Currently traders are in a process of adapting towards an omnichannel sales strategy and consequently their customers as well. However, most companies still force these evolved customers to use outdated channels that become obsolete quickly.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be successfully employed to provide a convenient and informed customer experience at any point along the customer journey. This will result in innovative customer experiences and more personal customer journeys integrated with consumer needs.

What do AI consumers expect?

Recently, the company Invoca, in charge of developing a platform for analysis and call tracking powered by artificial intelligence, conducted research to discover exactly what consumers expect in the AI era.

The report found that many organizations with highly developed workplaces were automating their efforts around the customer experience and using AI to communicate with their consumers. This, however, goes against what a consumer really wants: a human-to-human connection.

However, the report produces some interesting facts such as:

  • Nearly seven out of ten consumers believe brands will primarily use AI for communications within five years.
  • However, the convenience of AI may not overcome the appeal of connecting with people: consumers, for the most part, still believe that the connection between humans provides better emotional intelligence (EQ).
  • Two-thirds of consumers (69%) anticipate that artificial intelligence will handle most brand-based communications over the next five years.
  • 61 of respondents think aI will make purchases faster, most think it will be more frustrating (51%) and less personal (61%).

What does it mean to be emotionally intelligent?

A high-level definition of emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and react to other people’s emotions.

For brands, understanding this aspect is especially important for customer acquisition and retention. With half the consumers ready to move away from a brand after a negative experience, a good customer experience has the power to impact the bottom line. A merchant professional can influence the relationship with the customer through channels such as social networks, websites, phone calls or virtual assistants.

In this era where fidelity is a precious commodity, most consumers think that brands in all industries fall short in three key EQ components: empathy, personalization and adaptability.

Seeing these results can be a challenge to successfully implement emotionally intelligent customer experiences. However, brands generally don’t know if they’re letting a customer down until the customer is already disappointed, and probably by it.

So how do companies move away from the reactive customer experience and move to pleasantly proactive customers? A good start is collecting customer data, however, data alone is not the answer. Using information extracted from data, brands should use man-driven EQ and take action to improve experiences.

There are three ways brands can use EQ: empathize with issues, customize the experience, and adapt based on customer feedback. By taking these steps, brands can provide customers with a relationship, not just a transaction.

What about virtual assistants?

Is it an intrusion into consumer privacy when devices start collecting data about their activities? Virtual assistants (AVs) and personal assistants driven by artificial intelligence are everywhere. These are excellent devices for the most routine tasks, where artificial intelligence is combined with voice recognition and with a large amount of data, and yet remain economical and efficient.

According to research conducted by Capgemini, consumers are divided between those who recognize the value and convenience inherent in such a broad and individualized data collection and those who do not. Despite your thoughts, it’s not just baby boomers who get discouraged by the constant collection of information about how they prepare a toast, what websites they visit, or what patron follows when shopping online.

A nuanced understanding of consumer desires is part of what makes AVs so convenient and popular. However, virtual assistants, at least for now, are not too good at simulating human relationships.

Not forgetting the legal and ethical implications of having consumers interact with informing “unknown” third parties about outstanding details of their lives. For this reason, greater collaboration between companies, governments and academia is essential to understand the ethical implications of AI in our daily lives.

Bias is another problem in virtual assistants. Whether encoded in your machine learning algorithms or emerging as an artifact in AI-powered operating units, bias poses a problematic risk to the organizational effectiveness and objectives of a just society. According to Akshita Puram of SmartBear, a company specialized in providing tools for data planning and management:

“Artificial intelligence is only as good as the information it’s training on and without humans speaking for each type of customer’s voice, technology will not be able to avoid stagnant black box algorithms or account for niche use cases that have a broader perspective.”

What about the benefits?

So far, there’s been a lot of talk about the negatives of AI-powered virtual assistants, but what about the benefits of these devices?

Oracle surveyed more than 800 marketers on this topic. And it showed that 80% companies want to apply chatbots or virtual assistants to improve their customer service. In addition, 36% of them are already using this technology to refine the results and improve the customer’s journey.

Obviously, the technology of AI-powered virtual assistants is still evolving. A possible future application comes from research into how smart devices can help people with physical or cognitive disabilities.

Uses could include automating assistance actions, such as opening and closing doors, or predictive actions, such as scheduling appointments with medical professionals.

Because the customer experience involves qualitative aspects, such as the perception, reaction and emotions that the consumer experiences when interacting with the company, its brands, employees and the entire concept of customer engagement, they must be analyzed and from an ecosystem perspective. Only in this way will they improve the end user experience.

Employees are both consumers

So far, there has been only talk of customers who make purchases or interact with companies when purchasing products, however, they are not the only ones that can be obtained a satisfactory experience thanks to the devices smart.

MOOCs are in vogue these days, and thanks to them, organizations can leverage technology to understand an employee’s preferential inclination to follow a course and then track the success of the employee’s implementation in the practical field.

