A 7-Step Guide to Implementing AI in Consumer-Focused Businesses

This is part 3 in a conversation on humanizing AI. In this post, we highlight seven practical steps to implement AI in your contact center to enhance your team and drive growth.

May 24, 2023
10 min read
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A 7-Step Guide to Implementing AI in Consumer-Focused Businesses

Hi again! My name is Marc Chabot and I am the Chief Revenue Officer at Zingtree, responsible for leading the go-to-market team. This is part 3 in a conversation on humanizing artificial intelligence.

In my prior posts — Is AI Good or Evil? and Where Humans Remain in Control — I explored the debate around AI and its positive and negative possibilities, including areas where AI is limited and how AI can successfully augment humans. 

AI can’t completely replace humans, especially in interactions where empathy and emotional intelligence are required. At the same time, there are some very practical and powerful ways AI can augment the humans on your contact center teams. 

In this post, I highlight seven practical steps to implement AI in your contact center. AI can make a significant impact within the customer service and customer experience environment. 

By following this seven-step approach, businesses can successfully prepare themselves to augment their teams with AI, enhancing customer service and driving business growth and efficiency.

Step 1: Articulate Business Intent

Business intent refers to the specific goals you’re trying to achieve through your strategy and actions. It’s about the desired outcomes you’re after. When you articulate business intent, you’re providing a clear direction and focus to shape how your company operates. 

The concept of business intent is closely tied to your company's brand promise and corporate values.

Brand promise

Your brand promise is the commitment your company makes to your customers regarding the value and experience they can expect from your products, services, and interactions.Your brand promise represents your unique selling proposition and includes the emotional connection you’re hoping to create with your audience. 

Business intent helps your set objectives that align with your brand promises.

For example, if your brand promise is to provide innovative and user-friendly technology solutions, your business intent may include goals like developing cutting-edge products, enhancing user experience, and delivering exceptional customer support.

Your business intent ensures that your actions and strategies are focused on fulfilling the brand promise, building trust and loyalty among your customers.

Corporate values

Corporate values are fundamental beliefs and principles that guide the behavior and decision-making at your company. 

These values define your company culture, ethics, and the way you do business. Your  business intent should always align with your corporate values, ensuring consistency and integrity in your company’s actions.

For instance, if your corporate values emphasize transparency, integrity, and customer-centricity, your business intent should reflect these values by prioritizing initiatives such as open communication, ethical practices, and a strong focus on customer satisfaction. The business intent reinforces your commitment to your values, creating a cohesive and purpose-driven organization.

Business intent, brand promise, and corporate values are interconnected concepts that work together to shape the strategic direction and actions of your company. By aligning these elements, you can establish a strong foundation for your operations, build a positive brand image, and create long-term value for your customers and stakeholders.

Before implementing AI, it’s crucial to clearly articulate the business intent—your objectives for AI—and to consider how it aligns with your brand promise and values.

When it comes to AI in your contact center, that means you need to identify the goals and objectives you’re trying to achieve. Whether it is improving response times, enhancing personalization, or streamlining processes, having well-defined goals that align with your brand promise and values will guide your AI implementation strategy.

Step 2: Humanize Your Approach

While AI technology can provide significant advantages, customers still value human interaction. Humanize your approach by finding the right balance between AI automation and human touch. 

AI should complement human efforts, not replace them entirely

Consider where and how AI can be used to support your contact center agents, empowering them to deliver better service and enabling them to focus on more complex customer interactions.  

Your AI strategy should define how AI can augment your team based on its ability to do things that would be difficult or impossible for a human to do alone. This can include analyzing data, predictive analytics, natural language processing, and automation of tasks and processes. 

For instance, an online retailer can use AI to analyze customer data and identify patterns in buying behavior. 

This information can then be used to inform targeted marketing campaigns and personalize the customer experience. However, when a customer reaches out to the contact center with a complex question or concern, a human agent should be available to provide personalized assistance and ensure a positive customer experience.

Ensure your team is trained on how to leverage AI strategically. Key areas to train them in include:

  • Making better judgements aligned with your business intent, brand promise, and company values 
  • Building better relationships with your customers
  • Helping your team leveraging their creativity in solving new problems and finding new solutions  
  • Reaching agreements with customers
  • Providing feedback
  • Expressing empathy and creating connections

Step 3: Keep it Secure

As AI technology becomes more prevalent, ensuring the security and privacy of customer data is paramount

Businesses that adopt AI in their contact centers should—at a minimum—take these three practical steps towards data security:

  1. Implement robust security measures to protect sensitive customer information. 
  2. Adhere to data protection regulations and industry best practices to build trust with your customers. 
  3. Transparently communicate your security measures to customers to instill confidence in your AI-powered contact center.

There are literally hundreds of brand new AI solution vendors rushing products to market. As off-the-shelf AI solutions become more available and more useful, many leaders feel a desire to quickly implement solutions to gain new insights and efficiencies. 

AI can have a big impact on your contact center, but this rush to implement AI can create vast risk to your business if you don’t understand how the AI black box leverages your data or makes recommendations.  

To safeguard the security and privacy of your customer data, it’s essential to answer the following questions:

  • System and Data Security: How is the AI system secured? Is your data secured in transit and at-rest? Did the system get trained on data that it should not have and does not have proper rights to? Will your security team approve this solution?
  • Data Privacy: What data is acceptable to share with the AI systems? How do the AI systems use the data? Is it used to train the models, will it become available outside of your use cases, can you stop the sharing of the data?
  • System Compliance: What is the level of compliance of this system vis-a-vis the type of use you intend (soc2 type2, PII, PCI, HIPAA, GDPR)?

