The AI-transformed customer experience – how does it actually work?

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In today’s digital age, the biggest differentiator for success is often the customer experience. Many customers are no longer loyal to a company based on brand image, product offerings or even price. In the end, how the consumer reflects on their interactions could be the biggest factor that influences whether they come back or not.

Companies are expected to offer a personalised service, via multiple channels, whenever and wherever customers want it. On top of this, there is constant pressure to deliver and one bad experience is enough to drive a customer away and into the arms of the competition

With the stakes being this high, it’s no surprise that the issue of customer experience is now a major talking point in many boardrooms across the world. Senior decision makers are considering the various processes they can put in place to improve the quality of their customer service and how they can use that improved experience to turn customers into advocates. Here are three ways artificial intelligence is changing the way businesses and customers interact: 

1. Dealing with the data deluge

One of the biggest challenges companies are facing is adapting to the digital nature of today’s customer journey. For all the benefits the digital revolution has brought, businesses are inundated with channels on which customers want to communicate with them, as well as the ensuing data. As of 2016, the US alone was creating 2,657,700 gigabytes of Internet data every minute. Although these numbers can be exciting for data enthusiasts, companies often find themselves sitting on a wealth of information they just aren’t capable of processing and therefore cannot use it to improve customer service.  This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in to play. 

AI has the ability to effectively process and analyse the vast amounts of data that companies gather, at a far quicker pace than humans ever can. This then allows businesses to recognise current pain points and react to them in real time, anticipate future problems, and learn more about their customer’s preferences helping them not only deliver a superior customer experience, but also a higher quality service overall. For example, if a company can identify that a customer is continually abandoning an experience at a particular part of the journey or if a high percentage of customers seem to be asking the same questions over and over, they can quickly fix issues and optimize around gaps of information.  This helps ensure the experience is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of customers and helping businesses serve their customers better and address issues quicker and more effectively than ever before. 

2. Empowering customers and agents 

As the adoption of AI in customer experience continues to increase, customer interactions will shift from being heavily dependent on the human agent, to a hybrid model consisting of the human element, with technology helping share the workload. The rise in AI-powered chatbots means customers are empowered to self-serve where appropriate. They will no longer need to wait in long queues for an employee to help them out. But that by no means should translate to massive job loss for human agents as some people are predicting. 

Instead AI should be leveraged to augment the human agent – helping offload simple, repetitive tasks leaving them open to more creative, meaningful work.  AI-powered chatbots are smart enough to know when they aren’t smart enough to  solve a problem and need their human “co-worker’s” help.  Technology has made it possible to seamlessly bring the agent into the conversation to continue the interaction right where the chatbot left off.  And it’s a symbiotic relationships where AI is also helping agents on the backend provide a better, more personalised experience, by quickly feeding customer history and preferences as well as recommendations to the agent during the conversation . 

In the end, AI is only as good as the people working with it.  Simply put, AI affords companies the ability to better leverage their most valuable resources – their employees – not replace them.

3. Creating a more consistent experience

With the rise in channels that customers use to interact with their favourite brands, be it calling a customer service centre, sending an email, a mobile app, live chatting on the website, or connecting via social media, businesses need deliver the same level of service across each and every channel. A Facebook messenger interaction, for example, needs to provide a consistent message and experience as an agent in a call centre. 

Unfortunately, many organisations are still operating on legacy solutions with bolted on channels that are made up of disparate systems – built on widely different knowledge bases.  This results in a very disconnected experience, significant time delays, and the inability to seamlessly hand off an interaction from one to another – leaving customers unhappy, frustrated and more likely to take their business elsewhere. 

AI-powered customer engagement platforms are helping to close the information gap between customers and businesses, by connecting these channels. This is allowing bots and agents alike to get a full view of the customer history so all interactions can be informed, actionable and personalised.  By having this 360-degree view of the customer journey, companies are in a better position to support customers when, where and how they need it the most. 

For example, an agent may pick up the phone to a customer, and before the conversation even begins, the agent will know that the frustrated customer sent a direct message on Twitter outlining their problem and hasn’t received a response yet.  Instead of having that customer rehash the issue the agent can get right down to the business of solving the problem.  

Brands know that they need to be thinking about customer experience, but companies who aren’t acting on it will start to feel the full effects as unhappy customers move to the competitions. Businesses have the opportunity to put customers above all else and distinguish themselves through better, more personalised customer engagements.  AI is making that possible.   

Ryan Lester, Director Customer Engagement Technologies at LogMeIn   

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock