Why generative AI can end the debate: "Is the CX area a cost center or a value generator?"

I recently had a deep discussion with friends about how most companies view their customer experience (CX) department. If a company refers to it as "support" or "customer service," there's a high likelihood they see it as a cost center. This debate isn't new—the role of CX as a cost center versus a value center has always been a topic of discussion. My personal experiences lead me to believe that, unfortunately, many companies still view their CX departments in this light. However, with the advancements in artificial intelligence, we are now at a turning point with opportunities that could change this perception forever. Is the CX community ready to embrace this transformation and finally prove its value?

This weekend, I got into a deep discussion with friends about how most companies view their customer experience area.

It starts there: if a company refers to the area as "support" or "customer service," there's a high chance they see it only as a cost center.

PS: I will always refer to "CX" as the area responsible for managing a company's customer contact journeys (support, relationship, service, etc.).

This discussion isn't new—there has always been a debate about the role of CX as a cost center versus a value center.

My personal experiences lead me to believe that—unfortunately—many companies still view their CX departments as a cost center. The research I've seen on the subject usually doesn't show a high percentage of companies that see it as a cost center, but in the end, who's going to admit that? lol

Now, what's very clear to me is that the window of opportunities opened by advances in AI has the potential to end this discussion once and for all, becoming predominantly a value-generating area for the company: whether impacting business metrics or generating insights for business evolution.

However, I believe this transformation will depend a lot on how the CX community will react and adapt to these opportunities, and I have my doubts if the majority will adhere.

The Value Center Perspective

Let's be honest. Regardless of your field, it's undeniable that customer support professionals are often the unsung heroes of an organization.

They are at the forefront of communication between the company and its customers, providing not just problem resolution but also opportunities to build lasting relationships and loyalty. A well-handled support interaction can turn a dissatisfied customer into a brand advocate. This shift from cost center to value center has tangible impacts on business. Companies with superior customer support tend to see higher customer retention rates, greater customer lifetime value, and even new customer acquisition through positive word-of-mouth.

And this isn't reflected only in the support work itself. Companies that empower their CX areas to generate insights and impact product and technology areas are usually those ahead of their competitors, iterating learnings more quickly and ensuring that they continue to prioritize their customers' problems.

The reality is often frustrating

But the harsh reality is that the CX area is not always orchestrated to generate real impact on the business. After interacting with professionals from smaller companies to organizations with thousands of employees, I've come to realize that many struggle to assume a more prominent role in the business.

Okay: This complacency might be a result of the company's culture, which perhaps does not encourage a more strategic and significant role for CX. However, I believe that many of these individuals miss the opportunity to take the place they so desire.

In the startup environment, it's common to hear the term "Know your numbers," which means having a deep understanding of the relevant KPIs in your area of activity. In this regard, many CX professionals do not "know their own numbers" and fail to understand how their area impacts the fundamental metrics of the business, such as customer retention rate, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Another phenomenon I've noticed is that many professionals delegate any and all activities related to the selection and use of tools to the technology and product teams, failing to develop important knowledge that could even help them gain more prominence in the company. Knowing the tools well and understanding how to use them to improve customer experience is crucial for CX professionals to assume a more strategic and influential role within the company.

AI: The Transformative Factor

The good news is that it has never been easier to achieve this prominence.

The paradigm shift that artificial intelligence is bringing is astounding.

Not only because it's reshaping how humans work, but also due to its democratic access. When the internet emerged, for many years, it was a luxury to have access to a private network. With AI, it's different; literally anyone who already has a mobile device has access and can start using it.

And the barriers that AI can break down and open up for these professionals are numerous!

For a long time, CX professionals were hindered by the need to depend on technology teams to build processes and integrate solutions. AI changes the game by providing tools that allow CX professionals to become more self-sufficient and implement solutions autonomously.

Through automation tools and "co-pilot" tools, teams have the chance to drastically reduce their support load, freeing up time and resources to design and implement processes.

AI can handle routine queries and tasks, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex interactions. This enhances the overall customer experience and allows support teams to deliver higher value.

AI-driven analytics can provide deep insights into customer behavior and preferences, enabling CX professionals to generate insights with less effort and more adaptability.

And the list goes on...

Why is this more in your hands than you might imagine

As I mentioned, I believe we are at a turning point to end this debate once and for all.

It's in our hands to raise the standard and embrace these technologies, but it won't be easy.

Many CX professionals are complaining that their companies do not consider the adoption of AI tools important, or that executives do not see the value in incorporating them into daily operations. If this is your situation, I would like to ask you: whatever the battle you are facing, what is your level of conviction about the potential of your idea?

Can you argue your plan within the framework of your company's business goals?

What is the expected impact and what business metric? (yes, it has to be measurable);

If you can't answer these questions confidently, you probably haven't done the necessary homework for the transformation you're proposing. And this needs to be done, regardless of your field of work.

After all, it's your idea, isn't it?

Now, if you've done all this and exhausted all possible actions to convince your company to join this new world of opportunities, you're probably not in the right place. But that's a topic for a new post 😎


Bruno Cecatto  is one of the founders of Cloud Humans and leads the operations area of the startup. The company enables organizations of various sizes and sectors to benefit from generative artificial intelligence, drastically reducing their support demands. Renowned companies like Nuvemshop, Insider, and CRMBonus already use "ClaudIA," Cloud Humans' conversational AI. Integrated with support systems like Zendesk and Intercom, among others, ClaudIA automates over 60% of the support load for these companies.


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