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Zendesk CTO on harnessing the power of AI for customer-centric cost control

Adrian McDermott spoke at analyst firm Futurum’s annual The Six Five Summit

Published July 6, 2023

Zendesk recently participated in Futurum’s annual The Six Five Summit which brought technology industry leaders and users together to explore practical, innovative ways to navigate current business challenges.

Our Chief Technology Officer, Adrian McDermott, gave a keynote on the massive potential for businesses to use AI as an effective way to control costs. Additionally, he noted the ways that AI is improving customer experiences (CX) as well as the opportunity for it to dramatically extend and improve in the future.

Read on for his main takeaways.

With today’s challenging economy and increased competition, most leaders agree that controlling costs is a top priority. All businesses are reevaluating spending and exploring how to do more with less. As Gartner puts it, “Leaders are tasked with juggling the twin needs of controlling spend while helping to position their companies for future growth.” This framework captures it well – businesses are looking for ways to optimize costs, such as: reducing office spend, replacing expensive tools, rethinking projects and processes.

This is where AI can be one of the most effective ways to control costs – for many reasons. When companies use AI strategically, it is a powerful tool for managing spend and also building a better customer connection.

For example, in CX:

  • Automatically solve customer issues: AI answers questions and provides faster, 24/7 support
  • Manage more requests, without adding headcount: AI can handle huge volumes – especially when there is an influx in inquiries – without needing more people
  • Guide agents to solve customer issues faster: AI aids agents with knowledge and recommendations so they can work more efficiently
  • Optimize your service, at every step: AI provides insights for how to optimize your service even further

In the CX industry, leveraging AI is also especially impactful because of the significant amount of manual work, repetitive needs, and agent turnover. Looking ahead, we are going to see an extension of AI to much more complex issues and across the entire customer journey. Today, agents still spend a lot of time answering repetitive questions and looking for information – these areas in particular can really be improved with AI. Then agents can focus on solving more complex problems – eventually, AI will help with those too.

“We’re in the midst of an AI revolution.” – Adrian McDermott, Zendesk CTO

Recent breakthroughs with generative AI powered by large language models (LLMs) have led to amazing new use cases opening through tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. In fact, about 80% of recent AI research and development has been focused on building LLMs. This currently requires training at a massive scale based on billions and billions of data and parameters. LLMs will open the door for numerous new use cases – such as ones in deep reasoning and creativity – which will be particularly effective in CX, among other industries.

While there has been so much hype around ChatGPT, we have also seen many impressive LLMs. They are being developed across the biggest technology companies as it becomes the industry norm that AI is going to become such a critical part of everything we do. Each advancement opens impressive use cases and is more reliable, creative, and able to tackle nuanced tasks.

In CX, AI will progress to handle much more advanced, complex new problems across the entire customer journey. So far, AI has been focused on the classic, reactive support interactions and recent advances with AI will help even more. Additionally, we expect AI to extend to the proactive and preventative sides. AI will eventually become the first point of contact in every service engagement.

Beyond CX, businesses that invest in AI across the board are better poised to control costs. The leaders who make these strategic decisions today will be able to make a big impact with AI especially as it advances in the next few years.

For more information about Zendesk AI, visit https://www.zendesk.com/service/ai/.

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