Customer Experience, Service & Success

MIT SMR Connections Study: AI is the power tool of CX

Research from MIT SMR Connections uncovers best practices of highly successful CX teams to win business and loyalty
best customer service experience

A new global research report from MIT Sloan Management Review Connections, Delivering Experiences That Win Business and Build Loyalty: CX Champions Share Their Strategies, sponsored by SAS, reveals that customer experience (CX) Champions gain better returns from their CX tech investments than competitors by managing CX across the enterprise through cross-functional teams, clearly defined workflows. and extensive use of analytics and AI. The report is based on a survey of 2,670 respondents of which just 15 percent qualify as CX Champions.

“With more than 40% of survey respondents planning to increase CX technology investments by as much as 25% over the next two years, and some 35% expecting to boost investments by up to 50% from current levels, it is imperative that companies have a roadmap on how to get the most payoff from these tools,” said Lisa Loftis, Principal Product Marketer for SAS® Customer Intelligence. “The research findings offer a caution against ‘random acts of technology’ because value is created only when the technology helps to fulfil customer expectations. In today’s world, this means adding martech that enables companies to capture digital activity at a customer level and dynamically manage identities, to make the most of first-party data by managing journeys, and to incorporate analytics and AI into real-time decisions.”

AI emerges as the power tool of CX

CX Champions lead the pack in terms of sophisticated use of analytics and AI. More than 80% of CX Champions make significant use of analytics throughout the customer journey, from research to adoption to ongoing engagement. In fact, Champions are more than three times more likely to rely on AI than the ones the study called “Laggards,” where it’s less than 40%.

Champions are also ahead of the game when it comes to adoption of CX tools. In fact, some tools will be nearly ubiquitous for CX Champions within the next two years:

  • 86% will have adopted personalization technology.
  • 84% will have adopted real-time data collection.
  • 81% will have adopted AI-powered chatbots.
  • 72% will have adopted connected omnichannel experiences.

Antonio Grasso, founder and CEO of the digital transformation consultancy Digital Business Innovation, emphasized the importance of CX tech. “We have the technology to achieve real-time insights, which are essential to adapt to a changing customer landscape,” he told MIT SMR Connections. “Our world is accelerating so much that companies also need to rely on real-time insight to manage and improve CX.”

The research also found that Champions are significantly more likely to employ “smart” approaches to improve CX, including smart assistants embedded in goods and services. They also expect to outpace the competition in their use of edge computing, using its ability to boost real-time analytics.

Perhaps most eye-opening is that organizations with the poorest-quality CX are more likely to be using cutting-edge VR technology than are businesses with top-rated CX.

Digital strategy and collaboration key

Strong CX performance isn’t predicated on having a single executive in charge of the activity. Instead, research shows that tying CX strategy to a company’s digital strategy makes the biggest performance difference. Doing so ensures the creation of enterprise-wide CX goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that cascade through the organization. Almost 75% of Champions “strongly agree” that their CX strategy and technologies are an integral part of their organizations’ digital transformation.

By elevating CX strategy to the level of corporate and digital strategy, CX Champions can build highly empowered cross-functional or decentralized teams. To keep everyone on the same page, 70% of CX Champions also have documented workflows of their CX processes. The majority of CX Champions coordinate CX activity through collaborative software and platforms that allow everyone in the process to work from a single point.

More than 60% of Champions are currently focused on giving such teams more authority, versus only 43% of Laggards. In two years’ time, fully 93% of Champions will be relying on these teams, according to the survey findings.

CX Leaders: Financial services, retail and IT/telecom

The lion’s share of CX Champions are IT/telecom companies and this sector is the most aggressive user of many CX technology tools. Despite aggressive plans for CX technology investments, financial services entities have yet to move ahead of industries at large. Retail and consumer goods companies, on the other hand, are significantly ahead of industries overall in use of smart assistants embedded in phones and tablets, and slightly ahead in use of live chat, personalization technology, use of AI chatbots, and providing immersive experiences. But they are still behind other industries in developing interconnected omnichannel experiences – a must-have in the minds of most consumers.

Nearly 50% of businesses in the financial services, retail/consumer goods, and IT/telecom sectors plan to up their CX technology investments by more than 25% over the next two years. About 10% of businesses in these industries plan to increase their investments by more than 75%. Some even plan on doubling their CX technology investments.

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