Radically Personal Conversation — Is Your CX Platform Ready for the Future of Customer Service?

Gladly Team

Read Time

6 minute read

Welcome to our first Radically Personal Conversation of the year, where leaders, managers, directors, influencers, and CX enthusiasts gather for insightful dialogue beyond individual brands.

Headlining the conversation is Emilio Di Zazzo, VP at Gladly and a resident researcher on CX trends who spends significant time engaging with companies to understand their service approach and customer experience goals. Together with Meredith Klee, Gladly’s Director of Communications and Content, they cut through the buzzwords and dive into the challenges facing leaders today — notably the pressure to achieve more with less — pinpoint the right questions to ask to make informed decisions about your customer service strategy, and walk through the three elements that every CX platform should have.

What Has Been Top of Mind for CX Leaders?

Amidst the buzzwords, Emilio addresses what CX leaders are actually discussing — the issues that are top of mind for them and the real concerns shaping the future of CX.

1. AI Is Here and Everywhere.

“Since the introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022, it’s pretty safe to say that the topic of AI has transitioned into the mainstream,” says Emilio. “And it’s not just limited to customer service applications; it spans consumer tools like basic chatbots and research tools and enterprise solutions for various business functions such as customer service, accounting, and marketing.”

2. Macroeconomics and Its Impact on the Current Economic Landscape

“Secondly, leaders are thinking about what’s happening in the economy today,” says Emilio. “Because the implications are very real.”

This includes significant shifts from rapid growth during COVID-19 to low-interest rates that have quickly risen over the past year. Additionally, geopolitical tensions such as wars in Europe and the Middle East affect supply chains, indirectly influencing various business operations.

Specifically, many direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, which previously prioritized rapid growth, are now revisiting their strategies. They are transitioning towards a focus on driving top-line growth while maintaining cost efficiency in a landscape where zero interest rates were fueling expansion.

3. Customer Expectations Aren’t Changing — How Do You Do More With Less?

“Anybody in the customer service space knows that one thing has not changed, and that’s customer expectations,” says Emilio. “Customers continue to demand hyper-personalized experiences and services, often unaware of the macroeconomic factors influencing a company’s approach to its products and services. In today’s competitive landscape with rising customer acquisition costs, brands must navigate macroeconomics while maintaining a customer-centric strategy. These challenges are pervasive across most conversations with current and prospective customers.”

What Are Leaders Doing to Tackle These Challenges?

Against the backdrop of the current landscape, Emilio delves into the strategic initiatives currently being undertaken by leaders.

1. They’re Educating Themselves and Their Teams on AI.

“We’re seeing a lot of pressure from leadership to dig into AI — particularly the promise of AI — and asking their teams to educate themselves and inform the strategy,” says Emilio. “It’s no longer being looked at as an exploratory conversation. It’s transitioned pretty quickly into, ‘How can we start to capture value? How can we make this work?’ It’s literally coming from the C-suite, trickling down through the organization and all teams, again — not just customer service — but engineering teams, IT teams, and go-to-market teams are looking at this technology. For a majority of cases, companies are looking at this technology for the first time in a meaningful way.”

Pro Tip: Emilio Says...

'Don't solve for AI just for the sake of AI, but use it as a pause moment to rethink your whole strategy. And that includes your current operational infrastructure and technology stack — look at it holistically because otherwise you might fall into a trap. If you're siloed with trying to solve on a use-case basis and potentially with niche vendors or technology points of view, you will end up with more of a technical debt problem down the line. And that's going to be hard to unwind.'

2. They’re Focusing on Getting Back to the Basics and Being Cost-Conscious.

“Leaders are focusing on getting back to the basics and being cost-conscious. And that translates into, ‘What is my budget?'” says Emilio. “Ultimately, everyone’s being asked to do more with less.”

“Combining cost savings with AI is an interesting opportunity,” continues Emilio. “[Even if leveraging AI] doesn’t reduce cost, it still allows you to continue to scale and grow without adding a parallel cost curve to that equation. So I think there’s an opportunity to blend [cost savings and AI] to help with things like total cost of ownership or reducing cost to serve.”

And when thinking about how to define success metrics, especially when it comes to AI in customer service, Emilio emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the customer in any discussion, noting that companies are approaching AI from two perspectives:

“Think, ‘How does it help my customers self-serve in a meaningful way?’ When you start from that lens, it creates an opportunity to define the metrics of success, which ultimately drives things like loyalty and lifetime value of customers. And then, on the operational metrics side, ask yourself, ‘Am I creating time and space for my agents to deliver better service ultimately?’ You want to remove the friction, the non-value added work so that they can provide or create some time and space to build relationships, really get to know their customers, help them solve their problems, and continue that conversation over time.”

What Are the 3 Key Things Every CX Platform Should Have to Make an Impact?

