Elevating customer experience through AI

Here's how you can pair machine learning and AI to transform how your company delivers customer experience and satisfaction

Date published
May 12, 2021 Categories

30-second summary:

  • By understanding company and employee culture, current and ideal customer experience, quality data, and placing customers at the forefront, Artificial intelligence (AI) can elevate and transform customer experience in genuine ways
  • Pure data allows AI to sense and predict more accurate outcomes, identify customer patterns and essentially learn from them
  • The goal of conversational AI is to simulate human intelligence and even aspects of emotional intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. Machine learning and AI will continue to evolve how companies are operating and elevating customer experience, and ideally, customer satisfaction.

Not everyone is on board though. Einstein once said that the measure of intelligence is the ability to change. “What will we choose when it comes to employing AI as a trusted tool in cultivating and elevating customer experience?” One may wonder. I’m not convinced there is even a choice. We either adapt to a changing world and change with it or let it disrupt our lives. Change is inevitable. What we learn from the unavoidable transforms us. AI is not here to replace us but to enhance and elevate company culture and customer experience.

Automation has become more desired as companies scale and renegotiate resources, but it is not just a pathway to efficiency or cost reduction. AI goes beyond automating mundane tasks or delegating them to algorithmic processes. Growth happens at the intersection of technology and humanity. Without the humanity aspect, AI would be irrelevant.

AI that supports the visions and goals of a business and overall customer satisfaction may be difficult to achieve, but not impossible. By understanding company and employee culture, current and ideal customer experience, quality data, and placing customers at the forefront, AI can elevate and transform customer experience in genuine ways.

AI, company values, and customer experience

The cultural connection and values of a company denote the potential for customer experience and essentially AI’s role in shaping customer satisfaction. Therefore, those values must be aligned with AI during the development and early adoption stage.

Employees must be invited to learn AI’s critical role, and that of cybersecurity, in the customer experience in order to trust AI’s value. When we understand the “why” behind something, we are more committed to the idea. In terms of automation, the reasoning is clear: It allows employees to focus on tasks that require creativity and critical thinking versus monotonous assignments. The true talents of employees will begin to flourish. With that, people must be versed in the risks and potential cybersecurity of AI and machine learning. If a business does not take accountability and ethics into focus, customer satisfaction will be more challenging to achieve. Companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80 percent.

What a brand stands for and the vision and goals of a start-up are variables that translate into what problems the AI is there to solve. While knowing and implementing company values is irreplaceable, data helps track how those values are best being met and applied or where there is an area for growth. The emphasis on humanity in tech is essential. That’s where innovation happens. The data tells us, in part, where innovation is occurring and where we are falling short. It must be decided from there how to progress. Sometimes AI can make connections and associations where humans cannot. This is one of its many strengths in shaping an unforgettable customer experience.

In the end, there is yet another reason why using a people-centric approach to AI and machine learning matters: compassion is born from kindness and care of others. Let people know that they are valued by including them in the conversation amidst change. Inclusivity is, quite frankly, priceless no matter what you do in life.

AI is as effective as the data 

We get to decide how to apply the knowledge and information AI gives us. Without quality data, neither business leaders nor AI will learn much. How can we improve customer satisfaction without data that reflects our customers? Not easily or efficiently. Pure data allows AI to sense and predict more accurate outcomes, identify customer patterns and essentially learn from them.

The ability to learn from customer interactions transforms a company’s trajectory. We cannot evolve products and goals without that critical exchange and feedback. Benchmarking current customer experience and the ideal customer experience, KPIs, creating and analyzing customer personas, looking at available data, and seeing possible improvements play a role in AI’s success in a business framework. While not the only factor, data is vital to consider in the development and application of machine learning.

AI assumes the algorithmic systems that feed its data to be reliable, yet another reason that quality data is essential. It may take a year or two to collect relevant data and optimize AI for performance to predict outcomes in a meaningful way to customers. Improving customer experience is not an exact science, mistakes happen, but with quality data, it can be determined what those mistakes are and how to move forward.

Conversational intelligence

The goal of conversational AI is to simulate human intelligence and even aspects of emotional intelligence. Technology may not yet be advanced enough to imitate the processes that characterize our brains when confronted with a problem. But with the programming and help of developers, artificial intelligence can become wiser with each customer interaction, allowing it to learn based on previous customer patterns. Some customers even prefer digital interaction to that of a live one.

Conversational intelligence and automated messaging benefit the customer experience because a live agent cannot respond to as many people at once as a machine can. Customers having their questions answered in a timely, thorough, and sensitive manner can make or break a company’s reputation. This is where AI can direct users to resources, answer questions, make suggestions based on previous customer data, and predict outcomes.

Natural language processing and voice recognition allow AI to tell if a customer is angry, upset, and therefore should be transferred to a representative who can provide a solution sympathetically. While AI may not ever embrace complete emotional intelligence, conversational cues can help it understand and improve possible scenarios. More businesses will invest and see the usefulness of conversational intelligence in the coming years and how that can aid customer experience.

Customers as a priority

Businesses should take customers and customer personas into account during every step of the development, implementation, and management of AI. The intent and focus should always be on customer care. AI that is not designed with customer needs in mind is a risky investment.

Customers need to be the priority of every business framework. People buy products, data does not. The vision or goals a business may have is useless inside of a vacuum. Knowing customers, their interests, likes, and dislikes, and how they communicate will make them feel unique and special. It signifies to customers that they matter. The rapid popularity of various social media platforms has made it easier than ever to share negative and positive opinions. The fate of businesses is in the customers’ hands. Start-ups are founded, in part, to share awe-inspiring ideas with the world in the hopes someone else will find value in them.

People seek out connections. It is in our nature to be interested in the lives of others. Through the art of communicating and learning, we are ultimately sharing experiences. Digitalization is accelerating this process.

What this means for the future

How management operates, social media, AI and machine learning, and customer experience are subject to change as technology evolves. What made a business a success a few years ago may not be as relevant. Humanity must evolve at a similar pace, constantly striving to improve the lives of everyone.

Suppose business objectives reflected ethics and accountability? That will translate into the customer experience. Company values and goals have to align during AI development, but data is also crucial for success when it comes to implementing machine learning. Businesses will realize that investing in conversational AI, automation, and other types of machine learning is not only a benefit but a necessity, enriching both company and customer experience.

I believe AI is not here to take away jobs, although it may reduce some labor. Instead, AI allows employees to do what they do best and perhaps even learn to excel in uncharted waters. Artificial intelligence gives companies the freedom to explore their goals and values in deeper and more meaningful ways, elevating customer satisfaction.

Soon, we will realize artificial intelligence is not the threat science fiction warned us about. The rise of AI is like a new student who’s a brainiac and excels in everything. This student may intimidate the class but is nevertheless harmless. Hesitation surrounding the usage of AI will begin to dissipate and fade away into the past. Instead, the many benefits of artificial intelligence will become apparent, enriching not only the customer experience but all of our lives.

In the future, we all will be learners and teachers of AI, contributing to an ecosystem centered on learning, humanity, and technology. Within such an environment, innovation will thrive in ways that cannot currently be imagined, most likely in beautiful ways.

Helen Yu is an author and keynote speaker. She has been named a Top 10 Global Influencer in Digital Transformation by IBM, Top 50 Women in Tech by Awards Magazine, Top 100 Women B2B Thought Leader in 2020 by Thinkers360 and Top 35 Women in Finance by Onalytica. You can find Helen Yu on Twitter @YuHelenYu.

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