A lot of my creative friends have been playing around with the Midjourney Artificial Intelligence (AI) art generator app in recent weeks — and it’s provoked a lot of discussion about how generative AI may replace the creative process.

But as artist John Picacio pointed out, it is really another tool in the toolbox — albeit one that may move the baseline and spur the exploration of new ways to express creativity.

“If your work can be replicated by AI so that the consumers and clients can cut you out of the equation, it’s not necessarily game over," Picacio said. "But it’s time to evolve. The key will be about maintaining a level of differentiation and recognizability apart from the AI. In the end it will be about how an artist’s work resonates with the audience in ways that a program can’t replace. Same as it ever was.”

AI as Part of the Customer Experience

This got me thinking about AI as part of the customer experience. A recent blog from Gartner analyst Christopher Sladdin detailed the role of AI and the rise of the machine customer; in the piece, Sladdin hypothesizes that we may be moving toward a state where a combination of smart devices and machine learning (ML) could drive customer experience events without any direct human intervention, or even awareness those events happened.

That may sound great in theory. Having devices that know they need repair, or new supplies, ahead of time and that can contact the right service or suppliers to ensure they stay functional is a neat idea … as long as it works.

Which leads me to my hallway. Or to be more precise the intelligent thermostat on the wall. The one that is a connected device that is meant to learn our habits and set the right temperature at the right time of day based on our preferences and movements. The one that is meant to figure out the most cost-efficient heating plan for our house. The one that isn’t working as it should. The one that my wife is getting frustrated with and can’t find a way to connect with an actual human at the company to discuss things with.

Related Article: What's Next for Artificial Intelligence in Customer Experience?

AI and Machine Learning Are Great Tools, But We Still Need Humans

No matter how much we automate things, there will invariably be a time when a human wants to talk to another human about the products and services we supply.

And I believe, perhaps paradoxically, that this is where AI and machine learning can become some of the most valuable assets in our customer experience tool set.

Back in my September 2019 article for CMSWire, Machine Learning Isn’t Rocket Science, I talked about how ML is great at recognizing patterns, but not much else. ML is basically a subset of AI that relies on patterns and inference to drive conclusions. That means it can see what is happening in a data set, but not why it is happening. Any conclusions are based on patterns established by what happened in the past. There is an underlying assumption that the next set of data is going to be similar enough for the patterns and models it recognized to still be applicable.

Learning Opportunities

What is missing is that human instinct and the ability to put things in context for an ever-evolving world — or to put it in more direct CX terms, where the customer is on their customer journey, and what obstacles they are facing.

AI in general and ML in particular are great tools for reducing the workload of data collection and processing. They can help us figure out the patterns. Analytics can show us what happened. They can even provide some basic insights on behavior patterns. But not everyone will follow those patterns, and when they do reach out for help, this is where we can use AI to help differentiate our service.

Related Article: How Will Conversational AI Transform Customer Experience?

AI and Art

Going back to John Picacio’s point about AI and art: This is an opportunity to evolve. We need to develop a “level of differentiation and recognizability apart from the AI.”

We need to use our AI tools to do the heavy lifting, providing the data and insights so that when we do interact with a customer, we are better informed about who they are, what products they have and how they use those products. In turn, we’ll have a better understanding of why they may be reaching out, and we then can use that human-to-human contact to differentiate by doing the things at which we are best: providing empathy, understanding context and lateral thinking to help develop solutions that fit the individual’s needs.

The companies that provide the levels of customer experience that “resonates with the audience in ways that a program can’t replace” will be the ones that win — “Same as it ever was.”

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.