How Does AI Affect the Customer Experience?

Guest Author

February 4, 20216 min read

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How many times did you watch A Christmas Prince over the holiday season?

Fifty-three people watched it 18 days in a row.

That’s been public knowledge since Netflix published this Tweet on December 10:

Some saw the social post as just a funny brand message. Others saw it as, well, kind of creepy. But for marketers, it represents something else entirely: A glimpse into how data can help us learn about audience behavior.

The key is to use that data for more than silly tweets. It’s to use that data to build better customer experiences, and then to use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate that process.

As stated in a new report from Altimeter, “More than anything, business leaders today should begin to treat AI as fundamental to the customer experience. This means thinking about the values AI perpetuates as an essential and eventually indistinguishable expression of product, service and brand.”

Netflix already does this by providing automatic recommendations based on content we’ve previously watched. (A Christmas Prince binge-watchers might see recommendations for more Christmas romance movies, for instance.) And it’s time for more brands to jump on board if they want to survive in a customer-centric marketing landscape. According to a new report from Forbes Insights, only 37% of companies are using AI, but 47% agree that those who don’t invest in it are at risk of being pushed out by competitors.

Here’s a look at how AI can transform the customer experience, and how marketers can overcome the challenges of adopting this new strategy.

Table of Contents

Proactively Provide Solutions

AI customer service can help people proactively solve problems and anticipate issues. For example, Honeywell puts sensors in its products to notify users of certain changes ahead of time.

Say a building manager has Honeywell products in her building. She might have once scheduled regular maintenance calls every six months. But with sensors in the HVAC and security devices, she can now be notified when something isn’t working. This helps save maintenance costs and improves residents’ lives.

“There is no need for regular service calls to inspect equipment that may be working perfectly,” says Mehul Patel, CTO and VP of Engineering for Honeywell’s Home and Building Technologies divisions. “Smart building systems can automatically scan for issues and identify potential faults, in turn providing guidance to a technician on where to focus and precisely which parts to bring to the site.”

The challenge here lies in accountability: How do building managers know they can trust these sensors? What if one fails to report an issue and now the building manager’s back is on the line? As Altimeter reports, these questions need to be addressed before deploying AI your program. Make sure customers know who takes the fall for certain issues, and that there’s a backup plan if the AI doesn’t fulfill its purpose.

Deliver More Personalized Interactions

AI will help brands create more personalized experiences for customers. Microsoft, for example, is working on emotion detection to better read people’s tones and expressions. This will allow their programs to respond with more effectiveness and empathy.

“We use natural language processing, natural language understanding, voice detection (tone, prosody), as well as computer vision,” said Emma Williams, General Manager of Microsoft. “We are even looking at how people express emotions through emojis.”

The risk here is that customers lose trust in brands because they’re giving up privacy and personal data. That’s why it’s so important for brands to build programs that are transparent, secure, and consistent. The Altimeter report recommends ensuring that your AI systems ask permission to collect data, promise to use data only for the purpose intended, and offer clear remediation processes for potential issues.

Build Consistent Experiences Across Platforms

AI can help marketers build more seamless customer experiences across touchpoints. According to Forbes Insights, 66% of tech marketing executives say that this is a top priority.

To do this, however, brands need to break down silos between marketing, supply chain, and commerce departments. This is actually the biggest challenges to delivering consistent customer experiences.

“When these core functions fail to collaborate,” the report states, “opportunities to dramatically improve customer experience using augmented intelligence fall by the wayside.”

As TD Bank knows, breaking down those silos allows the organization to develop a unified view of the customer. Teams can then use that information to deliver the most consistent and effective experiences, no matter which platforms the customer is on.

For example, TD is developing a conversational AI chatbot within its mobile app. This will allow customers to essentially text the chatbot and receive the same support they’d receive over the phone – just more quickly and efficiently. And it only works if the app can take into account each customer’s previous brand interactions. That includes interactions with marketing, sales, and customer service.

“This just scratches the surface of the ways we will be able to leverage customer data to improve the customer experience,” said Ruby Walia, Head of Mobile and Online Banking at TD. “With tools such as AI … we are limited only by our imagination in terms of what can be created.”

An AI-Enabled Future

Today, only 14% of tech companies describe themselves as leading-edge when it comes to AI. Only that small sliver of marketers are using the top tools and technologies available to improve customer experiences through automation. What’s worse is 20% of tech companies are inactive in the AI space.

Those companies are in danger of being left behind. After all, customers are only going to demand more personalized and instantaneous experiences. And they want these experiences to be delivered on their preferred platforms.

“We will interact more and more with devices via talk and text, on a range of devices and locations, often determined and delivered by machine learning algorithms,” the Altimeter report states. “As a result, AI will shape our experiences with companies, products, and services in unprecedented ways.”

So it’s going to happen. You just have to be ready for it.

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