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AI in customer experience: ‘It’s not about drawing pictures on a screenAI in customer experience: ‘It’s not about drawing pictures on a screen

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on business is already being felt, but the technology is likely to have ripple effects that many of us have not thought about, not least among them changes in user experience (UX). Brian Herron, director and principal UX designer of user experience specialists Each&Other, said it was his job, and that of people like him, to develop an understanding of just what the impact would be. What we’ve been thinking about is the role of CX [customer experience] and UX as we move into a future where there is significant investment going into AI. What Each&Other and other UX specialists have concluded is that when AI is implemented, UX techniques will be crucial to deploying it in a way that produces positive results. In essence, Herron said, the role of CX and its function didn’t change, but the things it was being asked to do would change. There will be new products, but the processes that allow you to compete with competitors and win over customers won’t change. That’s around market fit, utility, execution of ideas. Despite the importance of user experience, there is still some confusion around exactly what it is. Indeed, many confuse UX with user interface (UI) design, but while UI is a component of UX, UX is about understanding and improving every aspect of how a user interacts with a product. “It’s not about drawing pictures on the screen.” With the arrival of generative AI, there is now an opportunity, and indeed a need, to assess how we interact with a new and powerful technology. Herron said that a serious goal right now must be developing an understanding of where AI was useful. “We’re at a phase of this technology where the infrastructure is being created, the pipe is being laid for what can be possible in the future. As a result, we’re [all] moving ahead of use cases and the technology is being created. That’s why we’re all looking at the tools which are, in many cases, tricks and gimmicks: video generators and text generators have proven they work, but the question is how will they be used in things like advertising? “People are seeing the opportunity, but the bigger play will come down the pipe in the next 18 months.” "There will be new products, but the processes that allow you to compete with competitors and win over customers won't change." For UX researchers and designers, even AI working on background and back office processes is important to think about as it may well be the area where the technology has its most significant impact. “Even in background things, there are times when people interface with the technology. We think that from the combination of technology which has enormous potential benefits and the truism that design-led companies tend to lead the market, companies will be able to extract new value,” Herron said. Each&Other recently worked with a medtech company that has developed an AI-augmented process to speed professionals’ ability to access and use documentation in healthcare. That’s one example where the idea of the tool is facilitated by [AI] technology, but the UX process becomes very meaningful. Of course, as generative AI is relatively new it brings risks. For example, experimentation with AI could lead to inaccurate results, or fail to provide value. Here, UX techniques can help, Herron said. “The kinds of tools we’ve been using for 20 years in UX, such as iteration and constant optimisation, are useful for guiding how a user’s AI journey should go”. Overall, Herron said, the opportunities arising due to AI are very interesting – and, in fact, many of the greatest opportunities for change are in the business-to-business (B2B) space, rather than business-to-consumer (B2C), even if B2B tends to be somewhat neglected in comparison to consumer-facing activities. “The question is what can we do around AI. Companies will be thinking ‘we have an install base, we have a clamour from our customers, and our computers all seem to be doing things’. To help answer that, when we look at UX, our role, Each&Other’s role, is in two particular areas. The first is in enterprise. We’re working with Phased.ai to help large organisations see where the issues are. The second is with product companies that are bringing AI-augmented products out. They’re not just layering technology in, they’re looking to solve problems.

by Brian Herron & Jason Walsh

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