The next normal in Customer ExperienceSeptember 15, 2020
In their ongoing quest for a sustainable competitive advantage, pioneering companies always strive to offer an outstanding Customer Experience (CX).
Customer Experience is identified as the sum of interactions between the consumer and the brand and refers to the whole sales cycle: research, purchase, use, and after-sales support. It is this very set of things that can turn satisfied into a loyal customer and an ambassador of the brand and the company itself.
Customer Experience is certainly not fresh news, as it has been with us for a long time, but the catalyst of the pandemic brought us in front of new challenges and the need to adapt to the new normality of changing consumer behaviours.
In a tsunami of imperative changes that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced into our lives, we are already long passed a discussion on the "next", rather than the "new", already present, norm. In less than a year, changes and adjustments were made that should normally spread over a period of ten years, with the retail and consumer companies, having realized the dramatic changes in their industries, compete for the best CX based on the new era.
The key change that has taken place is that consumers are increasingly buying online while demanding personalized service and empathy as expected in the physical world. They seek the mix of the convenience of buying from their mobile phone with personalized service based on their buying habits, even desires. Without the use of technology, this kind of personalized retail service, with thousands or millions of customer transactions, is virtually impossible.
At this point comes the contribution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help businesses manage a large number of customers individually. We hear a lot about AI and indeed in the next 50 years, it is very likely to change humanity more than any other technology in the past, with changes that will bring a profound shift in human culture, in the way we perceive life, in our own dreams and how we think of the future. However, based on relatively safe projections for the time span of no more than the upcoming 5 years, what we are expected to experience in the near future, is mainly related to intelligent automation focused on specific domains. So we will not initially see a "universal, end-to-end intelligence" that can address all the issues, as much as targeted intelligence that will help us drive our cars, deal with personalised customer service issues, take orders, etc.
So in relation to Customer Experience, the applications of Artificial Intelligence are divided into 2 categories:
● Digital assistants (bots) interfacing with customers, that will accommodate customer service requests 24x7x365 in natural language (text messages or voice), sales orders, customer activation on new products (engagement campaigns); the innovation lies in the fact that the digital assistant will be able to identify and serve each consumer uniquely amongst the millions on the retailer’s database in terms of preference and behavior, eg proposing a new label on a specific type of wine with the option of express delivery at home.
● Digital learning mechanisms that analyze sales and marketing data and propose to the company executives how to address certain client categories (segments) and the corresponding initiatives. As the data collected by a company is now so vast, that the human eye is not able to analyze it, while many times the subjectivity that characterizes the human crisis (biases), could prevent the optimal analysis of consumer behavior patterns, Artificial Intelligence undertakes this task as a tireless assistant in the field of sales and marketing executives to better plan the Customer Experience strategy, but also to identify at a nominal level satisfied or dissatisfied consumers, fraudulent attempts, etc.
It is clear that Customer Experience is evolving into the dominant competitive advantage, with 90% of companies expected in the coming years to try to differentiate on this basis. So a glorious field ahead for the dominance in the market for those retail and consumer products companies that will better catch the pulse of the post-COVID era and use Artificial Intelligence to offer the personalized experience that their customers seek, across every available channel and sales path.