AI IRL Podcast Episode 2: Building Great Customer Experiences Using AI
Is AI the savior or the death knell for CX? Will AI commoditize the customer experience or differentiate it?
There are a variety of ways companies are looking at AI. Whether it’s customers, employees, or C-Suite leaders, everyone has a different perspective on what AI is doing to create great experiences. And all have different views about what customer and employee experiences will be like “when the robots arrive.”
Where is AI making inroads? Where are people looking at it to deliver a better customer experience?
“We only call it AI if we’re not used to it.” — Micah Solomon
AI is all around us. Look at your camera, Facebook, and Linkedin. Unless you choose a manual setting, it’s AI that focuses your camera. AI makes smart recommendations on Facebook. And AI tells you how many connections removed you are from that key contact on Linked. Because we are used to these things, we no longer call them AI. We just expect them to be present.
We see AI forging the same inroads in real estate with Zillow telling us how much our home is worth and recommending new properties for us to buy. In hospitality, there’s Ivy, the bot that lets you make requests in your room through voice commands. Certainly, in medicine, AI is showing an impressive ability to help avoid drug interactions. And everyone recognizes those handy chatboxes on sites like Thomas Cook.
AI is everywhere, and it’s expanding. It’s just that we don’t recognize all its expansions as “AI.”
Where are places AI is delivering a lot of value behind the scenes?
Inside companies, AI is assisting employees by doing things like approving vacation requests, helping employees evaluate 401K options, and providing helpdesk applications to ease the burden on IT staff.
Of course, there are also industry-specific applications. In chemistry, for instance, AI can conduct initial testing, and in financial services, it is working behind the scenes to support financial advisors. AI can take a broad set of data that a single person or team cannot sift through and make it actionable.
AI is probably best known for predictive analytics, which can make both the real-time customer experience and the long-term experience better.
“This is part of a broader theme which I call anticipatory customer service,” Micah said.
Satisfactory customer service has four elements:
- The perfect product. No product is flawless, but perfect means designed and tested to perform correctly within reasonably foreseeable circumstances.
- Timely delivery. Timely response to queries from the customer.
- An empathetic manner of delivery.
- A framework for problem resolution.
These four add up to satisfactory customer service. But satisfactory service doesn’t differentiate a company. For that, you need anticipatory customer service.
“To provide exceptional customer service, requires something else. It requires being anticipatory. It requires, to use as the Ritz Carlton put it, to serve even the unexpressed needs and wishes of the customer. ” – Micah Solomon
“Anticipatory service can be from trained, knowledgeable human beings who know that those shoes you’re trying on are great but they’re really not comfortable for the kind of walking you’ll be doing,” Micah said. “Or it can be delivered by technologies that have been designed in an empathetic manner.”
It can even be a well-designed IVR that already knows things about you, or it can be a human who’s assisted by AI behind the scenes.
Whatever role you choose for AI to play anticipatory service lets you differentiate yourself by being ahead of where your customer expects you to be. So even if you maintain that same level of differentiating experiences, eventually everyone else will catch up with you. That’s why you need to anticipate customers’ future needs through things like AI.
The goal of anticipatory customer service is philanthropic, that is, you want to do for the customer what you can. Part of it, though, is that you become the customer’s place to go, the place that has their back.
When that happens, customers will stop thinking of it so much as this overarching scary thing, and we’ll become comfortable with AI.
“AI can help you be more anticipatory which really elevates rather than constricts the level of customer service you’re providing.” ”- Micah Solomon
What is the customer sentiment surrounding AI?
People’s warm feelings about AI are tempered by their concerns about where this is going, namely, “Will the robots take my job?” But the concerns go deeper.
Patients, for instance, get irritated that physicians stare at their screens during exams, but that’s what those doctors must do in order not to miss something.
It’s in our best interests, therefore, to leverage technology in a less invasive way so people understand when they are talking to a bot and when they’ve moved to a human. We could even make it possible for customers to have a choice between AI and a human agent supported by AI.
The more people grow comfortable with smart technology, the less it will seem like “AI,” and the more it will get incorporated into people’s everyday expectations until it seems as pedestrian as auto focus or Facebook.