With consumer expectations at an all-time high, customer experience is more important than ever before for all businesses, regardless of size or sector. In order to meet these customer expectations, many organisations are choosing to implement digital-first strategies – creating a competitive advantage by embracing the power of AI and machine learning.
Yet, in order to successfully attract new customers – and retain current ones - organisations should not get caught in the trap of blindly investing in the latest technology available. Instead, businesses must carefully consider their approach if they are to create an improved, sustainable, differentiated customer experience through digital innovation.
It’s true: AI can enable organisations to analyse both structured and unstructured information – helping them to gain a greater understanding of behaviors and preferences in order to create more personalised experiences and better engage with their customers. However, this technology will only have a positive impact when it is used correctly.
We must therefore ask the question; in a digitally powered world, how can brands determine which technologies to invest in? Which will deliver on the promises and provide an enhanced customer experience, and which will merely act as a business gimmick?
Understanding the new, digital customer experience
It has been argued that developments within the customer experience space should no longer be driven by businesses. Instead, any decisions related to the customer journey should be guided by customers themselves. For example, retailers are increasingly personalising their advertisements on social media, only showing customers the content directly related to them. Therefore, what customers see about a brand or even specific product is dependent – at least to a certain degree – upon their own personal interests.
With this change in mind, businesses across all industries have started to use artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to deliver a cross-channel customer experience which is not only more seamless, but personalised too. While some brands - such as SoftBank with its humanoid robot, Pepper – have implemented technology to interact directly with consumers, many more are using AI to make sense of their data internally. The real power of AI and machine learning is its ability to analyse both structured and unstructured information, helping organisations to better understand behaviours and preferences so the most personalised experience possible can be created for customers.
This new, digital age in customer interaction means the volume of information collected by the enterprise continues to grow at unprecedented levels. And, by deploying technologies, such as AI and Machine Learning, which help to navigate and manage these huge quantities of data successfully, organisations can speed processes, improve frontline services and reduce human error.
These innovative technologies can also enable companies to gain faster access to insights, and consequently empower the companies to make better decisions for customers. For example, high street stores are beginning to analyse data from checkout lines, shelf refills and customer activity to tailor product portfolios and store layouts in an effort to maximise customer satisfaction and sales opportunities.
Looking ahead and the importance of adding value
Whether using biometrics to unlock a mobile phone or asking Alexa to remember a shopping list, this influx of technological advancement means consumers are growing accustomed to quicker and more seamless interactions. Throughout 2019, there has been an increasing acceptance of and expectation for futuristic or “cool” customer experiences.
But, before companies choose to invest in a new technology or strategy to improve customer experience, the question they really need to ask themselves is whether this will add value?
For example, wearables are becoming common place to complete non-contact payments. This has been largely accepted as a “cool” concept, but do they inherently add value?
For instance, if the Moscow Metro rolled out its RFID rings and bracelets across other cities, would this make journeys faster and help commuters to reach their destinations? Additionally, are these technologies scalable? With only so many fingers per person, how can the use of wearable payment devices – covering everything from travel to a supermarket loyalty card and gym membership – scale up for broader use?
In future, having a digital-first approach will be key for organisations looking to deliver the fastest and most friction-free customer experience possible. Brands that utilise their data to pinpoint exactly what the customer wants and make decisions based on these insights will come out on top. They will differentiate themselves from organisations focused on innovation for innovation’s sake – those delivering ‘gimmicky’ concepts that don’t necessarily add real value.
By Sean Durkin, Head of Enterprise, UK & Ireland, OpenText
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