CX Insight Magazine

January 2024

How CX Leaders Are Achieving Personal – and Organizational – Value with AI

AI’s impact is profound and far-reaching.

by Execs In The Know

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not just a buzzword it’s a pivotal force reshaping the landscape of leadership and operational excellence in countless sectors. As AI continues to integrate into the fabric of our daily activities, the imperative for leaders to harness its vast potential becomes even more critical.

The era we’re entering is one where AI’s impact is no longer a matter of speculation, but an observable reality. Its influence ranges from revolutionizing customer experiences (CX) to streamlining efficiency by automating routine tasks. The dialogue has intensified, with CX leaders at the helm, steering through the nuances and innovations AI brings to the table.

The recent global challenges, especially those underscored by the pandemic, have compelled organizations to rethink and reinvent their leadership strategies and operational models. Leaders are now tasked with guiding their teams through uncharted territories, where AI’s role is significant and evolving.

This transformation is not just about automation, but redefining the workforce. AI’s reach extends to the core of customer experience, where it’s changing the game and setting new rules on engagement and satisfaction.

According to The 2023 State of Social Media report, 94% of business leaders feel very confident about integrating AI into their workflows. Yet despite such assuredness, 98% of leaders acknowledge they need to better understand AI’s long-term potential.

The question that emerges for us, as CX leaders, is multifaceted: How do we adapt to this AI-infused landscape? How can we leverage AI not just for operational efficiency but as a tool for enhancing our leadership impact, influence, and personal lives? As we stand at this intersection of AI advancement and leadership evolution, it is crucial to explore and embrace the transformative power of AI in redefining our roles and the experiences we deliver.

So, how can we, as CX leaders, navigate this complex and ever-evolving AI-powered world?

Understanding How CX Leaders Are Using AI

Individual value from AI is critical for organizations to obtain value from AI. While CX leaders are successfully utilizing AI for operational tasks, driving growth, setting the right priorities, and investing more time in humans, we are also seeing how they value AI’s ability to help them augment their own skills and roles.

This suggests that leaders recognize that the way in which they approach their jobs is changing and that they welcome support in refining their leadership skills. Execs In The Know recently spoke with CX leaders within the community to discuss how they are achieving personal and organizational value with AI.

Execs In The Know (EITK): How do you leverage AI-powered tools for your personal and professional development? Can you share specific instances where AI recommendations or personalized learning paths have made a positive impact?

Ebrahim Hyder, Vice President, Customer Service at Michael Kors: Emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), play a crucial role in enhancing my personal and professional growth. In my Customer Experience (CX) role, AI streamlines the editorial process of our global newsletter by unifying various writing styles into a consistent brand voice, improving grammar and structure. This allows me to concentrate on design aspects, enhancing the newsletter’s appeal.

Similarly, AI assists in my DJ hobby, creating engaging social media content and visually appealing album covers, which increases my online presence. Most impressively, AI contributed to my son’s successful class president campaign by generating slogans, branding, and messaging content for his running platform. AI has proven to be an invaluable partner, enriching both my career and personal endeavors with its digital prowess.

EITK: Can you share how AI has helped you become more productive, efficient, creative, or innovative?

Paul Brandt, Chief Experience Officer at GoodLeap: Just seeing the power of AI and what it can do has been eye-opening. I started as somewhat skeptical, thinking AI was just the latest in a long string of buzzwords or the “latest hot thing.” But now that I’ve had a chance to dive in, educate myself, and get some hands-on experience, I see that is not the case. There’s a reason for the buzz around AI, and it’s because it’s real. AI is not something that is coming soon, it’s here now.

Part of what has taken me from being a skeptic to a true believer is hands-on experience. I’ve played with some very challenging and complex use cases that I initially didn’t think AI could handle. AI could handle those use cases and did it with speed, accuracy, and an almost mind-boggling completeness. So, once you understand the power of AI, I believe it opens your eyes to a new realm of what is possible.

EITK: How do you envision AI shaping the future of CX leadership?

Ebrahim: In my opinion, AI will take CX leadership to a whole new level once prudent guardrails are established. Instead of drowning in a sea of data, leaders will have AI-powered analytics, giving them real-time insights into their customers, agents, and all those fancy acronyms like key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs).

Leaders will not be overwhelmed by data; instead, AI-powered analytics will provide a keen understanding of customers, agent performance, and KPIs in real time. Leaders can shift focus from reactive firefighting to proactive strategy and pre-emptive resolution. For leaders swamped with incoming emails, generative writing tools will craft personalized responses conveying true empathy, compassion, and creativity at scale.

