The dynamic landscape of [the] customer experience, and the level of satisfaction therein, has historically relied on two interrelated dimensions: the quality of a product, and efficiency of a service. In the context of manufacturing for instance, the expectation would be for supply to meet demand. In banking, personalised service was key, and in retail, the diversity of choice trumped all else. However, the contemporary marketplace has evolved, and tech-savvy millennials have come to expect value-added products and services that go far beyond a single engagement. As customer standards soar, the consumer experience now requires an intrinsic value proposition that can be felt before, during and after the actual transaction has taken place.
The war for consumer attention wages in the trenches of customer experience while brand success hangs in the balance. Leveraging targeted, personalised experiences and focusing on individual needs, whilst delivering products or services in an agile manner are the most robust weapons in the arsenal of the progressive business. While the ‘contact centre’ is still a mainstay of the modern business, it arguably has become an outdated concept and one cannot help but question its efficiency. The usually frustrating Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) is also still commonplace, yet even interpersonal telephonic interactions tend to result in long periods on hold, endless inter-departmental transfers and the incessant repetition of personal information, credentials and descriptions of one’s grievance.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) has advanced considerably as a technology since the advent of smartphone applications like iPhone’s Siri. The lines between human and machine are constantly blurring, and we have only just begun: According to a paper on how artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing humans and machines closer, “27% of consumers weren’t sure if their last customer service interaction was with a human or a chatbot.” Business leaders around the world are considering and have even begun experimenting with next-generation voice recognition which can be incorporated into NLP and fed into analytics which can then automate customer service through insights gained from conversations. A way in which this could be used to advance call centre automation is determining of customer sentiment for the purposes of future sales and customer retention.
In recent years we have seen the deployment of chatbots on numerous websites to aid with customer queries. This is already reducing contact centre engagement. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” As we move into a new era of Artificial intelligence (AI) – as evidenced in a recent preview of Google Duplex, a system that makes phone calls on one’s behalf and understands the nuances of human conversation – the question becomes how many ‘mundane’ experiences are going to be revolutionised by this form of technology?
Immersive technologies have taken on a deeper level of human comprehension, and AI, which currently excels in cognitive analytics on the back-end, is coming to the fore in contemporary user experience. User-facing technologies ranging from Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) are beginning to anticipate our needs and adjust to them automatically. We are beginning to engage with technology in the same way we engage with humans – through speech and natural language, aided by these technologies which can engage customers like never before. This is done through offering personalised, authentic and appealing user experiences.
Cognitive AI presents revolutionary opportunities in customer experience for organisations that capture a variety of customer touchpoints, including holistic customer profiling. Traditionally, organisations with large customer bases have struggled to understand the needs of their individual customers – a gap that cognitive AI can fill through segmentation, identification, and scoring of customers using previously under-utilised data. Pairing AI with such deep data allows for enhanced understanding of purchasing power, preferences, and loyalty – all of which can unlock actionable, and highly-valuable, insights.
Whilst delivering the level of personal experiences customers expect as standard, AI can be leveraged to power the whole experience and help anticipate customer needs in advance. The evolution of AI has enabled customer experience to seamlessly ascend to new heights in modern day business operations.