Building Beautiful Customer Experiences With AI

Even though artificial intelligence has been around for 60 years, it is only now that we can use AI to create personalized customer experiences, better self-service and key customer insights. For decades we’ve provided customers with experiences that were very non-human. All too often we don’t know who our customers are, what’s going on in their lives or what they need. Across the board, customer experiences are still made for the masses and not the individual. However, advances in AI have made it possible for brands to treat customers less like machines and more like people.

It’s been proven that companies that invest in customer experience reap the rewards over companies that don’t, both with their shareholders and their reputations. Think of the experience you like to have yourself, and then work to make that possible for your customers. AI and machine learning are powerful tools that truly allow companies to create beautiful, personalized customer experiences.

Leveraging AI to Improve Customers’ Lives

The three most important aspects of AI for customer experience are chatbots, personalization and customer insights. These tools can be used to help brands recognize, remember and provide relevant offers. A recent survey found that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that remember them and provide relevant recommendations. AI empowers brands by giving them the tools they need to better understand their customers and how they use and feel about the products.

For years, we’ve had people serving people via contact centers and in-person interactions. We say that we are interested in technology, but then we leave people in positions that would be better filled by machines. Things like answering basic questions, sorting through customer data and providing recommendations can be more efficiently accomplished by computers. Instead, we’re having a non-human customer experience brought to us by humans.

Today’s technology is incredibly dynamic. Instead of just communicating with customers and relaying a message, machines can now learn and problem-solve. They can also process huge amounts of data to identify trends and meaningful insights. One example of this is Next Insurance, which has a fully AI-powered claims process that is 99.9% accurate. Instead of waiting on paperwork and humans, customers can now have their claims processed much more quickly by a machine and still get accurate results.

After our first child was born, my husband and I decided to upgrade to a larger car. It was a year later when I was updating the registration that I realized we had never moved the insurance to the new car. For an entire year we had been driving an uninsured car and paying for insurance on a car we no longer drove. This issue was my fault much more than it was the insurance company’s, but it still represented a major missed opportunity for the insurance company to create a better experience. They had no idea I had just had a baby, so they missed the chance to sell me new products. Most insurance companies talk to their customers less than once a year, which means their data isn’t fresh. Imagine what could have happened if my insurance company had used AI to sift through the data to better understand me.

We shouldn’t be afraid of technology—we should embrace it and learn to use it in the right places. AI machines can listen, understand context, personalize every interaction and work faster than humans. The best brands leverage this technology to make their customers’ lives better. Spotify uses AI to recommend new music for customers in real time, just like Apple leverages AI to integrate Siri as a virtual assistant in all of its devices. In these situations, AI isn’t scary, but rather useful in providing a better and more personalized experience for customers. Imagine if that technology was used to follow-up on my new car insurance or in any number of other situations. It could be a powerful, personal experience for customers.

Challenges Of Implementing AI

That isn’t to say that adding AI to customer experience is flawless, because there are definitely some growing pains. One of the biggest problem is that companies and their data are often siloed, so insights from one division don’t get shared with other areas of the company. Many brands are so focused on their channels that they miss seeing the customer. We need to shift from a channel-first mentality to a customer-first mentality.

AI and customer experience doesn’t belong in just one area of the company, but should be used across the organization. AI only works if it is thought of holistically across the entire company. Amazon is one of the best success stories of holistic AI. Machine learning and innovation in one division of the company powers innovation in other areas of the company. Each internal group is encouraged to leverage machine learning. The end result is a cohesive company that integrates AI into everything it does, from Alexa to the Amazon Go store. Amazon is leading the charge with AI and customer experience because it has broken down the silos and encourages innovation across the board.

There’s also the challenge of re-skilling workers. AI won’t put people out of work immediately, but it will definitely force us to learn new skills. It can be daunting for employees to have to learn a new skillset or move into a new area.

When considering AI, we can’t simply look at the most pressing threat. If we’re too focused on the short-term impacts, like most companies are, we won’t be prepared for what will happen 10 or 20 years from now. Planning now and keeping an eye towards the future will help us avoid running out of room for growth and change.

The key to overcoming these challenges is first to figure out what problem you want AI to solve. For some companies, it might be gaining more insights on customers, while other want to improve communication or the retention process. From there, consider what you need to achieve that task and find where your data is. With a concrete goal in mind, you can use your data more effectively.

The Future of AI

The future of AI is largely uncharted and will likely continue to change as the technology evolves. I personally imagine a world where everything is personalized and voice-activated. Imagine going to work or coming home to have all of your devices, electronics and appliances connected and easily controlled with only your voice. In the future, mundane and repetitive chores will be automated. Anything that wastes time that could be better spent will be able to be done by robots, like creating grocery lists, mailing letters, cleaning the house and doing laundry.

Customization will be key—customers will never have to contact customer service or wait on hold to talk to a call center agent. We won’t see mass ads or have spam in our email, mailbox or phone because brands will know their customers well enough to know who to target. Companies will be more efficient, which will allow customers to have more time for their preferred activities.

This futuristic world of AI may seem far-fetched, but it will be here sooner than we think. By leveraging the power of AI now and preparing for the future, brands can not only build beautiful customer experiences now but also set the stage to be leaders in the future.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

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