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How adopting an "AI first" mindset can improve the customer experience

2nd Jan 2018
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The biggest challenge for businesses today is to better understand the context of your customers.

Luckily, the rise of technology and the change towards an ‘artificial intelligence first’ world means that tools are being created that can help you turn customer experience into customer science. These are going to revolutionise your business.

Towards an ‘AI first’ world

Although the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) can feel that it belongs in the pages of a science fiction novel, it’s actually already part of today’s world and is set to become even more prevalent.

Consider Echo, Amazon’s smart speaker – this is powered by a bot, which is AI technology. Facebook has also been experimenting with AI bots, allowing third parties to use them through its Messenger app for the benefit of consumers. For example, Dutch airline KLM gives you the option to use a bot to send you all your flight info and subsequent notifications through Messenger.

An ‘AI first’ mindset can be summed up in four ways:

  • Rethinking interfaces;
  • Working with new platforms;
  • Making sure communication is scaled to the max;
  • and using invisible technologies.

These technologies, such as data analytics, machine learning, behind the scenes robots and data sensors, are all completely invisible to customers, but when used properly they have a hugely positive impact by creating automation of real life, faster than real-time service and ‘just for you’ personalisation.

A great example of excellent customer service via these new technologies is in smart central heating systems. When the system detects a fault, it alerts the customer that something is wrong, It also sends a message to the parent company to tell a repair person to come out and fix the problem. This is technology being used to create a seamless and magical experience for the customer.

Another interesting example of how technology is set to change customer experience is the radar currently used on Google’s driverless cars. This radar is mounted on the top of the car and gives a 360 view of the road, feeding data back to the car.

Can you imagine the possibilities if that type of tech was used in a bricks and mortar store?

Well, this is set to happen - I was lucky enough to see a recent demonstration of it. For the first time, a shop will have the same information as an online store such as Amazon does about its visitors. The data gathered is so detailed, you can even see which part of a product’s packaging or which section of an advert a customer’s eyes linger on for the longest.

Technology such as this will be able to give you the information you need to understand the context of your customers in a hugely detailed manner. And once you have this, you can begin to play with them and make sure their experience is even better.

Data as king

‘In God we trust, all others bring data’. This phrase is a great way to sum up the mindset of customer experience in an ‘AI first’ world - as something that will no longer be the gut feeling of marketers or CEOs but actually based on scientific evidence.

Let me share a story that I feel illustrates how data is having a huge impact on the insurance sector, via the satellites built by Californian company Planet Labs. These satellites orbit the earth and collect data for a wide range of uses. One of Planet Labs’ biggest clients is the agricultural sector, which uses the data to monitor storm damage. In turn, this means that insurance claims for damage to crops and livestock by storms can now be based on actual scientific data.

Using AI and the data it can generate is one way that you can optimise a customer’s experience with your product or service.

Previously, the human insurance agent would have to turn up to analyse what happened. Now, however, the data available means that the insurance company can compare pre- and post-storm data, and reach a scientific-led conclusion about what happened.

Collection of data is making a huge difference in lots of other fields too. When we look at healthcare, we see the same inclination: the more data used to understand our health, the more algorithms we receive that deliver predictions, and the more the decisions we make on our personal health are influenced.

Using science to promote loyalty

Customers expect a lot from companies these days. There’s no concept of loyalty for the sake of it any more – if a consumer doesn’t get what they want, then they can easily and quickly look elsewhere. The internet has given all of us a world of choice at our fingertips, and therefore made it vital for companies to go the extra mile in order to get customers to come to them.

Using AI and the data it can generate is one way that you can optimise a customer’s experience with your product or service, thus encouraging repeat business and loyalty.

In the coming ‘AI first’ world, it’s vital that you start thinking about how your company can start to collect and use data for the benefit of your customers. There’s a huge world of possibilities out there to create dazzling customer experiences using the science that’s now available. Go and take advantage.

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s the author of the award-winning book When Digital Becomes Human, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at or visit


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