The Future of CX: How AI-driven Conversation Intelligence Is Revolutionizing CRM
Customer experience has evolved rapidly into a foundational priority for any customer-facing business, particularly for organizations working with or within the CRM space. At the same time, artificial intelligence has vaulted to a top-of-mind consideration for businesses of all sizes, led by technology, sales, marketing, and customer relationship professionals. With so much focus on the theoretical contributions of AI, what is happening now and how does it affect businesses and the future of customer experience?
Conversation intelligence is an avenue of AI that is shaping customer interactions today by helping businesses harness vast amounts of data to predict customer needs, as well as monitor customer sentiment and intent, all of which in turn inform customer-facing strategies. Beyond supplying timely consumer data previously not available, conversation intelligence, driven by generative AI, directly informs business decisions and actions that have immediate bottom-line impacts.
Specifically, the rise of large language models (LLMs) and generative AI have quickly enabled a slew of new consumer-to-business use cases, as they can gather and process vast amounts of unstructured data and efficiently turn that into easily understandable and actionable insights for businesses. For those industries where voice and text conversations are common, such as automotive, home services, and insurance, this opens a new world of possibilities, provided you’re actually capturing these valuable data assets.
Unstructured data is information that has no predefined format or category, making it challenging to collect, process, or analyze. For example, phone conversations, text and chat conversations, and even social media and reputation posts and interactions are all unstructured data. It is widely believed that anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent of data generated and collected by an organization is unstructured data. From a CRM perspective, tracking and understanding this data at scale can be invaluable to an organization, but until recently those efforts have been sporadic at best.
Today, however, generative AI has the ability to process what had been largely unusable data into content that unlocks opportunities at all levels of CRM, in ways that were either previously unattainable or wildly expensive. This is already affecting and improving customer experience in areas that include
- managing one-to-one customer relationships;
- improving store-level performance; and
- aiding enterprise-wide customer analysis.
Let's explore the technology's impact in these areas in a little more detail.
One-to-One Customer Relationships
The concept of improved one-to-one marketing has been the promise of technology throughout past decades. Many elements are in place now. For example, customer journey mapping is today using structured data signals from (mostly) online activity to determine individualized actions. Generative AI’s ability to consume and process unstructured data allows us to unlock those conversations.
The result is much more human than technology-focused. Consider that if given the time, businesses would prepare for all interactions with their customers by reviewing histories, listening to or reading past conversations to understand the appropriate style of communication, along with previous priorities and asks. Generative AI can provide this analysis in near real time for every customer in your CRM, when you need it. Further, it can even begin to provide an analysis of how other, similar customers behaved next. Or how they reacted to specific offers or scenarios.
Generative AI can also positively impact store-level customer experience today. By consuming and processing vast amounts of unstructured data, such as customer phone and text interactions, it can score conversations for bad and good experiences—and everything in between. Beyond this, the conversational intelligence can discover the “why,” meaning specific behaviors, responses, or topics that are driving positive or negative sentiment. Then it provides actionable content as a basis to train employees to make needed corrections and adjustments.
From a reputation management lens, conversation intelligence can easily identify those customers who, beyond just having a positive experience, demonstrate a real commitment to your stores or brand. For CRM uses, this provides the basis to deepen conversations with them and potentially ask them to provide a positive review for your business. Additionally, generative AI can partially or fully automate meaningful responses to customers with negative or questioning feedback.
At the enterprise level, generative AI can objectively identify specific stores or regions where there are deficiencies in terms of delivering positive customer experiences. It can also help with new product and process performance issues. Now, instead of waiting for months to get feedback from traditional quantitative surveys, enterprises can harvest near-real-time consumer conversations to understand sentiments toward their product or service. It can also identify any points of confusion, as well as specific gaps in employee knowledge or training.
Conversation intelligence and generative AI can inform enterprises on trends in the voices and emotions of their consumers. By analyzing real conversations with real customers, AI today can identify factors such as regional differences in customer sentiment, satisfaction, and overall quality of experience—making it easy for enterprises to assess which differences are significant enough that they need to be addressed.
In today’s hyper-connected digital landscape, where customer satisfaction can make or break a business, having such unparalleled real-time insight into the emotional state of customers is invaluable. Conversation analytics provides companies with an intimate understanding of customer emotions, transcending the often-lagging indicators of online ratings, like Google reviews, allowing businesses to peer into the heart of customer experience with an immediacy that was previously impossible. This real-time window into the customer’s emotional journey enables companies to be proactive, addressing issues before they escalate into public, negative online reviews.
By unlocking the value of troves of unstructured conversation data from CRMs, enterprises can more thoroughly assess customer needs, sentiment, and intent.
All of this aligns with the perspective of McKinsey and Company, who astutely stated, “The new battleground is customer experience.” In this new era, those who harness the power of AI to provide excellent customer experience will undoubtedly emerge as leaders in this fierce arena, redefining what it means to truly excel in customer service and business.
Cullen Davidson is VP of product management for Marchex, an AI-powered conversation intelligence company.