Customer service—or customer experience (CX)—is the keystone to the success of almost any business. Individuals who come away from a positive interaction with a salesperson or sales rep—or even after making an outstanding online purchase—are more likely to be repeat customers, impacting sales and loyalty.
A personalized customer experience goes even further in building a strong customer base. In a report from Epsilon, a global marketing firm, 80 percent of customers responded that they were more likely to do business with a brand when it provides them with a personalized experience, and 90 percent indicated that they find personalization appealing. And a study from Accenture, a professional services firm, reported that 91 percent of 8,000 people polled said that they were more inclined to purchase from a brand that knows them and provides them with relevant recommendations and special offers.
Businesses–especially retailers—have been tracking CX for decades, but the Covid-19 pandemic has altered customer service with out-of-stock supplies, delayed deliveries, reduced hours, and sparse staff. Forward-thinking companies must give serious thought to how they will serve customers in this changing landscape, and taking advantage of technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can help businesses create a better customer experience by learning who their customers are, their preferences, habits, and patterns to better ensure CX solutions meet their needs.
Accenture projects that AI will double economic growth rates by 2035 by transforming CX through personalization, customer engagement, and proactive service by employing this technology. AI can be used to assist customers in buying tickets and products, ordering food, making reservations, scheduling appointments, and other tasks. AI systems understand unstructured information in a manner similar to humans, but they also take in huge amounts of data quickly, and because they can see, hear, and speak, CX teams are creating AI-powered customer experiences that feel like organic human engagement.
Some of the specific ways that AI can help companies provide better CX include:
- Providing instant response, 24/7
- Offering personalized customer recommendations
- Increasing sales
- Providing analytics to gain critical insights
- Engaging users via visual, voice, and text
- Understanding user values and preferences better
Smartphones paved the way for consumers to connect to businesses without speaking to a human being; virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa have made that possible, too. So, businesses have acted accordingly, employing AI-based chatbots to deliver improved customer service. Rather than typing, voice commands are changing the way people search online. Chatbots are not limited to scripted or rule-based conversations, and companies can optimize their websites to respond to customer-based queries that respond in the more conversational way people speak in comparison to typing. By using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, “AI has evolved to the point where it can understand nuance, sentiment, and context in language, which has turned chatbots into a must-have feature,” said David Hegarty, VP of digital solutions at R2integrated, a digital experience agency.
Another plus that AI offers is the ability to meet customers’ needs around the clock. Digital assistants, chatbots, and automated customer-service technology aren’t limited by time zones, business hours, or holidays. Customers can get answers and solutions without having to wait hours or even days for a response, which improves overall customer satisfaction. AI is helping businesses implement “hyper-personalization” where customers are asked what they want, and the products and services are tailored precisely to meet their specifications; in other words, customers are treated like individuals, not simply buyers.
Within the healthcare industry, AI-based personalization is lowering costs and providing patients with custom-tailored care, while also making it easier for them to consult with clinicians remotely. Automated systems can manage patient data, finances, and schedules, cutting down on human errors. With these automated solutions, patients experience more convenient, consistent, and personalized service, resulting in more satisfying engagements between patients and clinicians. Cloud-based AI-powered management systems allow healthcare providers to quickly identify specific conditions, make diagnoses, and develop more focused treatment strategies.
According to Jared Ficklin, chief creative technologist at argodesign, a product design, experience, and innovation firm, AI is facilitating better treatment of patients, and a more personal touch. “This carries with it the promises of more personalized care, simple things like prescription reminders and seasonal alerts could be done on a per-patient basis,” said Ficklin. “This tech ultimately could drive a constant refinement of treatment protocols, learning what works best through modeling and simulation. The net effect is fewer people needing last-minute emergency treatment and better overall patient care outcomes.”
The Allure Group, which operates six eldercare facilities in New York City, is using robotic technology to provide its patients with customized service. The company’s Vis A Vis Health service allows recently discharged patients to communicate with a clinician within 24-28 hours after discharge from the comfort of their homes, cutting down on unnecessary hospital readmissions. And with the company’s telehealth technology, residents have remote access to physicians whenever necessary.
As AI continues to evolve exponentially, businesses will be able to provide exceptional customer experiences by leveraging real-time analytics to better understand their customers’ buying habits, buying patterns, and preferences, thus creating personalized content, messaging, product recommendations, and more. Hyper-personalized CX is poised to make customers feel valued while simultaneously improving an organization’s bottom line.