How to use AI to improve your customer experience

April 27, 2018 Mike Buckley

Artificial intelligence (AI) use cases are growing by the day, and one of the key ways the technology has been proven to help businesses is by enhancing customer experience.

The goal of AI is to complete many of the tasks humans do in a quicker and more sophisticated way. However, businesses need to consider whether or not they require AI in the first place, and if it can help improve areas such as the customer experience.

The benefit of Artifical Intelligence: a quicker, more sophisticated tool

Just because some companies are opting for AI, doesn’t necessarily mean it is for every business. First and foremost, it’s worth analysing areas of your business where you feel improvements could be, or should be, made. A way to do this would be to employ Enterprise Resource Planning. Once you've determined if improvements can be made, you need to consider whether AI is the best solution.

This may require a deeper analysis of the business, asking your employees areas where they feel they need help or to identify tasks they find frustrating to work on. In addition, you could ask questions about how long certain tasks are taking, and consider whether this is longer than necessary.

It’s worth speaking to your CTO or equivalent about whether or not the technology you have in mind can easily be integrated into the business, and whether it will produce the benefits that the product says it will.

Then comes the tender and trial process; the only way you’ll really find out if a product can produce the results you’d like is by piloting it. How do the employees react? Is it saving time? Is it having an effect on customer experience?

A follow-up survey with customers and employees can help you gauge the success and suitability of the AI tool in question.

Where can I find AI in business use-case examples?

AI is already being built into well-known product suites that you will be familiar with. For example, customer relationship management (CRM) systems is one of the places that AI is most prominent and are one of the key investments many SMBs (and larger companies) make.

CRM systems have been around for many years, and is essentially the software that enables an SMB to begin making the most of their customer data. That is, the ability to understand customer patterns and trends and target customers depending on their preferences.

AI can begin enhancing CRM in analysing data and handling customer enquiries. The technology can suggest or automate answers to incoming customer queries. It also classifies tickets and messages, routing them to the right team.

In the future, AI will also help you to predict your customers’ needs and make relevant suggestions before they contact you.

Salesforce, for example, offers Einstein AI as an add-on to its CRM. This can analyse phone calls, emails, social media posts and customer reviews, and suggests changes to your marketing and sales activities, including personalised marketing campaigns.

The benefits are real; at a 2017 conference entitled Consumerology, Vesselin Popov from the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre, explained: “Personality-matched content is twice as profitable. And when people spend on ads that match their personality, they are happier too”.

In fact, 28% of global companies have already used AI as part of their CRM strategy and 41 percent plan to do so in 2018 and 2019, according to a report by market intelligence firm IDC and Salesforce .

However, Popov warned it’s important to avoid being too intrusive.

“People don’t like predictions being made about them without their consent. If you personalise, there needs to be a benefit to the customer and the content needs to be relevant,” he said.

So, if your business was to introduce AI features into your CRM you need to ask whether the technology will provide benefits that go beyond your existing CRM set up, and whether it is worth the additional investment. You’ll also have to keep in mind privacy and whether or not the AI features will seem intrusive to your customers.

How a virtual assistant improves the customer experience

Various businesses use AI chatbots as a way to deal with customer enquiries – making the customer experience far more seamless than having to wait on hold on the phone.

Gartner predicts that AI chatbots – also known as virtual agents/assistants – will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020. They’re getting smarter all the time, but they can already provide a cost-effective first step in handling queries by resolving the simpler ones. That saves time, boosts the impression of providing a more personal service and makes life more interesting for staff.

But whether or not businesses require an AI chatbot depends very much on the type of business you own. For example, it makes sense for companies that want to reduce the amount of customer service calls they get. But even then, SMBs need to be wary of the work involved to make them work effectively. The best chatbots recognise a customer's needs or queries and deals with them effectively – but this can be resource and time intensive.

SMBs should analyse the tasks that are not overly complex for a virtual assistant to help them with, and take into account that many customers will still prefer a human touch. Relying solely on virtual assistants rather than call agents can actually hinder the customer experience.

Another area worth considering is the voice assistant space. The likes of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant have already been a hit with consumers and SMBs can try to integrate this to their offering to give customers yet another way of interacting with their business.

For example, independent train ticket provider Trainline launched a voice service for Google that enables consumers to ask when the next train for London Euston leaves, how much the ticket price is, and what the weather is like at the destination. It’s this kind of innovation that can build brand reputation, awareness, and ultimately loyalty.

In fact, there is a correlation between brand recognition, customer satisfaction and AI; more than 90% of companies with world-leading brand recognition and high levels of customer satisfaction use AI solutions to increase customer satisfaction, compared to 42% of companies in their fields overall, according to a report from MIT Technology Review and Genesys.

SMBs with an app of their own could take a similar approach, but they need to ask whether or not voice functionality is something that customers would genuinely use for their particular service, and whether it would enhance their current proposition. More importantly, the work that went behind the scenes into Trainline’s voice service suggests that it requires software development experts that understand what they’re doing in this area. So consider whether or not you have the right expertise to make this work, or if you need to use a third party to help you.

Is AI worth the investment for SMBs?

AI can be useful to any SMB but only if it is applied in the areas that can make a real difference for the particular company. Businesses need to have a look at themselves first before opting to plough ahead with AI, and then they need to consider whether the work it takes and the investment required is worth the benefits gained. In addition, they must ensure that privacy and a human touch remain intact.

Give your customers the out-of-this-world experience they deserve by using data analytics to transform how they interact with your business. Find out more here about diversifying customer communication.

 

About the Author

Mike Buckley

Mike’s career started in the 2005 fledgling London FinTech sector before fifteen years of B2B marketing communications in which Mike helped tell value stories for Zurich Insurance, Panasonic and Intuit among many more businesses. Upon joining Cisco in 2016, Mike worked on content production for UKI verticals Financial Services, Manufacturing and Retail before moving to the EMEAR region as SMB Audience Expert.

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