AI and Customer Experience: The Basics + 5 Tools to Try in 2024

AI seems to be everywhere these days. What started out as something somewhat novel has turned into a full-blown obsession. Whether it’s using AI to optimize a resume or to take someone’s order in a drive-thru, it has a ton of potential uses. One of the first, however, was for improving the customer experience. 

It makes sense. artificial intelligence is good at expediting answers, which is important to a lot of customers. It can also help companies provide additional coverage and translate messages into local languages, all of which can help improve a customer’s experience. 

In this article, we’ll explore how companies are currently using AI to improve customer experience, and we’ll offer some options for tools to consider if you’re ready to add an AI layer to your efforts. 

What is AI in customer experience? 

In a nutshell, AI in customer experience is the act of leveraging AI technology like generative AI and machine learning to augment a customer’s experience. This could be done through direct interaction through things like chatbots or in an indirect fashion like making product suggestions to customers based on what items they’ve already looked at on your site.

How are companies using AI for customer experience?

As AI continues to advance, there are a few primary ways it seems teams are implementing it to improve the customer experience: 

  • To interact directly with customers: Autoresponders and AI chatbots are both ways companies are using AI to directly interact with customers. In these cases the entire conversation — unless escalated — is being handled by AI. It’s fast and efficient and can lower operating costs. However, AI lacks discretion and sometimes misunderstands requests, which can lead to inaccurate (or flat out wrong) answers. So, if you’re going to use AI to interact directly with customers, it’s good to have specific use cases and scenarios for those interactions to try and mitigate any negative outcomes. 

  • To assist human agents: One common way companies are integrating AI is to assist human agents. In this case, the AI might suggest answers or articles for the agent to share. Then the agent uses discretion on what to send or how to customize the information to the specific case they’re working on. It could also help edit responses to change tone, make a message more concise, or expand it. The efficiency gains may not be quite as drastic, but having the live agent does mean you’re able to mitigate basically all of the potential issues that arise from having customers interact with AI directly. 

  • To automate manual work: Another common use for AI is to have it handle tasks like triaging conversations. There are also tools on the market that can analyze conversations to generate things like a Voice of the Customer report. In both cases, AI handles a lot of the low-level, time-consuming tasks to free up human employees to work on more complex problems.  

Each way can improve the customer experience when deployed thoughtfully. As long as you have a plan of how you’re going to use it and how you’re going to safeguard against the potential pitfalls, you should be able to utilize AI effectively to improve your customer experience.

Challenges and benefits of AI in customer experience

As AI has improved vastly over the past few years, it’s sometimes been presented as a silver bullet for almost any problem. Though it is a very powerful tool that does offer a lot, there are also limitations. 

Benefits of AI in CX

When people talk about using AI, especially in customer experience applications, there are a few key benefits they highlight: 

  • Improved efficiency: Reducing manual work is probably the biggest sell for implementing AI. This is done by having AI handle things like basic customer requests in the form of a chatbot in conjunction with a live agent to help surface information faster or doing other manual things like sorting and assigning requests. All of these tasks lead to faster responses and quicker overall service for your customers.  

  • Lower costs: Another large sell for AI is the possibility to lower costs for a business. Because AI can handle some of the lower-level questions and tasks, it can sometimes lower your overall cost to serve. 

  • Deeper insights: AI is able to analyze large amounts of customer data in a way that human workers simply can’t. By doing so it can sometimes uncover trends and other insights that can help you offer personalized customer service and improve the overall customer experience

Challenges of AI in CX

Just as it is with most technology, AI isn’t perfect, and there are some challenges many face when implementing it: 

  • Costly initial setup: Though AI tools can save money in the long term, the initial setup cost can be steep depending on the application. There’s the cost of the actual tool as well as the resources needed to train and refine the AI, both of which can get expensive. 

  • Overuse issues: In cases where teams have an overreliance on AI, it can actually start to negatively impact the customer experience. Think about having to go through endless IVR menus. In theory, it’s meant to help, but in practice, it’s just frustrating for customers. 

  • Lacks discernment: Even though it sometimes seems like AI is “thinking,” it’s not. It can’t deduce and reason, which means that it’s only capable of handling requests that are fairly straightforward. When something is ambiguous, AI struggles. Because of this it can sometimes offer inaccurate — or outright incorrect — answers to certain questions. 

Taking both its benefits and challenges into consideration is important to do before investing in AI. The more you think about needs and potential applications, it should become clear whether or not it’s something you want to pursue.

5 AI customer experience tools to consider in 2024

Below are five AI tools you can use to improve your customer experience. We tried to include a variety of options covering a wide number of use cases. However, there may still be some feature overlap between tools. 

