Future-Proof Your AI-Powered Customer Service

AI is dramatically transforming customer service. The opportunities – and risks – are unprecedented. As we leap into the future, literally by the day, how do you ensure your organization is keeping up? Or better yet, how do you lead the charge? 

Customer service agent

I recently participated in an AI brainstorming session with one of today’s most innovative technology companies. They had formed a cross-functional team of eight people.

After we kicked off, their first step was to identify and list the core expectations that their customers have during service interactions. They emphasized that technology advancements remain customer-focused.

Here is a list of customer expectations (source: the International Customer Management Institute), in no specific order. This framework can guide any discussion to keep customer needs front and center. Under each general expectation, they described the specific expectations of their customers.

  • Be accessible
  • Treat me courteously
  • Be responsive to (and anticipate) what I need and want 
  • Do what I ask promptly
  • Provide well-trained and informed employees
  • Tell me what to expect
  • Meet your commitments and keep your promises
  • Do it right the first time
  • Follow up
  • Be socially responsible and ethical

This organization also has retail stores, so they added expectations related to tangibles, those things that are part of in-person services, such as the functionality and aesthetics of their facilities, amenities such as wi-fi, and others.

Once they had captured expectations, they created a second list that identified as many current and emerging AI-powered technology capabilities as possible. They then discussed combinations and possibilities, documenting each as they went along.

Cross-functional team meetingSome ideas were straightforward yet impactful, such as using AI to create personalized recommendations based on each customer’s history and preferences. More futuristic concepts included developing a holographic guide—an interactive, AI-driven virtual assistant—that could revolutionize the in-store shopping experience by showing customers around the store and providing real-time product information.

The ideas became catalysts for both near-term and future innovation. It was a lively and inspiring discussion.

Several things impressed me about this approach:

  1. Customer expectations guided the discussion, NOT, “here’s what technology can do, now let’s go find a use for it.”
  2. This collaboration is a priority, and given the pace of change, they hold these sessions frequently.
  3. The cross-functional members engage with peers to capture the latest and best ideas from areas such as marketing, IT, customer service, operations, and others.

Now, this is just one way to look ahead. But my encouragement is to develop your own approach that is ongoing, cross-functional, future-oriented and that uses customer expectations as the overall framework.

The late management guru Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” The world has sped up a lot since he made that comment. But you go a long way to future-proofing customer service when you keep customers, AI developments, and the combined possibilities front and center.

This blog post is from Issue #50 of The Edge of Service Newsletter®. Access this issue and past issues here.