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The impact of AI within customer service during an economic downturn

Preparing for change is an always-on job. Focus on where you can see the highest return on your service investments and enable tools and features that result in both cost and time savings.

Av Teresa Anania, SVP of Global Customer Success, Renewals and Customer Experience at Zendesk

Senast uppdaterad September 11, 2023

The headlines read daily of rough economic climates and many businesses struggling to stay afloat. It’s unnerving and yet, we’re no strangers to uncertainty. If anything, we’ve learned over the past few years that we should both expect and prepare for change. And a lot continues to fluctuate.

Countries around the world are grappling with inflation and rising cost of living from the combined toll of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain issues.

However, certain economies are showing positive signs of recovery and growth after a rough start to the year. Within the Eurozone, there is solid economic growth in France and Spain, while Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is showing signs of recovery from its previous two quarters. In the U.S., experts believe that the country will be able to avoid a recession altogether. “We revise our outlook in favor of a ‘soft landing’ where growth falls below trend in 2024, but remains positive throughout” says Michael Gapen, Chief U.S Economist at Bank of America.

While certain economies are showing signs of recovery, many businesses are still facing many challenges, leading them to pause their investments, decrease their spendings and headcount. Fortunately, there are certain ways businesses can still thrive given the economic climate and remain cost conscious.

A need for better service experiences

On top of a challenging economic climate, companies also need to ensure that the quality of their customer service experiences meets their customers’ expectations. And if the past couple years taught us anything, it’s that companies who listen to their customers are the ones who thrive.

Today’s customers want better, faster and personalized service experiences. And with most consumers interacting with some form of AI in the past year, they’re very much aware that AI is key to the service experiences they’ve been longing for. However, 55 percent of customers who often interact with customer service believe that companies haven’t fully embraced AI yet, and they’re expecting them to do so fast.

As a result, businesses all over the world are facing a unique challenge. On one hand, many of them are halting their investments and putting certain growth projects on hold in order to survive this economic storm. On the other, customers want companies to invest in artificial intelligence to improve their service experiences. And with almost half of consumers willing to walk away from a company after one bad experience, ignoring customers’ needs isn’t an option.

Customer service powered by AI is key

Investment in artificial intelligence is the best way companies can not only survive, but also thrive given the current economy. Investments like these allow businesses across the globe to manage their costs all the while meeting their customers’ expectations at the same time. In fact, over half of business leaders have already used AI to drive large cost savings over the past year, leading 68 percent of companies to do the same over the next year.

There are many ways artificial intelligence can help companies control costs. These can include chatbots to support service agents with large volumes of requests, decreasing the need for additional headcount. AI based chatbots can also make product recommendations at the point of checkout, acting as a sales rep and directly contributing to revenue.

While these are just some of the many examples of how companies can creatively use AI to manage their operational costs, these investments will inevitably improve the customer experience through faster, more efficient service delivery. For instance, with AI enabling better personalization, companies can grow their revenues and differentiate themselves from the competition, as the majority of customers would rather purchase from a company who offers personalized service.

What service organizations can do now

To help you navigate this economic storm, we’ve broken down some of the top challenges companies across the world might face in the coming year as well as some actions you can take now or in the near future to meet these challenges. We’ll be discussing these challenges in this editorial series:

  • Cutting operational costs and finding efficiencies

  • Slowing spending and hiring

  • Growing your contribution to the business’ revenue

  • Leveraging your service team for ‘inside’ sales

  • Keeping customers, whether by increasing lifetime value or decreasing churn

We’re inspired by the success stories our customers have shared, and we hope they inspire you too–and help illustrate what’s possible.

It’s no small job to adapt to change, build resiliency within your team, and manage uncertainty. The good news is, with AI, companies can remain vigilant with their resources–people, budget, time and tools–without sacrificing the customer experience. Constraint and creativity often walk hand-in-hand, and we know there are existing strides ahead.

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