This blog is part of our ongoing series, IPsoft’s 2019 AI Trends, detailing what we believe will be the dominant developments and movements in the Enterprise AI market next year. These blogs will be published regularly through the end of the year.

Many businesses view Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a way to improve customer service. One recent survey found that more than 90% of leading global brands use AI to increase customer satisfaction, and many said they were moving beyond simple chatbots to more sophisticated AI solutions.

In 2019, these efforts will take an even greater priority within businesses looking to bring AI-powered intelligence into applications and services, and deliver higher-value customer experiences (CX). Businesses in various industries will look at this “appification” of AI – where some form of AI is infused into virtually every consumer-facing channel, particularly mobile applications – as a point of competitive differentiation.

Businesses continue to prioritize customer experience

During the last decade, customer service went digital with the addition of consumer messaging across websites, mobile applications and social media. However, despite substantial business investment into these channels, customer experiences remain disjointed. Businesses still need to connect channels and customer data to reduce silos and make it easier for consumers and agents to find information. Innovative CX is critical for businesses competing for customer loyalty and they should not overlook the importance of user-friendly websites, mobile applications and access to customer service. By putting the customer first, businesses can influence behavior and drive business growth. As described by Forrester, “Customer experience leaders grow revenue faster than CX laggards, drive higher brand preference, and can charge more for their products.”

In 2019, CX initiatives will be part of broader companywide efforts to digitally transform and innovate as quickly as possible, and businesses will invest in technologies that align with these goals. Admittedly, some companies are further along their digital journey than others, and more advanced ones will be looking to build upon previous investments. Nevertheless, AI will be in demand across corporate departments, regardless of the maturity of their CX operations, because of AI’s potential to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Businesses will invest in AI to improve the experience across different CX journey touchpoints:

  • Tailoring ads and marketing messages to individuals in the research stage.
  • Improving search and personalizing shopping recommendations as consumers shop.
  • Providing scalable, timely customer service via cognitive agents when consumers have questions and issues.
  • Supporting customer service agents, concierge and sales staff with real-time guidance

Consumers remain skeptical about chatbots

Although we’ve been led to believe (mostly by media and market hype) that chatbots are the future of customer support, they have yet to prove their value. Chatbots’ limited siloed functionality can end up frustrating consumers rather than enhancing their experiences. Forrester goes as far as predicting a backlash from consumers in 2019, stating that: “The growing prevalence of unpopular customer service chatbots will drive a movement: to connect consumers to live, human agents again.”

Nevertheless, throughout 2019, consumers will demonstrate a greater acceptance of AI and a lessening fear of the change it can bring. They will have an appreciation for intelligent AI-driven design and on-demand support that really works. And businesses will look for AI solutions that connect applications and provide value for both employees and consumers. In addition, instead of a push for AI to take over customer service and remove humans from the equation entirely, cognitive agents will be used to augment existing tools, people and processes in a hybrid workforce.

AI-powered intelligence will be added to mobile applications

Adults spend more than three hours a day interacting with apps on smartphones and tablets, according to Nielsen. And unsurprisingly the most frequently used apps include social media, messaging, search, email and Amazon. As consumers increasingly rely on their devices to connect, shop, play games and search for products and services, developers will focus on enhancing those experiences with AI to keep them engaged.

AI will be embedded within apps to simplify processes and enrich support using predictive intelligence that can offer next-best action guidance, product recommendations, alerts and conversational tools. Vendors, meanwhile, are preparing to provide enterprises with these kinds of features depending on their business goals. For example, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd recently acknowledged this trend at Oracle OpenWorld 2018 by stating that “all cloud applications will include AI by 2025”. Industries such as banking, retail, messaging, insurance, media, healthcare and travel will build applications that include AI to enable more intelligent and personalized interactions.

Banking as the poster child for AI ‘appification’

Banks and financial services firms will lead the AI “appification” wave on their existing mobile applications. These apps are important touchpoints for consumers to pay bills, make transfers and check balances, or access support. In 2018, several banks bypassed simple scripted chatbots and implemented cognitive AI platforms to help consumers transfer money, find a bank branch or connect to an agent:

  • SEB Bank in Sweden implemented Amelia, IPsoft’s cognitive agent, under the name Aida, to handle queries from around 300 customers a day. Aida books meetings, finds nearby services, opens accounts and resets passwords. Accuracy in recognizing customer intent is 90% and customer satisfaction rates are high at 91%.
  • A global banking and financial services organization embedded Amelia into its mobile app to handle payments and check order status. Customers can extend the due date of a payment or report issues with an order. The organization has realized a 25% reduction in service costs, and an 85% customer satisfaction rating, with an average of 4,000 users and 20,000 chats per day.

In 2019, banking apps will become even more conversational, focusing on convenience and flexibility. AI and cognitive agents will be the foundation of these apps, rather than add-ons or a nice-to-have features. Consumers will converse with cognitive agents more fluidly by both voice and text messaging to ask questions, schedule branch meetings and receive tailored recommendations on financial services. With data, natural language and an understanding of industry regulations and processes, cognitive agents will be able to take actions for consumers as well as respond to follow-up questions.

Banks will need to build consumer trust in cognitive agents by showing that they offer an enhanced CX, reduced wait times and accurate answers. Banks can then create dynamic and adaptable interfaces that use AI to highlight each consumer’s financial priorities. Cognitive agents will act as personalized advisers and financial health coaches, helping consumers stay on track with budgets or savings goals.

The “appification” of AI started to emerge at the tail end of this year in a few industries, but will quickly pick up speed and propagate across verticals starting in 2019. We expect to see many companies begin to rely on predictive analytics, conversational interfaces and tailored consumer information to raise the bar on CX, improve customer communications, and make their products and services truly stand out among competitors.

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