailer.
  6. Anticipate customers’ needs and potential issuesAnticipate customers’ needs and potential issues, tetherballUse AI to identify common customer questions and problems so you can generate solutions and improve retention. Zendesk utilizes AI to review support tickets and determine which customer problems are the most common. Our software can also quickly group tickets, enabling your team to see the bigger picture and prevent escalations and additional tickets in the future.Say you work as a support agent for a productivity tool software company. You use an AI-powered feature of your CRM to track customer issues, and you start to notice many customers are having a hard time integrating the tool with Google Calendar. Your team can immediately get to work updating your current help center article about the integration, so new users can learn how to set it up.
  7. Track conversation history for seamless interactionsAccording to our CX Trends Report, consumers say that having to repeat themselves is among the most frustrating aspects of a bad customer service experience—and we know poor experiences lead to more churn. Keep your buyers happy by using AI-powered bots that can review past customer interactions to gain all the relevant context they need to provide hassle-free support.Imagine a customer reaches out via the chatbot on your website and provides their name, order number, and date of purchase. The next time they reach out with a question, either via the same chatbot or another platform, that information is already saved and accessible so the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves. This saves everyone time, creates a seamless interaction, and gives customers a true omnichannel experience.Zendesk also integrates with the Netomi Virtual Agent app, which allows intelligent chatbots to pull details from a customer’s conversation history. You can train the chatbots to perform better based on historical email, chat, and messaging data or on pre-trained AI conversational skills. Plus, there are AI-powered recommended replies that help customer service reps work more efficiently.
  8. Analyze customer data to predict and prevent churnAnalyze customer data to predict and prevent churn, magnifying glass on a laptopWith AI-powered tools like SupportLogic, you can track and analyze unstructured data—like customer sentiment—to see who’s a high churn risk and give them attention right away.SupportLogic uses AI technology and natural language processing (NLP) to look at thousands of different signals and keywords from customer interactions. It can then provide quick recommendations and automatic alerts to help you monitor and analyze customer sentiments to predict case escalation or churn.For instance, SupportLogic integrated with Fivetran’s existing support ticketing system and customer success platform to pull customer signals automatically. Each customer was assigned a customer sentiment score after NLP analyzed the signals. Fivetran then used those actionable insights to connect with at-risk customers and improve their experience. The partnership reduced customer churn by 25 percent.Use sentiment analysis to gain a better understanding of how customers feel about their experience with your brand and where there might be challenges, so your reps can swing into action to prevent churn.
  9. Boost sales with botsWith AI-powered chatbots, you can alert customers about new products, special discount codes, and other information that encourages them to buy more.Say a customer is using the chatbot to learn about your company’s software before making a purchase. Based on the customer’s data and how the customer is answering the chatbot’s questions, the bot could highlight specific promotions, upgraded features, or various pricing tiers that would be a good fit for their needs.Zendesk’s Answer Bot, for example, can automatically alert agents to follow up with customers who express interest in a particular product or service. When they get the notification, sales team members can jump in to upsell or cross-sell. Answer Bot also integrates with Certainly, a conversational AI platform that allows chatbots to make customized product recommendations for individual customers.Because these opportunities flow naturally in the conversation and are relevant to the customer, the upsells and cross-sells don’t feel like sales pitches. They come across as helpful and genuine—like a recommendation from a friend—rather than pushy.
  10. Minimize employee burnoutMinimize employee burnout, stressed employeesMany customer service reps today are overwhelmed with tasks at work. According to our CX Trends Report, only 15 percent of agents are extremely satisfied with their workload. Stressed agents are more likely to snap at customers and make mistakes, contributing to a poor experience.AI can help reduce agents’ workloads. Chatbots can handle simple inquiries by resolving them directly or by guiding customers to relevant knowledge base content. Alternatively, IVR systems can address customer questions over the phone with pre-recorded answers.With AI, support agents don’t need to spend a considerable chunk of their day answering repetitive questions via the phone or chat. This gives agents more time to address complex tickets and take breaks throughout the day.