Is Artificial Intelligence the New Normal in the Everything-Customer World? Research Says "Yes"
Businesses have no choice but to elevate contact center performance by providing personalized customer support or risk falling behind. Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its applications such as Conversational AI can be the key to gaining the competitive edge and successfully managing modern and constantly evolving customer expectations. And how does AI enable contact centers to be in full sync with the “on-demand” culture of today’s customers and offer the round-the-clock, customized help they crave? Let’s take a closer look.
High AI Expectations
A recent survey by Business Insider shows that 80% of respondents from surveyed financial institutions are highly aware of the AI benefits and that today financial institutions are heavily investing in these technologies to help solve increasingly complex challenges. The Insider also reports booming use of artificial intelligence in medicine and predicts nearly 50% growth of AI projects in the healthcare industry in the next two to three years.
You might have heard the saying, “Data is the new oil.” Using this analogy, we can think of Artificial Intelligence technologies as a refinery that tirelessly works through gigantic flows of countless bits of information, cleans, refines, organizes, and extract the exact data that is used in nearly limitless use cases of enhancing and improving human lives. Whether they realize it or not, people now use AI everywhere in their daily life, whether it is at work or in their private experiences. It got so ubiquitous and all-encompassing, to the point that it became…expected! The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that being digitally literate is no longer enough, the new normal requires AI literacy.
Research findings show that most buyers expect the companies they buy from to provide personalized customer service, i.e., relevant offers and recommendations, anticipatory engagement, and behavioral targeting. AI enables personalization and brings direct positive results to everyone involved by improving customer experiences, increasing agent productivity, or creating more revenue opportunities for an organization. Research also reveals that more than half of online buyers say they are happy to exchange personal data in return for personalized offers or discounts. Artificial Intelligence empowers businesses to create these personalized yet effortless experiences for their customers.
It’s the “I-Want-Everything-Customer” World
What we expect and want as a consumer has changed. Customers today want everything. And what they want today differs from what they wanted yesterday and certainly from what they will want tomorrow. Think about it just for a second, when shopping online, one might disable tracking of shopping patterns to avoid suggested product advertisement, but then when this consumer transitions to another device, he expects to be able to pick up just right where he left off, meaning there is an expectation that his/or her shopping data, e.g. shopping cart items, get recorded and are available to review anywhere anytime whenever needed.
Gartner calls this modern economy phenomenon The Everything-Customer:
- In the morning they shopped online, but in the evening, they opted for the comfort of the in-store experience.
- Today they want to serve themselves, but yesterday they also wanted to interact with a human.
- Sometimes they want their information used to personalize their service, to proactively send them information and offers relevant to them, but at other times they reprimand organizations for not respecting their privacy.
- At one time they want to interact via WhatsApp, Facebook, or Alexa, but at other times they just want traditional phone calls.
To put it simpler, they want:
- Stay connected BUT left alone
- Treated equally BUT served uniquely
- Full-featured capabilities BUT effortless user experience
- Receive consistent and expected service BUT also get pleasantly surprised with the unexpected.
The bottom line is that customers want a lot. For businesses, delivering on consumer experience ambitions is now more difficult than ever. The Everything Customer is not a segment – it is a mindset. We want to consume services the same way we are used to doing things like streaming music or movies, and we want the ability to define what good looks like for us. We want the services we use and the experiences we have to be “composed” and “wrapped” around us. We want this applied to every device we use, we want it to support every modality we leverage, whether it’s natural language understanding (NLU), typing, gestures, or touch. And we want to experience it differently depending on the context of our situation. My experience as a business traveler will be different from when I’m traveling with my family and different again to when I’m traveling with friends for a weekend getaway.
Customer Experience Issues? Conversational AI Can Help
Artificial Intelligence refers to algorithms implemented by computing machines and designed to react to customers with responses and actions that humans would normally take. Machine learning (ML), which is a part of AI, enables computers to “learn” data patterns, trends, new situations, and improve their responses and reactions over time to better display human-like abilities for contemplation, intention, and judgment. While artificial intelligence does not mean that a machine can think on its own, it does mean that it can understand different languages, help create plans, solve complex problems, recognize sounds, faces, and objects, and many more functions that can be completed through data processing and computing.
Chatbots are one example of basic Conversational AI. Programmed by a human, they run on AI algorithms. Chatbots can respond to certain keywords in pre-programmed ways. For example, if a customer asks a question that involves words that a chatbot can recognize (for example “return” or “defective”), it can then respond to help that customer through pre-programmed automation or choose to send them to a human in case of a more complex or unique situation or if a customer asks to speak to a human agent.
