How to Improve Customer Experience with Artificial-Intelligence-Driven Services
Products using the power of Artificial Intelligence or AI are all around us. Siri can switch on your favorite TV show, order pizza from the nearest Domino’s, heat or cool the room, book your train tickets… Smart apps are on our TVs, phones, and even watches, making our lives easier and more efficient. But what about services? AI is behind a significant evolution of service-based businesses, who can now increase the range of their offerings, improve interactions with their customers or add new services, and generate new revenue streams. Here is how using AI creates memorable customer experiences.
AI-powered Big Data analytics systems can become a goldmine of actionable business insights on your website visitor engagement: what the majority of your customers come for? How do they interact with your offers? How are they engaged — and how to make them more engaged?
Amazon and Netflix started this move to the personalization of services and became industry-leading providers of online retail and entertainment accordingly. The rest of the industries follow suit, and if your company does not yet provide personalized customer service offerings — rest assured, your competition soon will. The famous “customers who ordered this, also ordered…” helped Amazon skyrocket their cross-sales, and has become the de-facto golden standard for online shopping.
This is done through training an AI algorithm based on aggregated historical records of purchases. This way, the algorithm can discern specific patterns (like a person buying an iPhone might also need a case and a pair of Airpods). It can then suggest to the new customers the same shopping experience that left the previous buyers satisfied.
The main benefit of using AI to analyze huge volumes of customer data is that it can do so on aggregated and personal levels — both by providing better insights into the behavior of vast strata of your customers and by customizing your services to fit every individual request. For example, e-Commerce companies that wish to engage with their customer base on a whole new level can ask their customers to answer a questionnaire to provide their measurements, preferred clothing styles, and colors, and then use AI to match each unique profile with the stock updates.
This way, instead of configuring the filters and manually searching for a fitting item every time, the customers can have a pre-suited selection of clothing waiting for them upon their visit to your e-Commerce platform — or even sent to their doorsteps monthly. Stitch Fix does exactly that, saving their customers a world of time on choosing the most fitting apparel. Should you not like the item — you simply send it back, and each such return makes AI recommendations more precise.
Driving more value: OPEX reduction, predictive analytics, insurance
Applying AI uncovers revenue streams and ways to deliver value nobody could have imagined before. From enabling smart IT infrastructure monitoring with prescriptive and predictive analytics, leading to significant decreases in operational expenses (OPEX), all the way to transforming the way the companies deliver traditional services… like insurance.
To address the first approach, as an e-Commerce business you need to run and your customer traffic fluctuates a lot. This means you need to scale your customer-facing systems up and down to meet the demand — and not overspend when the peak load is over. This can be done manually when the monitoring system signals exceeding the capacity — or according to a schedule based on historical data. However, what if the daily peak time begins earlier or ends later or happens at some odd time — or does not happen at all?
This is where using AI comes into service, as smart monitoring and alerting systems provide real-time input that allows specially trained algorithms to detect resource consumption fluctuations. This helps instantly react to the changes in workload and scale your systems up or down at once, at any moment throughout the day or night, automatically.
In addition, such AI models can track the performance of various infrastructure components and predict possible failures. This way, your IT team has the time to replace the potentially failing modules and prevent outages — saving you a ton of money in the process.
IT infrastructure monitoring left aside, AI-powered monitoring systems can drive value in literally any industry — even in insurance! Vitality Health is such a provider, who incentivizes their customers to live healthier by accruing them points for walking and performing other physical activities.
Each customer’s progress is tracked via a mobile app and various fitness trackers or smartwatches, so the AI calculates the individual progress of every person. Should Vitality’s customers suffer an accident — their earned points are deducted from their personal insurance savings scores. This way the customers save their money while living healthier lives and being covered by a smart insurance solution.
Customer self-service and chatbots
“Hold on the line, please, you will be served by the first available operator!” — and an especially annoying ringtone to listen to while something is very wrong with your website or uplink or any other aspect of your business. A nightmare to behold, yes? It should be no surprise then, that 73% of customers prefer self-service portals instead of speaking with live support reps.
