The UK’s biggest brands are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to develop better customer and colleague experiences, according to KPMG’s latest Customer Experience Excellence Report, now in its 14th year. This is allowing some UK businesses to reverse declines in customer satisfaction, caused by previous cost cutting.

The global study, which asked over 13,000 UK consumers for their views on 376 brands in this year’s report, ranks brands based on how well they score across six areas. This includes empathy, integrity and personalisation. A new AI adoption index looks at which businesses are implementing the latest technology effectively, safely and ethically.

The majority (64%) of brands included in the report saw their scores across each area decline compared to last year, amid a challenging economic landscape for businesses and consumers. Customer satisfaction levels have dropped to pre-COVID-19 levels, falling by 3.8 percent in the last year.

AI adoption key to staying ahead of the pack

Brands with the highest levels of customer experience are also successfully experimenting and scaling their use of AI to improve customer and colleague experiences, whilst improving business performance. Examples of AI adoption include content generators, language translators, and smart knowledge management assistants, as well AI’s ability to analyse data, detect patterns and identify anomalies in areas such as fraud detection.

Financial services lead the AI Adoption index where the technology is helping to create both business and customer value from the vast amount of data held and managed by financial firms.

The top five sectors for AI adoption are:

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  1. Financial Services
  2. Travel & Hotels
  3. Telecoms
  4. Public Sector
  5. Logistics

Commenting on the findings, KPMG UK head of customer & operations, Tim Knight, said: “In the last year, UK customers have suffered, as businesses have cut costs, often implementing older technology to inconsistently automate their service. Whilst these brands may deliver lower costs this year, it’s likely they will lose customer spend over time.

“The latest artificial intelligence platforms are helping early adopters in the UK to address this, delivering both improved service and enhanced business performance. These brands are using AI to empower colleagues to achieve more, or to directly deliver empathetic and personalised customer experiences.

“By looking at over 2500 brands worldwide, including 376 in the UK, we’ve been able to see what the best early adopters of AI are doing, as well as the pitfalls. Perhaps most important is how they are starting to re-wire their whole businesses to unlock the advantages of AI, treating it more like the advent of the internet or the steam engine, rather than a new form of computing. This is clearly a lot more than an IT problem to be bolted on to legacy ways of working; at the world’s brands, CEOs are re-imagining the ways businesses are structured and how they perform.”

KPMG UK director and head of experience transformation, Marty Herbert, added: “Given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, retaining customers has become an even greater challenge for brands, as consumers are compelled to cut back on spending. The clear winners in this year’s report are financial services and non-grocery retailers who have offered customers support and reliability during these challenging times. Many of these retailers were also early adopters of AI and have been proactive in carving out a new approach to driving customer satisfaction.

“All sectors can harness the power of AI to enhance their customer and colleague experience, while successful deployment of the new virtual AI colleague needs to be assessed through an economic lens to ensure that it is being judiciously applied to use cases that will genuinely create value, both for the organisation, and for customers and colleagues.

“Too often, AI deployment is erroneously seen as the remit of solely the IT function. If used properly, AI offers a clear path to increasing customer loyalty in these challenging economic times.”