Remember when Artificial Intelligence (AI) was something from a science fiction movie or television show? Characters such as Rosie from The Jetsons, Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Ash from the movie Alien used to just be fantasy and so far-fetched that they could never feasibly become reality. Each of these characters relied on algorithms to adapt and respond to their interactions with humans. And these technologies were built and leveraged for a purpose – to support human-kind and make their lives better.

While we don’t have human looking robots interacting with us on a daily basis like in those movies, we interact with similar faceless technology on a daily basis. Take for example Siri, your Nest thermostat, the Hello Barbie doll, or Amazon’s Alexa. They all use differing levels of AI to make recommendations, moderate the temperature in your house based on your preferences, or automatically order goods and services for you. We value these things and the experience they provide because in many cases, they make our lives easier.

That is also the thinking behind chat bots and other automated servicing tools that are becoming more prevalent (besides the cost savings for the organization). These automated, conversational service tools have been in place for several years, but for many, the experience is not personal and lacks emotion. As these tools evolve however, organizations will leverage better text analytics to gauge the customers sentiment and emotions, will respond accordingly, and will recognize when an interaction needs to be escalated to a live service representative.

So, if your CEO isn’t asking for AI to be integrated into your CX strategy, she soon will be. But before you run out and invest in AI to serve your customers, you first need to understand how to leverage these technologies to improve the customer experience and learn what will be gained for doing so.

The challenge, of course, is that we are creatures of habit and are used to face-to-face or at least conversational interactions. Changing these habits will take time, patience, investment, and should not be rushed into haphazardly. This is where journey mapping your customer’s experience, as well as the experience of your employees, can help you prioritize which aspects of the experience might be ripe for AI consideration.

As you begin to explore the possibilities, there are four steps organizations should consider to better understand the customer experience and then where to isolate the aspects of the customer experience best suited for AI:

  1. Map the Journey – Explore, document, and understand the logistical and emotional parts of the customer experience to create a detailed visual representation that places specific customer touch points and interactions in the larger context of the complete customer journey.
  2. Inventory existing data – VOC, operational, etc. – to further explore what you know about the customer experience, where gaps exist, and how you can leverage these or new data sources to enhance your AI strategy.
  3. Identify key moments of truth – Those moments that impact customer perceptions and satisfaction the most and estimate the impact of performing positively or negatively on these moments so that you will know what could be at-risk or gained should AI be implemented.
  4. Turn the focus internally – Overlay the customer’s journey with the organization’s receptivity to make AI investments – are you even built to deliver on customer AI expectations, do you have the tools in place to train employees on the new AI journey, do you have a test and control environment set-up to explore AI enhancements along the way, etc? Ask and answer questions about your internal capabilities and then work to prioritize the build of those most relevant to the areas identified as high-AI opportunities.

Understanding the journey and customer’s expectations are the stepping stones to determine whether AI is a good fit for your organization. A proper roadmap will help identify opportunities and improve your customer’s experience, because your AI solutions will only be as good as how well you design them to meet your customer’s expectations. Perhaps Hal from Space Odyssey said it best when referring to a failed antenna, “It can only be attributable to human error.”