Being able to resolve an issue on your own creates a memorable and positive user experience (unless a customer has to solve issues daily, as then they simply switch for a service provider that just works.) However, if the services or products you provide are complex and the knowledge base is extensive, the customer might have trouble finding the solution for their particular situation.
This is why delivering a conversational experience with chatbots is one of the mainstream ways of providing customer service nowadays. When the customers can specify what they are looking for by answering questions and selecting between several possible answers, they are much faster to arrive at their destination and solve the challenges they face.
Even if you are not currently providing AI-powered chatbot interactions for your customers — be sure your competitors are working on it.
In addition, a chatbot is never tired, irritable, or incompetent. It is available 24/7 and is continuously trained, so in time it can replace all L1 support representatives for your organization (and maybe even L2). This means huge savings on running a support center and constant hiring-training-firing roulette many e-Commerce providers have to face.
10 AI-driven services that can improve customer experience in e-Commerce
In addition to the aforementioned AI implementations, there are ten more ways to deliver memorable customer experience for e-Commerce businesses:
1.Personalized image search. Filters are so 2005… Customers nowadays want to be able to find goods and items in eCommerce stores based on visual images. Pinterest extension for Chrome provides image search since 2017. Multiple startups like Twiggle and ClarifAI help create customizable e-Commerce search engines based on the Visual Recognition Model.
Try teaching your tag-based search to find parts of images that are “aesthetic” or “wedding” or “general”. AI algorithms can do this. A girl makes a photo of a friend in a new dress and orders a new dress from the same collection instantly. A guy sees an awesome pair of Nike sneakers in a gym — and uses AI apps to instantly find these or similar items in the stock of e-Commerce shops and have them delivered to his home by the end he finishes today’s training. Truly personalized item search instead of a mess of irrelevant suggestions — this is what turns the tables in e-Commerce.
2. Data-driven retargeting. A study from a US-based AI development startup Conversica shows that at least 33% of potential leads are not followed up correctly by sales teams, due to the sheer numbers of visitors every e-Commerce platform faces. Depending on your traffic volume, you might be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars by not putting all that aggregated customer data to good use.
It is understandable, as trying to manually sort out the site usage patterns and preferences of your visitors is like looking for a needle in the hay. This is what AI is for! Trained AI algorithms sift through the goldmine of knowledge that is your customer data and discover buying patterns in real-time. Most importantly, they do it quickly, so you are able to apply the insights gained to boost the effectiveness of your data-driven decision making.
3.Practical sales intelligence. What is the largest and easiest to win the potential target audience for any business? People who never heard of it? People who left or ignored them? No. it’s the customers of their competitors, as they already consume the services and products you offer — you just need to provide a better service to win them!
Identifying such customers is easy with Mintigo, a platform for predictive lead scoring, which helped Getty Images to grow their customer base significantly by finding websites that extensively use the images from Getty competitors. By concentrating their effort on winning new business, Getty’s sales team was able to obtain and retain a number of large customers that drive some significant revenue now.
4.AI-driven sales process. The North Face, one of the biggest apparel e-Commerce retailers, uses IBM Watson AI integrated with their CRM system. Due to natural language processing and voice recognition capabilities (yeah, like those of Siri or Alexa, but thousand times more powerful), The North Face’s CRM interacts with every customer personally, through a chatbot or on call. By asking about the usual weather conditions of the location where the apparel will be worn, Watson is able to nail the perfect choice for every customer and provide a smooth and memorable purchasing experience.
5.In-depth cross-platform personalization. Whether you gained visitor’s contact on your e-Commerce website, in an app, or as a clickthrough on one of your email campaigns, Boomtrain helps track their publicly available activity online. So if they’ve surfed new iPhone cases on your website, the next time they google for these items or browse the stock of your competitors, your CRM will send them a push notification to hit that sweet spot — and they can order from you at once, saving lots of time and steps for both parties.