Once you answer these critical questions, you can establish a framework for rationalizing your security and risk profile for different AI use cases.

Step 4: Keep it Simple

To successfully begin using AI in your contact center, you should focus on making agent and customer interactions easier. Make customer interactions easy to understand, simple to perform, and focused on achieving the goal. 

Complex AI systems can lead to confusion and frustration.

When properly designed and deployed, AI is an incredibly powerful tool that can positively impact your business. But remember that, the goal isn’t to just use a new tool, it’s to get the task done well. 

The best designed AI systems may be complex behind the scenes, but they feel simple and effective to the end users—whether that means your contact center agents or your customers. 

Prioritize user-friendly interfaces, intuitive navigation, and clear instructions. Make sure your AI systems are accessible to customers of varying technical backgrounds, and ensure that agents can easily adapt to AI tools and workflows.

Start with simple projects that add efficiency to your team in practical and limited ways. Then, as you gain more experience with how to deploy and leverage AI,move to next level projects with larger impact. 

The "crawl-walk-run" approach is a phased approach to implementing AI in a business. It involves gradually increasing the complexity and scope of AI integration, starting with small, manageable steps and gradually scaling up. 

Here's a breakdown of each phase:

  1. Crawl: Focus on understanding the basics of AI and its potential applications within your business. This phase involves conducting research, attending workshops or training sessions, and exploring pilot projects or proof of concepts. The goal is to gain a foundational understanding of AI and identify low-risk, high-impact areas where AI can be implemented.
  2. Walk: Once your business has gained some experience and knowledge about AI, the "walk" phase focuses on deploying AI solutions in specific use cases or departments. This phase involves implementing AI on a small scale, such as in a single department or for a specific workflow or process. The aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of AI, identify any challenges or limitations, and refine the implementation approach. Key metrics and performance indicators are monitored to assess the impact of AI on business outcomes.
  3. Run: When your business has gained confidence and expertise in AI implementation, you’re ready to scale up your usage. This phase involves expanding AI integration across multiple departments or business functions. It focuses on optimizing and refining AI models and algorithms, leveraging more advanced AI technologies, and integrating AI into core business processes. Collaboration between different teams and stakeholders is essential to ensure smooth implementation and to address any emerging challenges.

The crawl-walk-run approach allows businesses to mitigate risks, build internal capabilities, and ensure that AI implementation aligns with long-term business goals. It provides an opportunity to learn from initial deployments, make necessary adjustments, and gradually increase the complexity and scale of AI integration. 

This approach promotes a more measured and strategic adoption of AI, ensuring that businesses can fully leverage AI’s potential while minimizing disruption and maximizing ROI.

Step 5: Keep Your Humans in the Loop

While AI can automate many tasks, it’s crucial to ensure accuracy and maintain human oversight and intervention where necessary. Human judgment plays a vital role in maintaining compliance, providing timely and accurate information, and delivering seamless customer interactions.

Develop a framework that allows your contact center stakeholders and agents to monitor AI interactions and intervene when required. Provide agents with the training and resources they need to effectively collaborate with AI systems. This human-in-the-loop approach ensures that AI is used as a tool to enhance human capabilities, rather than replacing them entirely.

It’s like giving your contact center agents superpowers, then teaching them how to use them responsibly.

Humans in a contact center that must be in the loop include: 

  • Knowledge Authors and Administrators 
  • Workflow teams
  • Decision tree and agent scripting authors
  • Trainers
  • Call center agents
  • Managers
  • CRM Administrators 
  • Self-Service Authors
  • Marketers and technical teams

Finally, ensure your team is well trained on your business intent, brand promise and company values. This enables them to ensure your company’s unique goals and characteristics are expressed across all interactions with your customers.

Step 6: Connect (or Fix or Replace) Your Chatbot

Chatbots are one of the most common AI applications in contact centers. They also suffer from some of the worst implementations of AI to date. 

Chatbots can no longer be thought of as only a way to navigate a knowledge base or streamline a single process. This approach has led to mass consumer dissatisfaction with chatbots.  

Brands need to think of the new AI Chatbot as the concierge to all knowledge, all processes, and all automation.When required, chatbots must ensure a seamless transition to your contact center team. This transition must retain context and should be designed efficiently so that it delights customers. 

Create a unified experience for customers, allowing them to seamlessly transition from self-service options to live agent interactions. Continuously monitor and improve your chatbot's performance by leveraging customer feedback and AI-driven analytics. Regularly update and refine your chatbot's knowledge base, process access, and automation of services to provide accurate and relevant responses, simplicity and efficiency.  

First and foremost, your goal for your chatbot should be to deliver a great concierge experience. If you create a great experience first that engages your customers, tons of automation opportunities will present themselves. Over time, you’ll find pathways to solve 50%-70% of all issues, processes, and inquiries through automation and AI.

Step 7: Learn and Iterate

Implementing AI in your contact center is an ongoing process of learning and iteration

Continuously monitor the performance of your AI systems and gather feedback from both customers and agents. Analyze data and metrics to identify areas for improvement and refine your AI algorithms accordingly. Regularly evaluate the impact of AI on customer satisfaction, agent productivity, and overall business outcomes. 

Adapt and iterate your AI strategy based on these insights to maximize its effectiveness.

Stay Updated on the Latest Insights for Humanizing AI

By following this seven-step approach, consumer-focused businesses can successfully augment their contact center teams with AI. It’s a straightforward strategy that can help anyone successfully deploy AI in their business. 

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