However, for AI’s potential to be fully realized, leaders must nurture the human touch that no algorithm can ever replace. Vigilant discernment and governance must ensure AI recommendations align with corporate values. Leaders and agents should be empowered to override AI-generated outputs that fail to capture nuance to ensure quality emotional connection.

Paul: I can’t foresee a future where CX leaders are not leveraging AI in some shape or form. AI will be a “must-have,” and CX leaders will have the opportunity to lead from the front with AI for their organizations.

EITK: What’s your experience with AI-based coaching or mentorship platforms for your professional growth as a CX leader? Have these platforms provided you with valuable insights or recommendations that significantly impacted your leadership approach?

Ebrahim: My company hasn’t officially hopped on the AI coaching train, but I’ve taken it upon myself to explore several AI tools. Consider me a curious student researcher, actively experimenting with leading platforms through extensive hands-on testing. Each new tool has a unique personality and skill set. For example, I actively play with and use AI tools like Anthropic, CoPilot, Murf, Perplexity, Rtyr, and Clipchamp. I’ve seen first-hand how prompt crafting directly impacts an application’s effectiveness and personality.

This self-directed immersion has established me as our department’s AI expert. I now educate teams through interactive presentations and demos so we collectively harness AI’s power at scale.

EITK: What advice would you give fellow leaders aiming to harness AI technologies for their personal use and learning and development journeys? 

Paul: Why wait? There are endless courses, classes, blogs, vlogs, articles, free trials, playgrounds, etc., that you can start to learn from, so there’s really no reason not to dive right in. The longer you wait to get up to speed on the power and benefits of AI, the more likely you are to miss the boat. One thing I know for sure … your competition isn’t waiting!

Ebrahim: My advice to fellow leaders would be to view AI as a tool to enhance human capabilities, not replace them. When it comes to AI, think of it like a trusty sidekick that helps you level up. It can automate tasks, give real-time insights, and help you make better decisions.

But remember, it can’t replace the beautiful messiness of human interactions. We’re the ones with all the emotional intelligence, creativity, and understanding of nuance. So, consider AI as an asset, not a replacement. Use your discernment skills to make sure it’s doing its job right. Scrutinize the results, look for flaws and biases, and be aware that AI still needs human supervision and interpretation. We’re in charge, and AI is here to help us create those personalized customer experiences.

And finally, get in there and play around with it. There’s an AI application for every possible task, scenario, or project that needs an inspirational or creative kick-start.

EITK: Can you share specific instances where AI-driven insights have led to significant organizational improvements
or innovations? 

Paul: Our agents handle such a wide variety of incoming customer requests that there was no easy way to ensure all the information they needed was readily accessible. We built a very comprehensive training environment, knowledge management system, and closed-loop feedback mechanism, but it’s still a challenge, simply due to the vast amount of knowledge needed when dealing with consumer financing loan applications.

So, seeing how AI can help assist our agents by acting as their “co-pilot,” during real-time interactions is very powerful. Our agents are phenomenal … they’re the best in the world in what they do, and our NPS score underpins that. But, with an AI “co-pilot” they’ll be able to take that to an entirely new level. This will not only benefit the customer, but will also make it easier for them (our agents), thereby increasing the employee experience, too.

EITK: How do you see AI shaping your organization’s future of customer support and engagement?

Paul: I see AI playing a major role. It truly is game-changing! The ability to further service customers and the use cases you can apply to AI are innumerable. There are just so many benefits, with very little to no downside. AI can help improve the overall customer experience, supplement your existing employees by acting as a co-pilot for them (and thus enhance the employee experience), lower cost, and make your organization operate in a 24/7 manner when otherwise that might’ve been too costly to explore. It can also help your organization with complex problems that might be blind spots in your organization today, etc. I could go on seemingly forever with how we can leverage AI for customer support.

EITK: What challenges or ethical considerations have you encountered while implementing AI-driven strategies? 

Paul: With AI being so new, two main challenges to overcome are adoption and ensuring everyone feels comfortable with the level of oversight to protect privacy. On the adoption front, various forms of AI customer tools are rolling out. So, adoption will grow organically over time. Eventually, it will be a “must” for businesses to have some form of AI to stay competitive. As for privacy, it shouldn’t matter if — as a customer — you’re interacting with a person or AI. You have the same expectations that your information is being used and protected appropriately. Therefore, as business leaders who are building and launching these AI tools, we must ensure they’re handling personal and private information in the same strict, authorized manner as we expect from our employees. This includes proper oversight, curation, verification, etc.   

Achieving Organizational Value with AI

Let’s look at a few other ways CX leaders can drive organizational value using AI.

