How to improve the digital customer experience with data and AI
Being part of an agency that exists at the convergence of brand and technology, we understand the importance of customer and brand experience and how it ultimately leads to better business performance.
Think about the last time you had a good experience. It’s typically seamless and frictionless – but the bad experiences stick with you, as does the brand association.
Customer experience is key in brand consideration and advocacy. And ultimately, as more and more of our brand experiences move online, those brands that provide first-rate customer experience will win out.
So, in this era of emerging tech, how can we use data and AI to create more personalised, immediate and intelligent interactions? And should you take a data-first or domain-first approach?
Sorting your customer experience strategy
Firstly, if you haven’t started to already, it’s important to view data and AI as part of a broader customer experience strategy and vision, and ask yourself how technology can enhance the journey. This includes incorporating what you already know about your customers with customer journey analysis and mapping. You’ll need to make sure you understand all the touchpoints across the journey your customer will make, taking into account what can and will improve the experience and resolve their problems.
This may already incorporate a foundational data activity, and once you have the foundation set you can begin to explore data and AI more deeply. But where do you start?
Focus, focus, focus
As part of your strategy, you may have loosely embraced the idea of data and AI, and potentially built a roadmap, as we often have with clients. But to deliver tangible results, start by thinking about the specific problems you want to solve:
- Do you want to improve touchpoints and share more information?
- Do you want to improve brand engagement and personalisation?
- Or do you want to optimise conversion?
Having a focus point enables you to take action within the context of your strategy.
Next up is the data
Consider what data you have and what data you might be able to access that you don’t currently. This can be a very broad area, stretching from Net Promoter Scores to more obvious data like search queries, stored website data, geographical location and historic customer data.
But with a focus point, you can drill down to the data sets you have or need to deliver a project. AI thrives on information – the more the merrier, as they say. But make it work for you.
Time is money
The beauty of AI lies in the ability to collect and analyse rich real-time customer data, allowing you to anticipate customers’ needs and deliver hyper-personalisation – reaching customers at the right time, through the right device, and with the right message. It means we can move from customer segments to a single customer view.
With the ability to action insights in real-time, you might choose to either convert a new customer, reduce costs in an existing process, or improve your reputation.
Familiarise yourself with the tech
To help understand customers faster and more efficiently, and to action the insights you gather, you’re likely going to need to build or buy solutions. This is a whole subject in itself, but getting it right could have a significant impact on successfully delivering your vision and deriving true business benefit.
In my experience, for most mid-sized businesses (£10-£100m turnover) this is as good a time as ever to look for a partner that shares your values and has similar experiences of working with companies of your size and sector.
Applying the learning
So you have your strategy, and understand the customer journey and potential frictions. You’ve looked at the data you have and considered what you might like to collect, and you have the technology solutions that might meet your specific needs. Now you’re ready to go, so let’s look at some of the applications you might consider.
- Improving customer service/satisfaction
AI-powered chatbots can intelligently engage customers to help with their journey through a website, either through conversation or nudges and prompts. They also have the availability (24/7/365) to provide quick answers to questions, resolve complaints or problems, and find the correct customer service agent.
If implemented well, including taking into account correct use cases and your brand’s tone of voice, chatbots can provide significant value:
- Save time and money
- Generate leads and revenue
- Guide users to better outcomes
- Provide ‘after hours’ support
- Engage users in a unique way
- Personalising the customer experience
There is a reason psychologists promote the use of people’s names, and using data and AI we can engage customers on a similarly personal level, encouraging them to feel that your products, services and brand experiences are tailored for them.
AI-powered recommendation engines are capable of analysing data and adapting in real-time to provide customers with products, services and offers that are tailored specifically for them, rather than being delivered (as in the past) by simple ‘category’ alternatives.
In addition to recommendations, entire digital journeys can be personalised to a customer, with images, messages and signposting uniquely adapted to their needs and preferences.
- ‘Smart’ engagement
By a wide margin, research shows personalised content is more effective. AI algorithms can record your customers’ previous email interactions and website journeys to understand how they interact with your brand. Machine learning-driven segmentation and clustering can also help profile customers based on multiple variables, including demographics, buyer type or brand advocacy, and can provide significant insight into how to engage customers as well as when and where.
This data can then allow you to create dynamic, super-relevant, personalised adverts and emails. Using emails as an example, these can be based on details such as:
- What blogs or other content they have read
- How they have navigated your website
- Reactions to previous email communications
AI and natural language processing are now also being used to write subject lines that beat human-authored subject lines in 98% of head-to-head tests.
So bringing dynamic emails and AI-driven subject lines together could supercharge your email marketing.
These are just a few ways data and AI can improve the experience you deliver to your customers.
If AI is relatively new to you or your business, it might be helpful to take a look at my previous blog How to implement AI as a mid-sized company: 5 practical steps to success. This should help you explore AI and data for customer experience in the broader context of understanding how your business can make the most of the opportunity AI brings.
Good luck with turbo-charging your customer experience programme!
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About the author
Dean has owned and managed agencies for over 16 years. In this time, he’s worked on a range of technology projects for global companies. Now, in his role as COO at a specialist health and beauty agency, The Pull Agency, he creates multi-disciplined teams that help bring the worlds of brand and technology together. Although Dean has a broad, journalistic knowledge of emerging technology, he’s most passionate about solutions that improve customer experience, applying old school marketing know-how and creative thinking with the latest technologies. He has a passion for road cycle racing, having represented Great Britain at the Under 18’s. Dean also enjoys a good Rioja and listening to Radiohead at maximum volumes.