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To align with customer expectations, deliver data-driven CX

Posted June 5, 2024
People gathered around a whiteboard in an office setting, with one individual writing on the whiteboard, meant to symbolize the understanding of customer data necessary in customer experience
By Kory Laszewski, vice president of global sales at TELUS International

There's no getting around it: Customer experience (CX) in the digital age is defined and driven by data.

The data gleaned from customer interactions can, and should, form the foundation of our decisions as CX leaders. These decisions can be big, both in terms of investment and potential impact on CX delivery, for better or for worse.

Consider generative AI (GenAI). The benefits of an effective implementation are significant, but the consequences of a poor implementation could be damaging in equal measure. Customer experience leaders face pressure to act quickly, spend wisely and show results. Analyst firm Everest Group ran a survey, supported by TELUS International, about enterprise readiness for generative AI adoption in customer experience management. Over half (55%) of the 200 surveyed customer experience leaders — your peers — plan to invest $1 million or more in GenAI in the next 12-18 months, with 16% expecting to spend over $10 million. Signs of intent and interest are also evident in research from Execs In The Know, as the leaders surveyed in their 2024 CX Leaders Trends & Insights report, sponsored by TELUS International, wanted to read more about consumer-facing AI (66%) and agent-facing AI (61%) than any other topic.

Whether you're focused on a GenAI implementation or something else entirely, gut feeling won't cut it. Data must inform CX strategies and decisions, as well as our applications of emerging technologies like generative AI. To compete and win in CX today you need to be a data-centric organization, which means developing and executing a holistic strategy covering how you gather and use data.

Two photographs edited together; one features two people looking at a tablet, while the other features a number of people typing on keyboards

Execs In The Know: 2024 CX Leaders Trends & Insights

Access the latest survey results and stay on top of customer experience (CX) developments in 2024 with this new report by Execs In The Know, sponsored by TELUS International.

Download the report

Start with customer trust

You may need customer data to drive your CX operation forward, but before that, you need customer trust. Prioritize privacy, security and transparency in your data governance program, and you will be on the right track.

It all starts with ensuring you comply with, and are on top of, data privacy laws and regulations. Given these laws and regulations are in a constant state of evolution and vary from region to region, this calls for real expertise and vigilance. But even so, building trust takes more than following through on your legal obligations; to engender the trust you need to enhance your CX, there is reason to go further.

When it comes to customer data, be as transparent as possible. Let your customers know what data you're collecting, how you intend to use it, and how you will keep it safe. This transparency is important because it gives customers the opportunity to assess and make decisions about their data. By backing up your transparency with a holistic approach to security that brings together the best in humans, technology and processes, you create the right environment for trust to form. Remember: Customer trust is hard to earn but easy to lose, and your data-driven approach depends on that trust.

Gather customer data beyond direct feedback

How customers are giving feedback is changing. According to a large Qualtrics survey of more than 28,000 consumers around the world, the percentage of consumers who submit direct feedback after a very bad experience has dropped by 7.2% since 2021. Similarly, there has been a 5.1% decrease in the number of consumers who will provide direct feedback after a positive experience.

This change in customer behavior gives CX leaders something to think about. Consider that the aforementioned Execs In The Know report found that 84% of CX leaders are using surveys to capture customer sentiment and satisfaction information — far surpassing the next most common method, which was quality assurance data (48%). At the same time, one quarter (25%) of CX leaders singled out "Gathering and Utilizing Customer Feedback" as the most important area of investment for effectively improving the customer experience. It's clear that CX leaders value customer feedback, making it important not to overlook all of the places it can come from.

To draw conclusions and form strategies that address areas of improvement and customer challenges, you need data. But just because customers are providing less direct feedback, it doesn't mean that they aren't providing quality feedback in other ways. Every customer touch point, across every channel your company leverages, is a source of essential feedback data. Review customer support call logs, interactions between your customers and your chatbots, replies on your social media posts, and anywhere else your customers interact with your brand.

There is work in organizing and operationalizing all of your customer data, but there is great value in making it accessible to key stakeholder groups across your company. For many leaders and the brands they represent, organizational silos are the nemesis of a data-driven approach. Different silos, different data, different insights — it all culminates in indifferent outcomes. According to a survey of customer experience leaders conducted by the European Customer Experience Organization just last year, silos were cited as the biggest obstacle to CX success, ahead of even technology and budgets/investment. Similarly, the Execs In The Know report revealed that only about one third (32%) of those surveyed responded with "Yes" when they were asked: "Do you feel your organization is using program data (things like Voice of the Customer and Quality Assurance data) in an appropriate and productive way?".