The revolutionary changes that AI brings to the contact center can set businesses on a robust growth trajectory; the possibilities can be limitless. Here are just a few examples of how organizations can use this fascinating technology to satisfy the highest customer expectations and propel their business ahead:
- Make them feel special with personalization. Artificial Intelligence algorithms can store, process, read, and analyze massive amounts of data to provide insight into customer profiles and preferences. This allows brands to better understand their demographics, tailor experiences to those people, and lock in customer loyalty with targeted personalization. Using the personalization approach has been proven to reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenues by 5 - 15%, and increase marketing spend efficiency by 10 - 30%. Offering related products during the shopping experience or check-out process, i.e., upselling, is one of many ways to personalizing customer interaction. If someone is buying a shirt from an e-commerce platform, the AI algorithm can suggest other products the customer could be also interested in. This type of shopping suggestion can make the customer feel taken care of or catered to and that his or her preferences are being understood and met on the spot, while the business performs the upsell strategy, and increases the revenue potential, all at a much lower cost using a machine. Customers enjoy a more satisfying experience, and businesses boost profits.
- Solve customer service issues faster with automation. For superior customer experience, businesses must deliver the right answers and solutions to customer issues, and they are often expected to do that in a fast, nearly instantaneous manner. Today, customers demand clear and consistent communications and speedy responses to their questions at pretty much any time of day or night. For companies to successfully meet such demands, effective and intelligent data management and processing are vital; this is where AI becomes an indispensable tool. Research shows that companies who effectively leverage data using AI see much faster resolutions and a large reduction in customer wait time – all while serving four times as many requests and significantly decreasing costs. Outside of data management, AI makes it possible to automate customer support options so that customers can move through self-service portals quickly and effortlessly. Conversational AI can also help reduce slow response times without requiring organizations to hire more contact center agents. This capability presents cost savings opportunities in both long and short terms, e.g., over each busy season if a business experiences a spike in customer support requests at various times of the year, because interactive voice agents (IVRs) can pick up and resolve more simple and routine calls and questions, which often represent most inquiries. As Conversational AI increasingly grows in its ability to handle various customer needs, human agents will have more time to take on more complex issues and work with customers who need more intuitive help – improving communication and building more meaningful relationships and loyal customers for businesses. AI can help human agents by sifting through common requests and function as a front line of communication.
- Bolster experience with robust customer self-service capabilities. Technologies such as Conversational AI enable customers to better self-serve their quick and routine needs and often do that faster and more conveniently than contacting a support line, making self-service a norm. AI-enabled communication tools can also integrate all communication channels into a single platform, so the contact center doesn’t have to toggle between different apps and systems. Customers can start a conversation with a brand through multiple channels, including social media, company website, or messaging apps, and interact with an AI machine agent to get their questions answered or their problems solved. Another example of AI-enabled self-service is an intelligent database, which is a full-text database that employs ML, NLU, and data analyzing processing algorithms, to enable businesses to proactively interact and provide customers with the most relevant information as quickly as possible. Self-service gives customers more control over their interactions with a brand and their relationship with that business, ultimately boosting the overall customer experience.
Do Not Get Behind: AI Is Here to Stay
World Economic Forum showcases how AI technologies are powering industries and accelerating their growth across the globe. Investments in AI have been increasing at an unprecedented speed (40-50% year over year for 2020 and 2021). With AI in the company arsenal, the contact center can see fast internal improvements in efficiency and productivity and provide incredible customer benefits that translate into greater satisfaction and more spending with your business. Their expectations will be met, and organizations will be able to successfully manage interactions using technology that grows smarter each time it is used.
Avaya, a global leader in AI-powered cloud communications and collaboration, has been named a winner in the Best Use of AI in communication technologies. Today’s customers and employees expect and demand personalized communications experiences that are effortless. Avaya OneCloud™ is an AI-powered experience platform designed to meet this challenge. Together with Avaya, businesses can create and deliver memorable and impactful customer and employee experiences at the moment by assembling and combining communications capabilities to achieve desirable outcomes. By leveraging the cloud as a set of tools rather than a destination, the Avaya platform delivers a whole new level of business agility and resilience while creating many growth opportunities.
Contact our AI experts today to see how it can be a game-changer for your business.