After discussing leaders’ pain points and actions, the conversation takes a more uplifting turn, focusing on how brands strategically position themselves to thrive. Fortunately, at Gladly, we have the privilege of collaborating with numerous successful brands. Through their discussions with Emilio, three core themes emerge as the common thread of their successes:

1. One Platform That Covers All Their Bases and Channels in One Place

“It starts with the context of customer-centricity and thinking about the multiple ways you engage with your customers,” says Emilio.

“A lot of people are looking at AI through the lens of just the chatbot, but AI can actually apply across channels, and you want to leverage that,” he continues.

“One of the ways you empower AI is to feed it context and information. Then, if that’s siloed, you’re already starting to break the potential of what AI can bring. So there’s an opportunity there to think holistically. And then that’s where the platform starts to make sense, and you think, ‘Hey if I have all of my data around my customers and all of the communication channels via the conversations and then my internal knowledge base also being part of that platform, those become the three pillars of how we are going to enable the AI to drive personalized service versus a very robotic kind of service.'”

Emilio adds, “The cool thing is when you start to think about that, it starts to create opportunities of efficiency — reducing total cost of ownership, lowering costs of maintenance and support of the infrastructure…these now become opportunities for further enhancements and efficiencies and opportunities to get more value.”

Pro Tip: Emilio Says...

Emilio gives some words of advice for someone interested in transitioning to a single platform: 'First, it starts with an audit of your current state. One of the challenges for customers and prospects is that they have different technologies with various contracts and commitments. Take stock of that and see what opportunities exist on the timeline. Also, consider your future state — for example, maybe you're not currently offering SMS; if you wanted to, are you partnered with a provider today who can enable that?'

2. A Focus on Conversations, Not Processes or Tickets

“At Gladly, our biggest north star is centered around putting the customer back in the middle of customer service,” says Emilio. He explains how, traditionally, service management focused on ticket or case management, treating service as a mere workflow problem. The sole goal was to route conversations to the proper personnel. However, with the rise of communication channels like email and social media, additional silos were inadvertently created, further fragmenting customer interactions.

This traditional approach, characterized by the assignment of tickets or cases, constrains our ability to understand and engage with customers on a personal level. It fails to provide a comprehensive view of the customer’s history with the brand, including past interactions with customer service and transactional details.

“Some people get stuck on the idea of no tickets,” Emilio continues. “We just call them conversations. They’re still managed buckets of contact reasons, but instead of them being siloed in the communication channels, they’re basically managed at the customer level and give us this ability to have what we call a lifelong conversation. Even if today we talked on chat, but last week we exchanged emails, we get all that history maintained.”

3. A Platform That Can Scale With Evolving Technology

So, what key questions should you pose to a prospective CX solution vendor to ensure they can drive your success into 2024 and beyond?

“It starts with first understanding your current state, what the offering is and getting grounded in, ‘Is this available today? How does it work? What problems does it solve today?’ And then, quite frankly, ‘Who’s using it, and what are some of the success metrics out there now?’ says Emilio. “It’s still early days, but you can ask for case studies or start a dialogue with other brands about how they’re using AI.”

“Then, secondly, walk me through your vision and roadmap. It still has to be radically personal. It has to drive value both for customers and agents, and more importantly, it has to be very easy to use, maintain, and deploy. Where does that take us?”

“And then the third, you should be asking, ‘How do I participate in that innovation? How do I have a voice to help define what that roadmap could look like?’ Most technology companies are seeing three to six months out and have a broad-stroke vision of 12 to 24 months. But where the rubber really hits the road is real customer use cases that our customers are basically influencing to say, ‘Hey, let’s go tackle this problem next.'”

Pro Tip: Meredith Says...

Don't be shy to ask for case studies or strike up conversations with those who have had experience with the tools and platforms you're curious about. 'Especially with AI, having a clear measure of success might not be very tangible for some folks because things are changing so rapidly,' advises Meredith. 'That's why we circle back to radically personal conversations — it's important to open up this dialogue of what people are seeing and how they use AI.' For example, check out our blog on how brands like Victoria Beckham Beauty and Birdies are approaching AI here.

The Conversation Continues

The conversation doesn’t end here. Join us in the Gladly Connect Community for ongoing webinars and discussions. Our diverse community includes leaders, managers, directors, influencers, and CX enthusiasts, providing mentorship opportunities and learning courses. Whether you’re looking to deepen your understanding of AI or collaborate with peers on navigating industry challenges, this community is the perfect platform.

We also have several upcoming events, including our annual Gladly Connect Live 2024. This event offers a deeper exploration of many of these top of mind topics, featuring insights and best practices from our esteemed customers. Attendance is free in person or virtual, providing another excellent opportunity to extend the conversation. Register now.


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