The Role of AI in Customer Experience

Humanity has always been wary of the machine uprising, but, now that 85% of businesses are investing heavily in digital transformation, isn’t it time we learned to stopped worrying and love AI?

For almost a century, Hollywood has stoked humanity’s fears of artificial intelligence destroying, enslaving, or replacing us. However, now we’ve survived at least four Skynet-induced Judgement Days, it seems we’re finally embracing AI as something a little more user-friendly.

Unsurprisingly, this comes at a time when consumers are reconsidering their views on the role of AI in their day-to-day lives. Although technophobia more or less died as we entered the 21st-century (hand up if you remember the Y2K bug), it’s only recently that AI-enabled devices and apps have entered the mainstream.

For many organisations, diving into this brave new world of AI, androids and automatons, feels like a step too far, yet research from Accenture shows customers feel differently:

  • 85% feel it’s easier to get in touch using AI
  • 62% of people percent say they’re comfortable with an AI answering their queries
  • 68% of people think it’s less biased
  • 68% of people find they engage faster for whatever they want to do

If consumers are comfortable with AI, isn’t it about time businesses understand how it helps provide remarkable customer experience (CX)?

Personalised Recommender

Personalisation was at the heart of one of the 21st-century’s biggest consumer technology success stories – Netflix. In short, Netflix prevailed because they used the tools they had to improve CX wherever possible.

Netflix’s recommendation engine was key to their success and is an example of AI at its most simplistic: it remembers which content you’ve watched and suggests similar content you might enjoy. The more content you watch or review, the “more accurate” the recommendations are.

The decision to focus on improving CX by offering more personalised suggestions obviously paid off, and, thanks to the development of commercial recommendation engines, your business can do the same.

Download the Periodic Table of CX for a visual overview of the many elements  that make for successful customer experience

This isn’t the only way your customer data can be paired with AI to create better customer experiences. Some platforms will pore through browsing habits and purchase history to determine the perfect mix of products to pique a customer’s interest, then automatically redesign your website to display those items.

“Always On” Customer Service

AI chatbots may not have been around for long, but more than 34,000 bots have popped up on Facebook Messenger alone. In fact, they’ve become so pervasive that by 2020 it’s predicted 95% of customer interactions will be handled by AI.

The main benefit of using a bot for customer service is customers get almost instant answers, 24-hours a day, regardless of where in the world they are. And because they’re available on most digital platforms, you’re able to better deliver an omni-channel customer journey.

Not only will this improve CX by showing you’re committed to being there whenever customers needs assistance, but it’ll almost certainly reduce cart abandonment and customer churn. After all, when are you more likely to complete a purchase: when you’re in a “buying state-of-mind” or hours later when you might not even be using your device?

A Mechanical Nostradamus

Delivering customer experiences that feel very unique and personal is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI. With the computing power of modern analytic platforms, it’s now possible to accurately predict the future.

This is known as predictive analysis and, in many ways, it operates similarly to recommendation engines, except it draws on a much wider range and far, far, far greater volumes of data.

By monitoring the nearly infinite amount of data cumulatively created by website and in-app activity of a business’ entire audience, AI can learn to identify the signals of a customer in need of help. For example, spending long periods of time in your FAQs or help pages.

The AI can then respond in real-time by offering relevant customer support, like sharing links to helpful information or starting a dialogue via chatbots. If the AI notices a customer has remained stationary in the purchase cycle for a set amount of time, it may even recommend products or offer exclusive discounts.

Or, as Forrester report in their 2017 Customer Service Trends: Operations Become Smarter And More Strategic:

“They will anticipate needs by context, preferences, and prior queries and will deliver proactive alerts, relevant offers, or content. They will additionally become smarter over time via embedded artificial intelligence.”

Introducing AI-powered proactive assistance will have a huge effect on customer experience. Not only is it likely to increase customer satisfaction and slash customer complaints, but it could be key to drastically lowering cart abandonments.

Omniscient Digital Assistants

2017 was the year that digital assistants hit the mainstream, thanks to devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo. Now, nearly 16% of American households own a smart-speaker device, which is an incredible 128% year-on-year increase.

The launch of Alexa for Business provides an easy-to-understand gateway into voice-activated technology and now the rush is on for businesses to ensure customers are able to access their products without needing to pick up their phones.

2018 will likely see digital assistants move from our homes into our pockets, as we empower them to connect with a much greater network. Soon, they’ll be integrated with every tool we use, offering us insight into every aspect of our lives instead of just responding to our requests.

This brings us closer to a world where CX, and the customer journey as a whole, will become literally seamless, with no need for customers to consciously interact with your business. Instead, they’ll be prompted by a digital assistant to make a purchase or accept a discount once they fit the profile of a likely buyer.

Customer Experience Transformed

Ultimately, all AI and machine learning are doing is what machines have always done, eliminating some physical limitations of human employees. Unlike their fleshy counterparts, AI can work around the clock, have multiple conversations at once and analyse vast volumes of data in near enough real-time.

This is great for businesses, and, because AI systems are constantly learning they’re perpetually improving their proficiency in:

  • Predicting the experiences customers need
  • Providing those experiences without being prompted
  • Delivering those experiences wherever and whenever they’re needed

This transforms traditional conversational customer experience into something which never needs to be asked for – everything a customer wants will be there, whenever they need it, on whatever device they’re using.

It’s important to remember that AI isn’t a panacea you can apply to solve your customer experience shortcomings. The best way to think about it is not as a fix for traditional CX concerns, but instead as a tool to remove those problems all together. For example, AI isn’t intended to make it easier to find the answers they need, it’s intended to ensure they already have that information.

For a striking visual guide to what makes a great customer experience, click here to download our Periodic Table of Customer Experience Elements.

Free Printable Download The Periodic Table of Customer Experience Discover the  key elements for creating successful customer experiences in this printable  wall art. Download and Print now