Driven by digital transformation and adoption of new technologies like mobile, cloud and the internet of things (IoT), consumers can now directly interact with their product manufacturers through AI-powered virtual chat assistants, virtual reality, conversational design, connect buttons and CRM tools.
Customers want quick and easy responses to their problems, and marketers recognize that chatbots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) software can save them money, while delivering a better and more targeted customer service experience. As the number of digital channels expand, self-service or digital commerce interactions are also increasing, as well as the move away from human interactions.
Companies like Amazon with Alexa, Google with Home and Apple using its Siri deploy AI to conduct voice-based marketing through devices. Analyst firm Gartner projected that 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than two percent in 2017.
Looking ahead, we can expect greater use of chatbots, connect buttons and AI as CRM tools:
Virtual assistants with voice user interfaces (VUIs), such as Cortana or Alexa, are gaining popularity. Customer service chatbots answer questions based on keywords found in customer inquiries. These chatbots learn and adapt, and with each question they answer. AI bots will be able to identify customer issues by cutting research time and giving pre-emptive action plans.
Newer AI technology leverages machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to pick out keywords from an inquiry, and also derive meaning based on the context of the sentence. Adding SaaS (Software as a service) language translation and interactive audio/visual chat features improves website user experiences.
AI algorithms use billions of data points like previous communications, preferences, purchase behaviours, geo-specific events, on-site interactions, and other psychographic factors to systematically develop customer personas.
With access to these machine learning algorithms, manufacturers will have a more targeted audience, as they have the ability to detect which customer segments should be added and removed from a particular campaign. They can also match customers to the products that they are more likely to use and prevent certain stocks from being promoted to buyers who persistently return items.
These are consumer-friendly, purpose-specific buttons present on equipment or which can also be managed through apps on smartphones. When the button is pressed, the customer can communicate with a vendor on, say, a break/fix service call, or with a broadband service provider to upgrade features of their service.
Connect button decrease service revenue leakages by directly linking manufacturer to customer. These innovative devices can also boost customer loyalty beyond the purchase point to deliver seamless customer experience as a key differentiator. By reducing the layers involved, your customer can directly reach you at critical moments while removing unauthorized service providers from the food chain.
AI in digital advertising will enable brands and retailers to minimize wastage of money. Much of ad wastage can be attributed to ad fraud conducted by bots online. AI-based digital advertising solutions can immediately aid marketers to identify potential threats before they occur and avoid them.
AI-powered advertising platforms can also leverage machine learning capabilities to optimize ad campaigns mid-cycle. Instead of waiting for a given campaign to end before analyzing its results, marketers can make necessary changes in real-time based on the recommendations offered up by their marketing automation platform’s AI capabilities.
Large players like Google are targeting customer service automation as a business opportunity by acquiring smaller startups.
Earlier this month, Google acquired Onward, a customer service automation startup, for an undisclosed sum. Started in 2015, Onward’s enterprise chatbot platform brought natural language processing to extract meaning from customer’s messages. It was then able to personalize and contextualize its responses to queries by drawing on signals like the user’s location, login status, and historical activity.
Companies will be able to leverage the functionality and capability of smartphones and virtual agents to positively impact the security of customer interactions, especially in the financial services segment. A company could use automated technology in a redesigned way throughout the customer care process to authenticate customers and share information.
Companies need to think about creating a frictionless experience for customers at every point of contact along the automation channel. By placing the customer experience ahead of cost and prioritizing customer acquisition and retention, companies will build the trust they need for sustainable success.
Automation is a long-term, comprehensive change to customer service processes, not a point solution. Marketers should think about employing these technologies, as well as managing them over time. When planning for the next software release, it is advisable to document and include all the latest automation process changes. Managing the development and maintenance of automation should be part of a customer service leader’s daily job.