1. Help Scout 

Best AI customer experience tool for customer-focused companies.

Help Scout is an intuitive, easy-to-use, unified customer communication platform that empowers teams to deliver world-class customer experiences. The platform includes a shared inbox tool, a knowledge base builder, a live chat tool, and a proactive messaging tool called Beacon

When you sign up you also get access to AI tools, including AI assist, which improves agent efficiency by helping them expand, shorten, translate, and change the tone of messages and spell check them before hitting send. Currently, AI assist is available to help with email conversations, live chat sessions, Messenger and Instagram DMs, and within Docs, the platform’s knowledge base solution. 

Another way AI is used in Help Scout is via the AI summarize feature which helps support teams quickly reduce long email threads into a few succinct bullet points. When agents are able to get up to speed on complicated cases more quickly, customers are able to get help faster and without having to repeat themselves.

Finally, Help Scout's recent acquisition of SupportAgent.ai has brought AI-powered drafting assistance to the platform. AI drafts automatically generates a response to incoming email messages based on previous conversations and your Docs articles, giving your team a head start on every conversation. Help Scout users can sign up for the service on the SupportAgent website.

AI isn’t the only way Help Scout gives your team gains. You can also utilize saved replies to answer routine requests quickly, and collision detection helps prevent duplicate work by showing when an agent is already actively working on a request. With workflows, you can automate manual tasks to give agents time back in their days. Tools like Beacon and Messages can help you boost customer engagement.

Last, analytics lets you see things like individual and team performance as well as request trends like times of day and days of the week that have the highest volumes. This information can help you staff smarter, ensuring a better experience for both employees and customers alike.

Price: Free trial available. Plans with AI features start at $40/agent per month.

2. Drift 

Best AI customer experience tool for live chat.

Product Screenshot: Drift (AI)
Source

Drift is a chat tool that offers users a few different ways to interact with site visitors. They offer a live chat version where human agents can interact directly with visitors. They also have an AI-powered chatbot that can interact directly with customers. You can also set up automations for flexible conversation routing, though that feature is limited to their higher-cost plans. 

Drift also has an A/B testing feature so you can optimize the messages you show site visitors. Their Audiences feature helps you identify where a site visitor comes from and what they’re interested in. Both of these features can help you make improvements to the customer experience; however, Drift is quite expensive, so unless you have a big budget, it might not be the best option. 

Price: Plans start at $2500 per month.

3. ChatGPT

Best AI customer experience tool for script writing.

Product Screenshot: ChatGPT
ChatGPT’s default interface

Though ChatGPT isn’t built specifically for customer experience applications, you could use it to improve your customer experience in a few ways. First, you could prompt it to help write scripts for reps to follow or to write answers for common questions. 

You could also use it to analyze customer conversations to better understand sentiment. Uncovering those insights could help you improve user experience. However, it is good to know that ChatGPT can sometimes have issues with giving inaccurate information. Also, since it’s trained on the internet as a whole, it can be tough for it to help with questions specifically about your product. 

Price: Free plan available. Paid plans start at $20 per month. 

4. eDesk 

Best AI customer experience tool for conversation management.

eDesk is a customer service platform that includes a few different customer service tools like a shared inbox, a live chat tool, and a knowledge base builder. The AI layer they’ve added to their product comes into play for triaging conversations. It’s able to automatically sort conversations, which can help customers get responses faster as well as reduce manual work for human agents, and it also has the ability to do auto-translation. 

They offer a few different plans, but their AI feature is only included with their Performance+ plan which is billed by volume. User-based plans can access AI features, but only with the purchase of an add-on. 

Price: Free trial available. Volume-based plans start at $179 per month. User-based plans start at $69/user per month; the AI automation suite add-on is an additional $33/user per month.

5. Churn360

Best AI customer experience tool for customer success teams.

Most of the tools we’ve mentioned so far on the list are meant to help with direct customer interactions, but Churn360 is a little different. With it you’re able to understand customer sentiment more and gain deep insights that can help you improve customer experience. 

Along with their AI features, you can use Churn360 to create segments so customer success professionals can perform bulk actions for customers with similar attributes. You can also keep track of how customers are moving through their customer journey to understand who’s moving through and who might need some more help along the way. 

Price: Plans start at $239 per month. 

Moving into the future 

AI is a powerful tool and one that can help improve your customer experience. There are a lot of potential applications, so it’s good to first consider which areas could most benefit from adding an AI layer and start with those. As long as you’re thoughtful with how you add it to your process, you should be able to bring on gains without any pain.

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