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Zendesk leaders and customers share predictions on AI, customer experience, data privacy and security

Published December 12, 2023

The accelerated adoption of AI and the massive explosion of generative AI (hello, ChatGPT!) shook up the world this past year. Looking ahead to 2024, we spoke to Zendesk leaders and customer champions, across sectors, around the world including, a global beauty brand, a German manufacturer, a Brazilian financial services company, and a UK-based charitable social enterprise. We asked: What impact will this AI evolution have on the human agents using this technology and customers on the receiving end of conversational AI?

AI
This year, the introduction of generative AI opened the door for companies to better understand customer needs and effectively assist in complicated inquiries. But it’s just the beginning – leaders are still navigating the intersection of AI, data privacy and environmental impact.

“In 2024, the AI user experience needs to become smoother and more human-like, even with a bot. Agents should be prepared to ask for additional things in a proactive manner. Customers will come to expect this as part of the experience.” – Stephan Marzi, Head of Customer Service, thyssenkrupp Rasselstein GmbH

“The volume, variety and velocity of data have increased exponentially in recent years. Data will continue this exponential rise as it powers more data-driven technologies, like AI. But next year, it won’t just be about training models on vast quantities of data – the data battleground will shift to quality.” – Adrian McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, Zendesk

“As more companies develop AI solutions, they must keep a keen eye on their environmental footprint and take steps to ensure positive impact. Specifically, leaders will need to call for greater transparency on AI’s climate impact. The lack of trusted data is now the biggest hurdle for effective actions. Additionally, leaders must incorporate the impact of AI into their sustainability strategy, and consider sustainability when developing AI-related business strategy. Another key component is cultivating collaboration on environmentally responsible AI across the AI value chain, including cloud providers, AI engineers, and end users.” – Megan Trotter, Vice President, Social Impact & Sustainability, Zendesk

Customer Experience (CX)
2023 reinforced customer expectations of fast, effective, and personalized support continuing to rise. Businesses responded by doubling down on technology, especially AI, to create those optimal experiences – not just for the customer, but also for those in support including agents and admins.

“I see the potential of AI in remembering customer preferences and helping our businesses make proactive suggestions to both customers and the business functions.” – Naomi Rankin, Global Customer Care Manager, Lush

“More and more companies will trust AI to fully automate resolutions in the CX context. With the latest advancements in AI and large language models (LLMs), there will be seamless blending between bots and human agents. Additionally, we expect the number of interactions touched by AI to be at least 10x higher compared to 2023 – moving the industry even closer towards this reality of fully digital agents.” – Cristina Fonseca, Head of AI, Zendesk

“CX is at an inflection point where brands are valuing customer engagement more than ever but also need to leverage automation and AI to deliver more meaningful and personalized interactions. Now, with generative AI, it’s exciting to think about all of the new and innovative ways that we can help our customers enhance their brand and unlock new experiences.” – Jon Aniano, Senior Vice President of Product, Zendesk

Employee Experience (EX)
As businesses navigated onboarding new hires and retaining talent with tighter budgets (and fewer resources), AI became a must-have in improving the employee experience. And more and more leaders began integrating AI into EX to streamline processes and increase efficiencies.

“AI will not cut the work load itself in every single case, but it will be in the position to speed up and to assist. The employees who are open to using new technology — like ChatGPT — and can enable new processes will be in high-demand as new jobs come on the market.” – Stephan Marzi, Head of Customer Service, thyssenkrupp Rasselstein GmbH

“Most organizations have a multitude of policies, protocols, practices and procedures. With so much required knowledge, HR teams may become overworked with trying to remember everything – or where to find everything. AI could digest all of that knowledge and offer a simple answer to some very complex questions – many people in the workforce may have situations or needs that are specifically identified in the text, but rather across various texts… In 2024, we can improve employee welfare by giving them a way to find the information that they need. Reducing the stress and workloads of HR teams gets them back to being proactive rather than reactive.” – Daniel Cox, Customer Service Centre Assistant Manager, Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL)

“As AI continues to mature in 2024, its role in crafting exceptional employee experiences will only become more pronounced. This surge in AI efficacy will allow leaders to further enhance, personalize, and streamline engagement with their employees — especially as flexible work models remain the current state of the workplace.” – Josh Bean, Head of Employee Experience, Zendesk

Data Privacy and Security
As a result of the AI data explosion, data protection and privacy became an even more pressing concern for business leaders, governments and consumers.

“I believe that the team must be prepared for the difficulties to come, but it is worth remembering that this is something new. I believe that starting with areas that are less sensitive is a good way to check security and gradually scale service in more sensitive environments. Supervision is always necessary, but the advantage is that AI can perform more quickly and dynamically.” – Douglas Fernandes, Zendesk Senior Analyst, Nubank

“We have the moral responsibility to make sure that we are not allowing AI to misuse customer data either deliberately or by omission… Make being secure and robust part of the motivation and plan when initiating designs. Security should never be an afterthought.” – Naomi Rankin, Global Customer Care Manager, Lush

“Next year, the ongoing evolution of government and industry compliance standards will persist. Businesses must stay on top of this changing data privacy sphere in order to maintain customer trust. Leaders will reinforce their efforts on redacting, masking and deleting personal data from customer conversations, which will simultaneously become increasingly streamlined through advancements in AI.” – Vinay Patel, Chief Trust & Security Officer, Zendesk

Looking Ahead
In 2023, generative AI moved beyond its initial hype phase as CX leaders began to see tangible results and as consumers became more accustomed to interacting with the technology. Heading into 2024, these high expectations for AI to facilitate authentic, transparent, and personalized experiences will be top of mind for leaders, agents and customers alike. For more on top industry trends, stay tuned for the annual Zendesk CX Trends Report available in January.

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