Put your data to use

We've arrived. You bought into the value of collecting and operationalizing data, and now it's time to put it to good use. From informing product or service enhancements to identifying opportunities for robotic process automation, there's no limit to the potential applications and benefits that could come from your data.

Recognizing that I can't cover every application, I'll apply focus where there is the most interest in the Execs In The Know community. That brings us to artificial intelligence, and how AI can be used to identify trends and improve experiences.

Identify trends in your data with generative AI

If you've gathered lots of great customer data, you want that data to yield insights that move the needle for your CX operation. And while your key stakeholder groups might draw revelatory conclusions from the data, your chances of identifying important patterns are dramatically enhanced by GenAI.

Thanks to its ability to analyze extensive datasets quickly, generative AI is changing the future of customer intelligence. GenAI can be used to pull together unstructured data from disparate sources (survey data and social media posts, for example), interpret that data using techniques like natural language processing, and summarize trends that illuminate customer sentiment and areas for improvement in the contact center.

There is one important caveat, however. While there are benefits to applying AI to identify trends in general, the potential can be significantly increased by using your program data to train your algorithms. Say, for example, you're trying to predict customer churn or even agent attrition. Ensuring that your algorithms have been trained on the nuances of your business, your customers and your agents will improve the accuracy and relevance of its outputs. To yield insights that are truly incisive and actionable, specificity is key.

Leverage generative AI to improve experiences

Trained with your own data, generative AI can also become a critical part of your CX delivery, reducing effort for customers and agents alike.

Calling back to the Everest Group survey that I mentioned earlier, it found that customer experience leaders see AI's potential to improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. One of the key reasons they were considering generative AI solutions was to enable personalization and customization of customer interactions. For many, this form of personalization at scale has been a goal for some time due to the positive relationship between personalization and customer loyalty. It's not difficult to see the upside. Consider, for example, the experience that could be delivered by a generative AI chatbot capable of analyzing a customer's unique profile and responding with helpful answers aligned with the customer's specific preferences.

Applying generative AI is no longer something CX leaders are merely thinking about, either. For text generation, such as the text you might see in replies from a chatbot, our survey found that 46% are actively piloting or deploying GenAI, while 21% are already in the scale-up phase. This aligns with survey results shared by Execs In The Know: 39% of respondents have applied AI within their contact center operations and 31% plan to do so soon

This 2024 CX Leaders Trends & Insights report indicates that customer experience leaders understand the potential for GenAI to improve experiences. When respondents shared their primary objectives in implementing AI-powered solutions, reducing costs wasn't even among the top three. In order of priority, they were: improving the customer experience (80%), reducing human-assisted contact volumes (52%) and improving agent performance (52%). This goes to show that far beyond a cost-cutting measure, CX leaders are viewing GenAI as an opportunity to deliver better, low-effort outcomes for their customers.

Outsourcing could close expertise gaps and help you deliver data-driven CX

There's a lot to be gained from a data-driven approach to CX. But to realize those benefits, there is also a great deal you need to get right.

Consider:

  • You need to gather customer data and adapt to changing customer behavior around feedback and evolving privacy laws that differ around the world.
  • You need to operationalize the data you gather, ensuring that it is clean, secure and accessible so that you and other leaders at your company can design and develop strategies that address needs.
  • You need to execute the strategies you've developed in such a way that brings out the best in your team members and the innovative, AI-powered technology at your disposal.

That's a lot to take on, and there's a lot of expertise that is required. Perhaps it's no surprise that 76% of the executives in our survey said they plan to seek the support of an outsourcing partner in some capacity to help them design, build and deliver GenAI-fueled CX, or that limited resources and internal expertise for in-house implementation was their top reason for considering outsourcing.

By forming a partnership with a trusted and experienced outsourcing provider that has the end-to-end expertise across customer experience, digital experience and artificial intelligence, delivering a data-driven approach to CX becomes a lot more manageable. TELUS International has partnered with the world's most respected and disruptive brands for over 19 years, and brings innovative services across all traditional and digital channels. If you're looking for help acting on the trends and insights shared in this report, get in touch.

This article was originally published in the Execs In The Know report, sponsored by TELUS International, titled 2024 CX Leaders: Trends & Insights in March 2024. Revisions were made to the original text, when necessary, for clarity.

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