The Comotion Associate network met for their monthly associate breakfast in May. The focus of the meeting was to look at how AI will impact customer experience. The explosion of AI is likely to have a huge impact on how businesses communicate and how they manage their interactions with their customers. There is, of course, an enormous amount of opportunity to do this well. But at the same time, businesses to date have had problems translating automation into better experiences for their customers.
At the heart of the discussion was the question of whether AI serves the business or the customer more. The associates worked through various topics where they felt businesses needed support and guidance:
- Customer behaviour
- Supporting our clients
- Customer data
- Being ethical
Understanding the issues likely to be faced by a business that is looking at – or adopting – AI is a critical part of where a group like the associates network can add value to those businesses.
Many businesses are trying to understand how they can increase long-term engagement and create and retain the customer’s passion for their brand. It is clear that AI can help with this through facilitating ever-deeper personalisation. This ties in with an observed growth in the customer’s expectations around personalisation.
The breakfast meeting identified that many AI deployments seem to be more for the business’s benefit than their customers, and it was felt that this was likely to conflict with being customer-led. In order to use AI to understand customer behaviour it’s likely that an AI will require deep learning. As AI moves towards deep learning, it requires enormous data sets. The risk is that they absorb bad data as well as good. In customer facing applications it is likely that AIs will have to be trained in a ‘protected’ environment.
There is also an emotional side of managing expectations and making sure customers are happy with the decisions AI has made and is currently making. It is important for a company to understand customers’ emotion for AI to have a beneficial impact on their business.
Supporting our clients
The associates agreed the best way to support clients is to help them identify what the customer wants to achieve, the values of the customer, and how they can be matched. The core to delivery is having better understanding of the value and the importance of their products to their customers.
All businesses have processes that manage the customer’s lifecycle: on board, maintain etc. Most customer touchpoints are around that lifecycle. This’ then, should become the focus of supporting clients. It is also where AI can make really big improvements in both how the company communicates with their customers and how the resulting interaction data is consumed by the company’s systems.
In turn this requirement drives the profound need to help clients understand technology. Technology supports brand experience, customer experience, and the organisation’s operational perspective. Connecting these three delivers value and improved customer experience at a tactical level. However, companies also need to connect these in a strategic way to get results.
There was broad agreement that customers can be better understood from the data companies already hold. But equally, there was broad agreement that this is not something that is routinely done well. Companies must integrate that data into decision making and communication design – bringing together data on behaviour, buying habits, and demographics.
It’s important to use this data, not just store it. O2/Telefonica was given as an example. They have huge amounts of customer data, but it’s almost too much. They have data about where people are based, where they go, if they’re walking or travelling by car, apps, and the content the user accesses. Despite this they are not using it well. Good use includes understanding context and the relationship between pieces of content, timeliness and a host of other factors.
Perhaps one of the greatest risks of using AI to drive customer interactions is that machine automation and AI can potentially venture into unethical or even illegal use of customer data.
It’s important to understand what we’re trying to achieve with AI. But it’s also important that we help clients in knowing where the ethical lines are. To do this clarity of purpose (and awareness of what the customers own sensitivities are) is needed. These need to be linked to a mind-set that ensures appropriate standards are maintained.
The standards are not just to govern external communications. They should also be deployed to internal thinking and processes. This requires that internal goals, standards and processes are clearly established. Alignment and agreement is needed from everyone in the process.
There is also an emotional side of managing expectations: making sure customers are happy with the decisions Artificial Intelligence has made and is currently making. It is important for a company to understand emotion for AI to have a beneficial impact on their business.
In summary, the breakfast made it clear that AI presents enormous potential issues along with the advertised commercial benefit. Much of the protection against brand or customer harm revolves around ensuring that human considerations are the prime guide to the use and management of AI tools.