Stay Curious

It’s crucial for leaders to remain inquisitive and adaptable. While AI may seem daunting, especially for those without a technical background, it shouldn’t deter you from embracing its potential. There’s no need to become an AI expert immediately, but understanding its basics, workings, and possible applications in your personal and professional life is beneficial.

Moreover, it’s easy to be swept away by AI’s excitement, feeling compelled to integrate it into every facet of your business. However, AI should be viewed as one of many tools in your leadership arsenal. Stay focused on the broader objectives, strategizing where and how AI can enhance your career journey and business. Implement AI only when it aligns with your company’s goals and values, ensuring effective communication with all stakeholders: employees, investors, and customers.

Start Small and Adapt

You don’t need to commit fully from the start. Begin with a manageable project or specific issue. For instance, consider using AI to streamline repetitive tasks such as data entry or customer queries. After achieving initial success, use this foundation to address more complex challenges.

Remember, AI is an evolving technology; continuous iteration and improvement are key. Embrace the learning process, including potential mistakes or unsuccessful attempts. Embody Google’s philosophy as articulated by Eric Schmidt: “We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely okay to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new.”

Fostering Employee Engagement

In the evolving landscape of work, where diverse working modes and digital connectivity tools are prevalent, the importance of human connection remains paramount. AI systems emerge as a vital tool in this context, offering deep insights into employee profiles, including their strengths, weaknesses, passions, and anticipated needs. These insights, derived from behavioral science applications like versioning and simulated dialogues, empower leaders to forge stronger individual connections with their team members. This fosters a workplace where each employee is recognized and motivated.

For instance, generative AI plays a crucial role in employee self-development, sparking creativity and innovation, and opening new avenues in learning and career growth. Personalized growth plans can be crafted, encompassing specific skill development, recommended courses, and networking opportunities.

Moreover, when combined with traditional AI, this technology can align leaders and employees with suitable roles and projects, enhancing job satisfaction and team motivation through meaningful work engagements.

Transforming Team Communication

As digital connectivity reshapes team communication, making it simultaneously more flexible and complex, AI offers unique solutions. Utilizing sentiment analysis and natural language processing, originally developed for consumer insights, generative AI can now personalize communication strategies for team leaders. This approach ensures effective reach to each team member, whether in person or via digital collaboration tools.

AI’s potential in creating a more inclusive workplace is noteworthy. While it cannot replace human empathy and reasoning, AI can streamline conversation facilitation and manage diverse communication platforms efficiently. Leaders can use AI to moderate discussions, ensuring every voice is heard, thus fostering balanced dialogue, empathy, and mutual understanding.

Enhancing Organizational Decision-Making

Generative AI significantly impacts strategic business decisions by analyzing large data sets to uncover common themes. This assists leaders in making informed, data-driven decisions. AI’s insights into customer behavior, market trends, and competitive analysis enable leaders to adopt a proactive and strategic approach.

In retail, for instance, AI analyzes inventory, supply chains, and customer feedback, providing actionable recommendations and responses. This level of insight equips leaders to make timely decisions and optimize product placement or marketing strategies. While embracing AI’s transformative role in leadership, it’s crucial to consider ethical and privacy concerns. Transparency and commitment to ethical AI usage are essential in this new leadership paradigm. Leaders should cultivate an open, knowledge-sharing culture, emphasizing ethics and privacy in AI training programs and discussions.

Generative AI offers leaders an unparalleled opportunity to enhance their effectiveness and adaptability. By responsibly harnessing its potential, leaders can steer their teams toward unprecedented growth and innovation in an ever-changing, AI-driven landscape.

A Far-Reaching Impact

AI is revolutionizing the role of CX leaders, providing them with tools and insights to drive personal and organizational growth. From personalizing customer experiences to fostering innovation, AI’s impact is profound and far-reaching. As technology continues to evolve, the potential for CX leaders to leverage AI in creating value is boundless.

Those who embrace this opportunity will not only lead their organizations to new heights, but also redefine customer experience standards in the digital age.


Real-World AI Applications Revealed

Discover how the promise of AI has translated into real-world practical implementations when you attend Execs In The Know’s exclusive virtual event – From Conversation to Reality: Rapid-Fire AI for CX Use Cases – on February 29, 2024 (11:30 AM – 1:30 PM ET).

Case by case, we’ll outline the scope of work and business value and drive into the critical aspects such as cost, effort, timeline, and risk assessment. 

Attendees will gain a valuable perspective of AI’s true potential. At the same time, also acquire insights into lessons learned and how to bypass common barriers and obstacles and address other important considerations.  

This is your opportunity to see how others have harnessed AI for CX success.

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