How AI Can Change Customer Experience And Engagement
Often described as the emotional connection between a customer and a brand, customer engagement is far more than a transactional relationship. It’s no longer limited to sales, services and support and is an ongoing process where a company anticipates a customer’s needs and gains their loyalty.
As the CEO of a company that offers call center, self-service and virtual assistant technology, I’ve found that most brands understand customer engagement plays a crucial role in customer experience and business outcomes. For those looking to gain a competitive advantage, AI as a driving force in engagement can be one of the best ways to build gratifying experiences.
AI And Customer Engagement
In 2011, Gartner estimated that 85% of customer interactions with an enterprise wouldn’t involve a human by 2020. In 2016, Accenture estimated that AI could double annual economic growth by 2035. It can already change the way brands interact with customers by:
• Improving the decision-making process that improves the quality and effectiveness of new products and services.
• Uncovering gaps and opportunities in the market.
• Elevating customer service through techniques like hyper-personalization, faster help desk routing and real-time access to relevant information.
As the number of channels businesses use to communicate with their customers grows, it’s easy to see why AI technologies like bots, virtual assistants and communication platforms powered by machine learning are on the rise.
The Customer Engagement/Experience Connection
Though they are inextricably linked, customer engagement and customer experience are two distinct entities.
• Customer experience, aka CX, is how customers perceive their interaction with your company. Was it positive, enjoyable and, most of all, useful? You can think of CX as a “moment in time” that customers remember a brand by.
• Customer engagement is an on-going emotional relationship that can best be described as the sum of multiple moments or the customer’s overall emotional connection that results from the totality of the experience, including interactions like emailing, social media interactions and purchasing.
When customers have a positive customer experience, they are likely to become more engaged. The more engaged they are, the more they’ll buy from a brand, refer it to others and leave positive reviews.
Personalization And Customer Engagement
Kate Leggett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, recently wrote about people’s rising expectations from customer service. They expect, she says, for “you to value their time, to make engagement easy, and to deliver answers and resolutions in a highly personal manner and in the context of their actions and journeys.”
AI gives brands the opportunity to treat each customer as if they’re their only one. AI-powered customer service lets you see customers on an individual level and then deliver them personalized marketing, sales and service.
If you’ve ever wondered how your browser “knows” you were just researching the latest trend in yoga, you can thank AI for helping you find relevant recommendations after the fact. Businesses, on the flip side, can learn what to offer individual customers from the information AI gathers on an individual’s activity and buying patterns.
Enhanced Customer Service
According to Hubspot, over 90% of customers say they’re more likely to make repeat purchases from brands that offer excellent customer service. When one-on-one support is necessary, brands primarily interact with customers in two ways: humans and bots.
• Live chat with human agents provides real-time troubleshooting and query resolution and is used to offer personalized recommendations.
• Chatbots offer customer query resolutions and provide prompt solutions to more common issues. And because AI-based bots learn and adapt to customer preferences, they can anticipate customer needs and eventually personalize responses.
Offering both types of service helps brands manage high volume without harming the customer experience. Brands can use chatbots to automate repetitive tasks, and live agents can respond to more unique, individual problems.
To be sure, there are challenges brands face when integrating automated chatbots into their customer service strategy. Understanding these potential pitfalls ensures your organization gets the most benefit out of the technology. Some drawbacks you might need to overcome include what’s known as “bot-speak” (a lack of conversational flow), an inability to deviate from a script, and bots that act as spam or annoying promotional — as opposed to engagement — tools.
You can manage many of these obstacles with careful pre-launch planning and by using technologies such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to program bots to better understand how humans communicate. Using collected data from bot-driven conversations can also go a long way toward improving a customer’s experience.
AI: The Future Of Customer Engagement
Customers and brands alike stand to gain immense benefits from AI. To get the most out of the technology, organizations must make sure to use it intelligently and offer personalized experiences their customers remember long after a transaction is completed. As author Paul Greenberg simply but perfectly put it: “If a customer likes you and continues to like you, they will do business with you. If they don’t, they won’t.”
It’s important, too, to implement a solution employees relate to and benefit from. To that end, you want a system that:
• Meets your customer base’s needs. Think about what you want to solve through AI-based assistance. How do you want a chatbot to relate to customers? How proactive do you want it to be? What data will you use to program it?
• Allows human agents to focus on more rewarding work. When you optimize the roles of call service agents, they become far greater assets to your organization.
After you’ve planned the role chatbots will play, spend the right amount of time training agents on how the chatbot works, what it knows and how their own customer interactions could change. When agents understand the way your bot thinks and engages with customers, I’ve found they’re more likely to embrace the technology.
You can use AI in many ways, but the bottom line is that a brand’s AI strategy is its business strategy. Harnessed correctly, the results are clear: A higher level of customer engagement can lead to maximum customer lifetime value, greater customer loyalty and a stronger bottom line.