In addition, you can suggest an improvement of knowledge based on the tasks the employee is performing in the organization. Therefore, you can draw a lifelong learning curve with a full-time work culture.

On the other hand, students can also benefit, a relevant case was at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where students were fascinated by the assistant of a new teacher named Jill Watson, who responded to their requests quickly and accurately. What they didn’t know was that Ms. Watson was actually a computer equipped with an IBM-AI system.

Following the example in the example above, manufacturing could, with the help of digital twins and AI, devise sessions to educate your workforce during hours outside the office. This would not only help organizations increase employee productivity in safety-critical scenarios such as oil rigs, underground mining, but would also reduce training time and improve worker’s experience.

Leading companies

Previously, both the benefits and the negative points of this smart technology have been explained, however, it has not been shown even that companies are the leaders in the field of the implementation of artificial intelligence in the experience of the consumer.

These companies have unified disparate customer data sources, analyzed customer journeys from start to finish, and are using machine learning algorithms to predict future customer behavior. They are reaping rewards through measurable improvements in customer experience, increased customer life value, and reduced turnover.

  • Nordea:

Large banks have thousands of customer touchpoints that in turn capture millions of interactions every day, making the customer experience a very important aspect. That’s why Nordea, a Stockholm-based bank, has delved into the customer’s path to find the best points to deploy artificial intelligence.

They recently introduced virtual employees, who perform repetitive tasks faster and more efficiently than their human counterparts. These virtual employees (Liv in Stockholm, Erma in Denmark, Roberta in Norway, Sirius in Finland, among others) are empowered to make correct and quick decisions using rules-based robotics initiatives. This frees employees to participate in activities that provide an enhanced customer experience.

This bank also partnered with an AI-based text analytics solution provider to interpret hundreds of incoming customer communications per second and intelligently forward them to the right business unit. This eliminates agent-based ranking that frustrates banking customers around the world.

  • Sephora:

Sephora is not the only beauty brand that uses virtual assistants, however, it has been advanced in the use of artificial intelligence with its Visual Artist product. Through the Visual Artist website or app, visitors can try cosmetic products such as lipsticks, eye shadows and markers to match their skin tones. Using AI, the tool can map and identify facial features and apply the product to the user’s face.

In addition, Visual Artist is also available as a Messenger bot, so buyers can send an image to the chatbot and return with an image of what they will look like once the recommended beauty product has been applied.

The company has carefully considered the customer’s entire journey: the Visual Artist tool relates to the entire sephora product inventory seamlessly and, thanks to the AI engine, personalized recommendations and offers are made at real time. When the visitor is ready to buy the product, the purchase is, of course, as simple as possible.

  • Black Diamond

Ski equipment retailer Black Diamond realized the value of using artificial intelligence for a personalized commitment long before his peers. The company knew that the most traditional customer experience, which required hours of navigation to find the best product, would no longer provide that satisfaction.

Skiers often know exactly what equipment they need to stay safe and compete. Therefore, Black Diamond is able to predict these needs and send the right items to website visitors, rather than waiting for them to make payment to make suggestions.

The company uses sophisticated analytics to get information from a customer’s purchase history and combines it with weather conditions and other relevant data to make real-time product recommendations. This effort has reaped rewards for Black Diamond, significantly increasing sales and reducing car abandonment rates.

  • B2B companies:

It’s not hard to imagine how B2B companies can also benefit from the same artificial intelligence applications in the customer experience. AI-enabled tools can automate customer-centric tasks to increase productivity and improve the customer experience in B2B workplaces by orders of magnitude.

You can create data where there was previously none and analyze this data to predict future customer behavior. For example Salesforce’s artificial intelligence technology (called Einstein) uses machine learning algorithms to analyze customer conversations as they occur. It then alerts managers in real time when the opportunity arises to improve the customer experience, solve a problem or perform additional cross-selling/sales.

The end result

Artificial intelligence offers the opportunity to turn multi-channel companies into unique “people” who remember, understand and respond significantly to their customers’ achievements and setbacks. The ability to speak with one voice is the difference between sharing and forgetting.

However, the challenge lies in how to start developing the right processes and experience to collect data, as well as in creating artificial intelligence algorithms and models, quickly enough to realize the benefits . Most companies find it difficult, if not impossible, to perform these tasks on their own, given the scarcity of data scientists, as disparate systems are not AI-ready, and the need to rapidly develop new systems, applications and capabilities, it doesn’t help. In addition, companies are realizing the idea of applying AI to improve the consumer experience, so most don’t even know how or where to start.

This is where a sophisticated AI-enabled customer journey analytics platform can help deliver high-impact customer experiences quickly and effectively.

It’s time to stop treating customer engagement as a point that causes increased costs and recognize it as an investment in customer relationships. With a little imagination and application, artificial intelligence can and will improve every aspect of customer engagement.

Artificial intelligence and technology can be used to improve the customer experience, but it’s important for companies to act cautiously and aware of what they’re trying to do. When companies are aware of their specific goals with respect to AI and what they should be doing for their company, they will be able to achieve those goals more easily.