83% of decision-makers at service organizations are increasing their AI investments

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83% of decision-makers at service organizations are increasing their AI investments


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As many as 83% of decision-makers expect to increase investment in artificial intelligence (AI) during the next year, according to research from Salesforce.

The sixth edition of the tech company’s State of Service report surveyed over 5,500 service professionals globally to discover: how service organizations adapt to rising customer expectations, which metrics and channels are most important to high-performing service leaders, and how AI is reshaping roles and operations.

The respondents came from 30 countries and represented various roles, including decision-makers (vice presidents, directors, and team leaders), service operators, service agents, and mobile field service professionals. The top three high-level takeaways of the report show customer service is in flux:

  1. Faster, more personalized service becomes the norm – Customers want better, faster service tailored just for them. As many as 82% of agents and 76% of mobile workers say customers ask for more than they used to. The good news is service organizations are getting better at meeting demand. Sixty-nine percent of agents say balancing customer service speed and quality is difficult, down from 76% in 2022.
  2. Service organizations double down on revenue generation – Amid growing headcounts and budgets, service organizations are under pressure to find new ways to increase revenue and efficiency. Eighty-five percent of decision-makers expect service to contribute more revenue this year.
  3. Organizations lean into AI and automation – While the widespread adoption of AI is still in its early stages, benefits are already clear. Among service professionals at organizations investing in AI, 93% say the technology saves them time on the job.


Diving into emerging technology

The research suggests many opportunities and challenges along the route to AI implementation. Here are the top 11 findings based on my experience working with service executives and a deep dive into the findings of Salesforce research:

  1. Balancing speed and quality is difficult – More than two-thirds (69%) of agents say balancing speed and quality is difficult, down from 76% in 2022. Customers care about speed — 89% of customers note that good customer service makes them more likely to purchase again. And 77% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company. Companies now report (86%) that customer expectations are higher than they used to be.
  2. The top five service priorities – Improve customer experience, improve service technology, improve data quality, optimize operations to reduce costs, and improve workforce skills.
  3. The top five service challenges are – Keeping up with changing customer expectations, pressure to reduce cost to serve, budgetary constraints, ineffective or inefficient processes, and insufficient tools and technologies.
  4. Service leaders are looking to re-evaluate and expand their channel usage – Eighty-four percent of service decision makers say they are reevaluating their channel resourcing in 2024.
  5. Messaging apps are on the rise – More than three-quarters (79%) of service organizations use messenger apps, up from 70% in 2020. For example, 59% of service organizations worldwide use Meta’s Facebook Messenger, with Instagram a close second in Latin America. WhatsApp, Google Business, Telegram, Apple Business, WeChat, and LINE are also top messaging apps.
  6. Self-service is a win-win for customers and organizations – Almost two-thirds (61%) of customers would rather use self-service for simple issues. However, there’s little room for error: 72% of customers won’t reuse a company’s chatbot after just one negative experience.
  7. High-performing service organizations embrace self-service – Self-service solves an estimated 54% of customer issues, on average, at organizations that use it. Proactive service is also a key capability; 61% of service professionals say their organization addresses service issues proactively. But there is a major disconnect — only 33% of customers agree that the typical company is proactive.
  8. Budget, headcount, and case volumes poised to rise – Decision-makers expect service budgets to increase by an average of 23% during the next year. Nearly eight out of 10 service operations pros say teams cannot reach goals without more budget and 70% of service team leads agree.
  9. Top service key performance indicators – Revenue (91%), customer satisfaction (88%), employee experience (86%), customer retention (86%), average response time (85%), agent case volume (84%), average handle time (84%), SLA performance (81%), first contact resolution (80%), customer lifetime value (80%), cost per contact (79%), customer effort score (78%), and case deflection (71%). I believe revenue, net promoter score, first contact resolution, and SLA performance should top this list.
  10. Revenue generation grows as a service function – As many as 85% of decision-makers say service is expected to contribute a larger share of revenue this year.
  11. Service depends on cross-company data – The path to purchase can be complex, influenced by touch points across multiple teams. More than three-quarters (79%) of customers expect consistency across departments, but 56% often have to repeat information to different sales representatives. Successful service organizations align more closely with sales and marketing to achieve connected customer experiences. For example, many teams connect customer relationship management (CRM) systems and share accountability for metrics, such as customer satisfaction.

Leaning into AI and automation

Even with the challenges of implementing emerging technology, the research suggests many organizations are looking to take advantage of AI and automation. Here are seven reasons why:

  1. Manual processes pull agents away from customers – More than half (58%) of agents with underperforming organizations toggle between multiple screens to find the information they need compared to 36% with high-performers. Can you deliver value at the speed of need? If the answer is ‘no’, you are an underperforming service organization. To achieve success, you must deliberately eliminate silos and friction.
  2. Efficiency is the key driver for success – More than two-thirds (69%) of service decision-makers say agent attrition is a major or moderate challenge. Customer service is not a department. The culture of service is healthy when the employee experience is as important as the customer experience. You cannot expect your customers to love you before your employees do.
  3. AI investments are increasing – Most service organizations are investing in AI. Eighty-three percent of decision-makers expect this investment to rise over the next year, while only 6% say they have no plans for the technology. Generative AI use is on the rise — 24% of service employees have used generative AI.
  4. Automation is a key investment area – Service organizations are turning toward automation and AI amid a push for efficiency. Investments in automation will grow in 2024 — 83% of decision-makers plan to increase investments in automation during the next year. The key benefits are time savings, a deeper focus on customers, connections with other departments, reduced errors, and better positioning for new projects.
  5. AI drives demand for trusted data – Almost all (92%) of analytics and IT leaders say the need for trustworthy data is higher than ever.
  6. The benefits of AI investments in service are clear – Over nine in 10 organizations with AI report cost and time savings. The top five use cases for AI in service are: customer-facing intelligent assistants, automated summaries and reports, service responses, agent-facing intelligent assistants, and intelligent offers and recommendations.
  7. Humans are the key to success – AI and automation give employees the time and tools to do their best work. AI will help companies create stronger relationships — 92% of service professionals say nurturing customer relationships is increasingly important.