AI: The next evolution of personal touch
Artificial intelligence has gone from being a complex technology that was only accessible to computer and data scientists to now playing a pivotal role in the day to day, from big data processing to self-driving cars. We are seeing a proliferation in the use-cases for AI and many organisations are evaluating how they can use it to drive the business forward. This can seem like an overwhelming task, but customer engagement could be the perfect entry door into the AI world. It enables the personal touch to extend across the channels we use to interact with our customers to enhance the brand experience and raise customer satisfaction. There are, however, some prominent misconceptions about AI that need to be discussed.
“Chatbots are best suited for simple customer support experiences”
This is a myth that stems from our past experiences as consumers. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) could be seen as the first generation of bots, specifically voice bots. IVR would collect information via phone and introduce a simple decision tree to help customers find the correct answers and put them through to the appropriate agent. This technology served a purpose, but it can’t be said it was pleasant to use.
The AI of today is far more dynamic and nimbler than the scripted tree-based technology it replaced. It can go much further than just sending a customer in the right direction. Consumers can now have a conversation with a bot that is an exploration, where the customer and AI are working together give the customer what they need. A bot will use context about the customer and ask questions to tailor the experience to that specific customer’s needs.
In the age of online shopping and ease of one-click away to your competitors, AI-powered chat solutions create a very compelling digital channel for consumers, all while delivering a personalised experience at scale.
“It’s better to focus on prospects than current customers”
A common but flawed assumption for a few key reasons. First, cost. Acquiring new customers costs, at minimum, five times more than the cost of retaining one, according to Forrester. Also, existing customers tend to spend more the next time they buy and become brand advocates. Therefore, keeping customers happy generates revenue.
Part of prioritising customers over prospects helps to create a more cohesive customer journey, ensuring that they experience the value of what they’ve paid for. A big part of the journey for current customers revolves around customer service and support throughout their customer lifetime. Luckily, there are many ways that AI can help to foster valuable customer relationships.
AI-powered engagement ensures each customer receives VIP treatment, is helped in the right way, and pointed to products, services and solutions that best match their needs. This encourages them to spend more, prompt them to share the brand with others and, ultimately, drive business success.
To become customers, however, they have to purchase something. Browsing and not buying is a challenge the retail industry has been facing since its inception. While there is absolutely a time and place for follow-up emails and re-targeting ads, it can be beneficial to strike while the iron is hot. AI enables personalised outreach to each customer on a site through data gathered about the customer’s journey and knowledge about past interactions that have converted to purchases. This proactive engagement will track back directly to the organisation’s bottom line and add more potential customer advocates to the ranks.
“Technology will completely replace humans”
Yes, technology is important. Contact centres, order management, and other customer-facing teams need to be armed with tools to optimise workflows, drive KPIs and ultimately make the organisation more successful, but technology has to be combined with human expertise. Tech helps to make employees more efficient and effective but shouldn’t be used to completely replace them.
Just as on the consumer side, the expectation for technology to help make life better is rising among the next generation of customer-facing employees. Customer service and support are key areas where AI makes a real difference. AI-powered search and chatbots help to quickly scale by taking frequently asked questions off an agent’s plate. Modern chatbots deftly handle customer queries in a natural, conversational way, and free up the agent’s time to focus on resolving more complex, high-value customer issues.
AI is a game changer in this area if provided to employees at the right time and through the right platform. It enables employees to become much more strategic in nature and not only solve problems, but also drive revenue and loyalty.
“You only get one shot at the perfect AI implementation”
The possibilities of integrating AI with backend systems is nearly endless. A good AI chatbot solution can integrate data from any source that is accessible through an API, and it can have automated backend processes. However, while these use cases can deliver immense value to an organisation, it doesn’t all have to happen at once. Starting with a simple use case that shows ROI quickly and adding capabilities over time is a great way to get buy-in for bigger projects.
There are many benefits to starting small and growing an AI implementation with a single software solution. Siloed and disjointed experiences make customers feel as if they were working with a different company or brand with each interaction. Coordinating efforts and insights across the organisation provides a more cohesive experience as users move through the customer journey.
Ultimately, the goal of using a single AI-powered engagement solution across the organisation ensures businesses deliver timely and relevant information to prospects and customers at the moments when they really need it. AI can also provide proactive guidance for agents of all capabilities, drive centralised approaches to knowledge management, and collect insights to help drive additional, ongoing training.
AI and bots can bring many benefits to an organisation, but there are ways to implement them in a methodical way. By defining specific use cases, outlining expectations, starting with a specific project and scaling, it will ensure that AI is an aid to customers and employees where and when they need it. Having the AI touch will be a game changer to the future of business.