Creating Holistic Experiences with AI

25th Aug 2017

I was recently reminded about the parable of the blind men and the elephant. In that story, one man’s hand lands on the trunk and says, "This is like a thick snake." Another man’s hand touches an ear, and promptly thinks it’s a fan. There’s one who touches a leg thinking it’s a tree-trunk, another that touches the elephant’s side and thinks it’s a wall, and one who touches the tail and describes it as a rope. That elephant is your customer, and this is exactly like what companies do when they interact with their customers. Everyone has their own interpretation based on unique perceptions.

Think about how disappointed you feel when you interact with a company and one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Report, 82% of customers stopped doing business with a company in 2016 after a bad experience compared to 76% in 2014. Yet, each aspect of a company’s business (customer support, sales, marketing, etc.) only touches one aspect of the customer experience.

Today’s problems exist because most companies subscribe to a channel-centric view of the world. They add channels to keep up with customer demand in that way that is not ideal nor sustainable, resulting in a reactive approach that’s disjointed and disconnected. Customers are forced to start over each time they shift channels, which results in failed experiences.

It’s time to bring those experiences together, but first let’s dispel a few common myths:

  • Myth 1: Customer acquisition and customer engagement are unrelated - Fact: Every moment impacts your brand. You only have one brand, and your company should only have one conversation with your customer. From the customer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter whether they’re engaging with you because they’re considering buying your product or service, or whether you’re resolving a customer service issue.
  • Myth: Self-service and assisted service are two separate things - Fact: Customers think of this as one journey. Stop thinking about their journey in terms of chat, IVR, social, mobile, etc., and stop thinking about self-service and assisted service as two different pieces of that. Start thinking about your customer’s intent, and how you want to execute on their intent by mixing self-service and assisted service seamlessly.
  • Myth: Chat, IVR, social, mobile are all different and require a channel-based approach - Fact: Customer experience exists across a continuum that spans all channels. A journey could start with a search on a mobile device, and move to desktop search, a website and social channels. Once a consumer decides to engage with your brand, you’ll service them via IVR and chat, and you might tie those into CRM, billing systems, and even unstructured data on the back end.

In today’s world of big data, Customer Experience has entered the Age of Intent. This is a new era for business, where companies are shifting from channel-centric engagement to intent-driven engagement.

Artificial Intelligence is the Brain that Pieces Everything Together

Imagine delivering a consistent customer experience on any channel, whether that’s text or speech or both. First, figure out how and where you’re going to deliver those experiences and those memorable moments. Once you figure that out, how do you connect the dots? This is where AI and Machine Learning can provide value businesses.

Because of AI, we can now process huge amounts of customer data. If you think about where your business logic sits, and where your customer information sits, you can abstract them. Make data work for you by applying decisioning and continuous refinement so you’re able to anticipate/predict what the customer wants/needs and personalize that interaction. Use channels in a way that’s conducive to the journey, and engage with your customers how and when they want to be engaged.

Expose all of your customer data through APIs and microservices, and connect the data to a Customer Intelligence Engine that can communicate with all these channels. This makes intent-driven engagement possible. Under the hood, intent-driven engagement uses a variety of data, and applies artificial intelligence techniques to better understand the user, predict what the user wants to do with AI and resolve the issue, then learn from that contact to continuously optimize future interactions.

Getting it Right

One company that does this right is Avis Budget Group. When calling Avis about a car rental, the company can answer with a personalized message, asking about a reservation. If I’ve returned a car and call them back within a couple of hours, the odds are that I left something in the car. They know that. It seems obvious, but that’s not how most companies think about service. They do this by using a platform that incorporates Microsoft’s Deep Neural Networks technology so that customers can effortlessly complete their transactions in the IVR. But that’s just one example of the many was that digital Transformation is disrupting and transforming customer service.

As you think about leaving a lasting impressing on the customer, remember to think holistically about the brand. Be channel agnostic, and make the experience the same across all channels. If you do this, you can create a personalized, predictive and effortless customer experience. In return, your customers will reward you, too.

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