Every business dreams about being so overwhelmed by customers that it has trouble assisting all of them. With the growth of e-commerce, this dream has become a reality for some businesses. It may sound ironic, but many experts suggest that cognitive technologies (aka artificial intelligence) can help businesses provide the personalized customer service and customer experiences that consumers desire. This begs the question: Can artificial intelligence (AI) provide a genuine customer experience (CX)? To answer that question, you need to understand what I call the Four A’s of customer experience: access, acknowledgement, assistance, and answers. Let me explain what I think each term means.
• Access: The various ways a consumer can seek assistance.
• Acknowledgement: Recognition that the consumer has unique needs.
• Assistance: The ability to help with consumer needs.
• Answers: How a consumer’s requirements are met.
Ankit Patel (@ImAnkitPtl), Director of the Sales & Marketing at the XongoLab Technologies, is so sure that AI can help in each of those areas he writes, “It is clear that artificial intelligence can play a critical role in deriving customer insights, improving the consumer experience, and gaining customer trust.”
Using AI to Satisfy CX’s Four A’s
If customers can’t contact you (or find it difficult to contact you), you aren’t providing them with either customer service or a good customer experience. Ian MacArthur (@IanMacArthur), CEO at Sagittarius, asks, “What are the core human needs that a digital experience must satisfy in order to balance supply and demand in this new economy?” Access is first on his list. He explains, “First, we want it to be easy. Enjoyable. Intuitive. Suitably interactive.” To provide around-the-clock service, many businesses utilize contact centers traditionally manned by human agents. Blair Pleasant (@blairplez), President and Principal Analyst of COMMfusion, reports contact centers are turning to AI to assist both agents and consumers. She explains, “While traditionally conservative and slow-moving, contact centers have quickly embraced AI and speech technologies to help improve operations and share insights with agents, supervisors, and business managers, helping to provide better and faster customer service.”
Pleasant notes, “Contact center AI tools can be categorized either as agent or customer-facing. Customer-facing applications include chatbots and conversational AI for self-service or call triage and routing. Conversational AI replaces touch-tone IVR with more natural dialog interactions, enabling customers to access information without talking to an agent.” However, she reports that the human touch remains an important part of customer service. She explains, “I expect around 10-15% of customer service requests to potentially be handled through conversational AI by the end of 2022, growing to 20-25% by the end of 2023.” That means 85% to 90% of customer service requests will still require human intervention.
Consumers contact businesses for various reasons. The first reason, of course, is that they are looking to obtain a provided product or service. However, they may just be looking for information or they may have encountered a problem with a previously-purchased product or service. Whatever the reason they contacted your business, you need to acknowledge that they are important and that you take their need seriously. If they are looking for a product or service (or information about products and services), MacArthur explains that it’s the businesses responsibility to serve consumers “the right content, at the right time, on the right device.” To help in this endeavor, MacArthur suggests leveraging “a customer data platform that tests and personalizes in real-time and connects to artificial intelligence so it gets smarter over time.”
Personalization is also a form of acknowledgement. Ronald Dod (@Visiture_Search), Founder and Owner of Visiture, insists AI solutions can help your site in this area. He explains, “You can take personalization a step further to create a great user experience with recommendations based on consumer information. This type of data provides business owners with more in-depth insight on their target market and, for shoppers, eliminates the process of seeking out products.” Futurist and business consultant Bernard Marr (@BernardMarr) agrees. He writes, “AI provides incredible opportunities to get to know your customers — what they like and don’t like, what they actually do (as opposed to what they say they do), how they engage with your service, what factors would encourage them to engage more deeply, and do on. This is important because the more you understand your customers, the more you can customize your service to suit their needs.”
If consumers are reaching out with a complaint or a problem, it’s even more important to acknowledge that their grievances are being taken seriously. AI solutions can help in this area by monitoring social media sites looking for consumer sentiment about products and services. Knowing that problems exist is the first step in properly addressing them.
A 2020 survey conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) found, “Delivering a better customer experience was identified as the leading driver for AI adoption by more than half the large companies surveyed.” For most consumers, the gold standard of customer assistance remains one-on-one experiences with another human being. But virtual assistants are coming close to providing that kind of assistance. Jonathan Crane, IPsoft’s Chief Commercial Officer, reports that several years ago his company starting working on a virtual customer agent (VCA) named “Amelia.” He insists Amelia is more than a chatbot. He explains, “We’re trying to problem solve. … Amelia is trained in conversational intelligence, problem solving and context. She can discern what you’re asking then converse with you on how to help. Chatbots have a useful cycle in the life of companies building their way, but the goal for us is to get to where you are able, in a semantic interface, to take that conversation, work with it, and solve the customer’s problem. If you can’t, then you get a human on and collaborate to get the answer.”
At the end of the day, consumers want their needs satisfied and a good customer experience does exactly that. Whether you are using a virtual customer agent or a human agent, consumer satisfaction should be the end goal. Pleasant notes, “With [AI] agent assist, bots can listen for key phrases in the background and assist agents by providing information from a knowledge base when they hear these phrases, saving the agent time and producing better outcomes for customers.” Patel adds, “Customer experience, brand image, and retention can all be improved with artificial intelligence. While it isn’t a substitute for human interaction, it can assist enhance efficiency and removing low-hanging fruit from your customer support employees’ plates, such as addressing frequently requested inquiries. ”
Marvie Chorawan-Basilan reports, “[A] Gartner study suggested that AI systems help add value to businesses around the world. The report stated that artificial intelligence is a tool that many businessmen find beneficial when growing or expanding their domains. AI is believed to reduce expenses and time as well as improve operations in various industries such as medical practices, retail, and many more. Voice assistants are also recommended by researchers as it could assist with tasks such as scheduling, recording, and reminders.” Pleasant adds a note of caution. “Most organizations today are still trying to figure out where and how to use AI,” she writes, “they know that it’s important, but they don’t know where to start, or where they’ll get the biggest bang for the buck. Before rushing out to deploy AI, focus on how to get started in a practical way. Identify your goals and what you are trying to accomplish — do you want to improve the customer experience by shortening hold times or enhancing self-service capabilities, or do you want to improve the agent experience with agent assist and coaching capabilities? Identify the best use cases that meet your business objectives, and then add on as appropriate.” That’s good advice.
 Ankit Patel, “How Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Customer Experience,” RTInsights, 25 April 2022.
 Ian MacArthur, “4 basic human needs: understanding CX’s history to simplify its future,” The Drum, 18 March 2022.
 Blair Pleasant, “Is AI Rx for CX and the Agent Experience?” No Jitter, 19 July 2022.
 Ronald Dod, “The Hidden Mystery Behind Using AI to Create Awesome Customer Experience,” Small Business Trends, 13 April 2019.
 Bernard Marr, “3 Huge Ways Companies Are Delighting Customers With Artificial-Intelligence-Driven Services,” Forbes, 21 August 2020.
 Nadia Cameron, “How AI-powered virtual employees will transform customer experience,” CMO, 12 March 2019.
 International Data Corporation, “IDC Survey Finds Artificial Intelligence Adoption Being Driven by Improved Customer Experience, Greater Employee Efficiency, and Accelerated Innovation,” BusinessWire, 10 June 2020.
 Marvie Chorawan-Basilan, “How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Customer Retail Experience,” Business Times, 5 March 2019.