6.Voice assistant integration. Siri, Google Now, and Alexa SDKs and APIs are public so that developers can integrate these voice assistants in their products. It is a golden opportunity for eCommerce retailers and service providers — as your potential customers already have an open channel of communication. All you need to do is just use it!
Amazon Alexa is already successfully integrated with Domino’s Pizza, Uber, 1–800-Flowers, and dozens of other popular and emerging apps. This way, your customers can place an order without even opening your website — simply by talking to their smart speakers, which allows them to omit the usual shopping cart and billing hassle.
7.Smart shoppers. Isn’t it great to talk to a friendly human in a huge electronics supermarket and inquire about a specific item size or color your Mom or little son will adore for their birthday? However, to find the perfect fit online we have to tick boxes, configure dropdown filters and type in search keywords, which is sooo outdated…
Macy’s launched a smart shopper tool that helps their customers instantly get the information they need using the natural language processing capabilities of IBM Watson. Why waste time browsing when you can ask a question and Macy’s will provide an answer on the call? Many other businesses follow suit to present their customers with uniquely personalized shopping opportunities. This creates memorable customer experiences and maximizes revenue per customer for e-Commerce retailers.
8.Assortment intelligence. Another great example of AI application in e-Commerce is overcoming the “the other shop had a 5% discount so I bought there” situation. So-called assortment intelligence solutions track all the publically available mentions of the brands and item models you offer, effectively presenting an industry-wide pricing landscape.
This way you can monitor the price range of your competitors and dynamically adjust your pricing to win the sales. Combine that with those smart push notifications we mentioned — and it will be your e-Commerce store the customers will always check for discounts first thing — and you will close these deals.
9.Sales through wearables. Why require the customer to log into their account within your platform at all? They are already logged in to their phones and synchronized with their smartwatches or fitness trackers. Your systems can authenticate them automatically, process their orders, and charge their stored banking details — without even the need to unlock the smartphone screen!
Amazon Go is an example of such a system. Amazon Go stores are equipped with voice recognition, image recognition, and deep learning systems. Whenever a customer enters a store, they are authenticated and all the goods they pick off the shelves are added to a virtual cart. Once they are done, they leave — and the cost of all their purchases is just charged from their Amazon accounts. No lines, no waiting — just shop and go.
Using this approach in e-Commerce — automatic authentication through smartphone number, email, or any other type of ID, automatically adding products to a virtual cart and automatically charging for them from stored cards — can provide a seamless, efficient, and memorable shopping experience your customers expect in the 21st century.
10.Taking down fake reviews. Many e-Commerce retailers can tell a horrifying story of a storm of fake reviews that impacted their sales. This is a practice of astroturfing — deliberately posting fake negative reviews to influence the trust of potential buyers. It is very harmful to e-Commerce, as 9 out of 10 buyers read previous customer reviews before making a purchase. Removing harmful fake reviews is essential to building lasting trust in your brand while reacting timely to a critique is vital for the continuous improvement of your services. Thus, simply deleting all the negative reviews doesn’t work — you need to be able to filter out the fake ones.
This is where AI and Machine Learning are uniquely suited to evaluate all kinds of entities — including reviews — based on some sets of parameters. Fake reviews are mostly posted by fresh accounts specifically created for this purpose, with no purchase history, etc. Thus, by evaluating the lifespan of the account, its review, and order history, these AI systems can quickly discover and flag fake reviews at scale, helping provide a transparent and trustworthy buying experience for your customers.
The takeaway: you can greatly improve customer experience by providing AI-driven services
Every entrepreneur understands that positive customer experience is the basis of long-term business success. When using your products or services, your customers must feel valued, feel they are in control and can handle any challenge that might arise.
This is exactly why implementing AI algorithms within your service offerings can transform the way the customer experience and move it to a whole new level. Be it in-depth personalization of services, creating new customer journeys through conversational experiences with chatbots, or transforming the traditional concepts of services you deliver — implementing AI for your business is a good bet for gaining a competitive advantage.
AI is transforming the way many industries operate — and you must either embrace it or risk being pushed aside by more daring and innovative market players.