• June 7, 2023
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com, Chris Cronis, Managing editor of CRM magazine

NICE's CX Head Doubles Down on Automation and AI at Interactions

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Customer experience today is far from what it was just a few short years ago, and that has caused NICE to renew its focus recently, Barry Cooper, president of the CX Division at NICE, said today in an exclusive interview with CRM magazine during his company's Interactions event in New York.

Customer experience has expanded from one-way communications that companies had with their customers to two-way, asynchronous interactions over multiple channels and modes of communications, according to Cooper.

Barry Cooper, president of the NICE CX DivisionCustomer experience has also expanded outside of the contact center to encompass all of the means by which companies and customers communicate with each other, he said, pointing out that contact centers only comprise 20 percent of the customer experience, with 80 percent of activities taking place outside the contact center.

NICE, Cooper said, is still very much focused on the contact center, "but there is no way to avoid the other channels of contact."

That has brought NICE into other areas of CRM, including sales and marketing. The company had already touched on sales because many contact centers have adopted a sales function, but marketing is increasingly coming into play as well because of social media. For many companies, social media interactions, even those related to customer service issues, are often managed by the marketing department, according to Cooper.

Automation has also extended customer experience, he said, noting that new capabilities allow companies to identify customer intents and then see which of them might be ripe for automation. It also takes into account all the ways that customers can express their intents and say what they want to do, and then refines company knowledge repositories to provide the best and most relevant information to customers, agents, and bots to resolve issues quickly.

Along with automation has come artificial intelligence, which Cooper said "over the next 10 years will completely transform the customer experience space."

Currently, only about 5 percent of companies have embraced AI, according to Cooper, but in the next two years that will grow to 20 percent to 25 percent, he said.

And in 10 years,"the vast majority of CX will be delivered by AI," Cooper said.

Humans, he added, will still have a role, but they will have more of a supervisory role, stepping in when the AI cannot deliver what the customer wants.

As AI technology develops, it will"move up the value chain" by handling more complex tasks.

And though it is not a widely held belief, Cooper feels that AI will one day be able to act with empathy and personalization, two qualities that many have said only humans will be able to provide.

The rise of AI, though, will require companies to be more transparent, Cooper said, noting that companies will need to tell consumers that AI is making decisions and be able to show that those decisions are free from bias.

And while many tech executives have called for a pause on AI development, Cooper agrees that AI should be subject to some regulations, but he does not expect them to come from government. Companies will have to self-regulate on their own at first, he said.

And then, it is important for companies not to focus too much on quick fixes by technologies like automation and AI. "The days of creating technology to solve everything on day one have died," Cooper said, highlighting the need for a more iterative approach to technology development.

"After all, the customer experience is a journey, not a single step," he concluded.

Echoing His Keynote

Cooper's thoughts on AI reflect a greater focus on the technology by NICE, which made it a main theme of the Interactions conference this year. The major product news coming out of the conference was the expansion of NICE's Enlighten AI engine with generative AI capabilities.

Fueled by generative artificial intelligence, NICE's Enlighten AI for CX solution is "now more accessible and humanlike than ever before," Cooper said in his morning keynote that opened the second day of the conference.

Enlighten has advanced to where customers can access self-service that is "as effective as your best agents"; agents become "super-powered"; and customer service leaders can identify and operationalize CX improvements with the click of a button, Cooper said.

The conference has highlighted Enlighten's new product extensions, Autopilot, Copilot, and Actions, designed for customer self-service, agent guidance, and operations, respectively. Cooper' presentation demonstrated how these AI-powered tools, part of NICE's CXone cloud con tact center platform, can be put to effective use.

A video shown on the massive screen behind Cooper depicted a customer changing her hotel reservation and flight with Enlighten Autopilot while working out at home; another depicted a travel agent, assisted by Enlighten Copilot, quickly helping an angry customer who had mistakenly gone to the wrong hotel; and a third showed a contact center leader using Enlighten Actions to deploy a global solution to a bug that was causing a spike in call volume.

These capabilities are made possible, Cooper contended, because of Enlighten's hundreds of prebuilt AI models, created from billions of interactions and embedded in all of the cloud platform's applications, are now combined with generative AI.

The resulting unified platform contrasts sharply with the so-called "Frankenstacks," consisting of siloed point solutions loosely woven together, he said. "CXone converges traditional contact center capabilities of voice, routing, and {workforce engagement management] with the digital doorsteps of web search, websites, mobiles apps, and smart self-service."

This unity is critical, he said, because it means "consumers can interact with businesses in many ways, seamlessly and without repetition." Seamless interactions aren't possible with companies saddled with Frankenstacks because customer data is stuck in silos, Cooper said.

And the problems extend to agents and the larger business: "Agents need to manage increasingly complex and frustrating work environments, manually navigating between different solutions. And the business is often left stalled, not being able to deploy new capabilities without complex integrations and endless upgrades."

Cooper closed by exhorting companies to keep all of CX's stakeholders in mind. "Let's transform fragmented consumer experiences so they're as good as our experiences with our closest friends and family. Let's provide agents with the capabilities to achieve the superhuman. And let's get your business delivering exceptional AI-powered CX while reducing expenses."

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