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How AI-powered marketing and CX can drive higher customer engagement

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Mopic)

With ever-increasing connectivity and digital channels, brands have access to a wealth of customer data. How do they unlock this potential knowledge to provide customers with the experience they want? Sanjay Jambhale, VP and Head, Digital Practice, Zensar Technologies, explores the role of AI in marketing and CX (customer experience), and how this can drive higher customer engagement.

Making sense of marketing data

It’s a traditional marketing principle that it takes up to seven points of contact for a prospect to become a customer. With most these interactions likely to take place on digital channels (such as social media or email), each one generates data about your prospects. When these leads become customers, each further interaction creates still more data about who’s buying your products, and what brought them to your business. Used correctly, this data can unlock a wealth of insight to help your business better market itself, and deliver an optimised customer experience.

However, according to McKinsey, only 13 per cent of companies feel strongly that they have identified their customers’ decision journeys and understand where to focus marketing, while nearly half cannot measure the critical stages of the customer decision journey. This lack of understanding suggests that brands are still not making the most of the insightful customer data at their disposal.

We believe that AI can help brands make sense of their marketing data, and allow their teams to augment their expertise to deliver a smoother and more enjoyable customer journey. What impact can well-executed AI can have on CX, and how can businesses implement AI-powered marketing and CRM systems to improve customer engagement?

Applying AI

While many customers still feel a knee-jerk reaction of discomfort at the idea of dealing with an AI customer service or sales agent, the reality is that strategically used AI can help businesses achieve higher levels of customer engagement. To be clear, we are not talking about anything near ‘robotics’ or broad uses of AI. We are referring to specific, narrow AI-powered use cases, integrated into marketing, sales, or customer service software.

So, what is the benefit of AI in marketing and CRM systems? Historically, marketers presented with a customer data set would apply certain rules to analyse it and gain insight. These rules would be based on the marketer’s own knowledge and past experiences. In today’s marketing and CRM systems, AI does not replace the human — it augments with the marketer’s knowledge, creating augmented analytics. Rather than the marketer setting rules, they let the system learn from the data and spot new patterns that are not obvious to the human way of thinking.

How these AI-powered systems work depends on the business and its needs. For a product company, this could enable AI rules on their website that recommend certain products based on the customer’s previous purchases and searches. But not just this — these rules could learn from the past experiences of millions of customers to optimise product recommendations to increase conversions. As well as product businesses, this could aid online hotel bookings, insurance providers, and other such services.

AI for customer engagement

The above examples demonstrate how AI can help businesses increase sales and repeat customers. However, we believe that the key focus of implementing AI (or any such transformative tech) should always be improving CX. Get this right first, and the additional business benefits will follow. Because AI does not (or should notFor ) replace the human, it frees up employees to add extra value to the customer journey.

For example, let us consider the experience of buying insurance products. Insurance can be a notoriously difficult product to purchase online. If a customer gets stuck on a particular clause or certain terminology, they may need to call the insurance agent to finish their purchase. However, the customer doesn’t want to repeat the whole process again on the phone — just the portion where they got stuck. Applying AI to the process allows the customer to complete as much as they can online (perhaps with the help of an AI chatbot), then provides the call handler with everything they need to know about the customer’s journey so far. This not only creates a more pleasant CX, but a smoother workflow for the insurance agent.

When the call handler’s time is freed up due to the use of AI, they can provide extra value to the customer. This could be a level of service or advice that the customer wasn’t expecting to receive, but is pleasantly surprised. Such added ‘brownie points’ can improve customer engagement, and garner long-term customer loyalty.

Four tips for businesses implementing AI-powered CRM and marketing systems:

1, Identifying the right use cases is critical when considering AI. Customers commonly complain that they want to deal with humans when they are struggling, not AI chatbots. But in cases, customers want to buy online immediately with no human intervention. It’s about providing the solution that’s appropriate to the use case. 

2. Always put customer engagement at the heart. Get this right, and customer loyalty, repeat business, and increased sales are likely to follow. 

3. Don’t try to be broad. Pick a specific challenge, and explore how AI can help automate processes and analyse data to increase your understanding.

4. Choose your tech wisely. The right AI-powered software can help boost customer engagement greatly. We favour the Adobe Experience Platform, as it can talk to back-end data analytics, and integrates easily with other systems.

Sanjay Jambhale, VP and Head, Digital Practice, Zensar Technologies
Image Credit:Shutterstock/Mopic

Sanjay Jambhale is the VP and Head for Digital Practice at Zensar Technologies.