Mr. Jones is planning a vacation for the summer. He looks up travel destinations, flight tickets, and travel sites offering special summer vacation deals. Each time he interacts with a travel site such as Booking.com, Skyscanner, or Airbnb, he forms a customer touch point with that business. And, the sum total of all his interactions with that business, from the first interaction i.e. browsing through their site to the last interaction i.e. booking his holiday package, forms his customer journey.
Ensuring a pleasant and fruitful customer journey for customers like Mr. Jones is imperative to business success. In today’s digital transformation era, if services are sub-optimal, customers are quick to leap from one business to another. In such a case, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can serve as the perfect enabler for a successful customer journey and ensure superior customer experience. Using AI, businesses can get inside the head of the customer, understand and predict their specific needs and then take calculated decisions to meet their specific requirements. This in turn can nudge a customer to purchase a product or maintain loyalty with a brand.
The AI family of technologies span myriad capabilities, the chief among them being aiding intuitive digital conversations, prediction, recognition, and recommendation.
AI algorithms aid in narrowing down to best fit choices/options for the customer and providing probable insights into customers propensity to buy or avail a service. Other capabilities include regression analysis, classification through algorithms and not hardcoded rules, clustering, detection of anomalies, ranking of priorities, decision making, processing of image/video and text and user-sentiment analysis.
Let’s take a look at some of the key customer touch points and how artificial intelligence can be leveraged to transform them:
Inquisitive wandering – In this stage, the customer stumbles upon a site through various advertisements on social media or recommendations from friends. The customer has no intention of making a purchase at this stage. He/she is simply curious and browsing through the available products or services. Businesses in this case can leverage AI to improve customer service for both existing and potential customers. AI can provide proactive information to the customer based on their click-through patterns and search criteria that will further pique their interest and entice them to make a purchase. For instance, a customer who stumbles upon an advertisement for cheap flights during the winter break can be intrigued further, if the analysis of their search history reveals they prefer economical hotel packages, with discounted sightseeing options for large groups or families.
Seeking information – The customer at this stage, is looking for specific information on a product or service. The customer has a strong intent to make a purchase here. AI can help reduce the time spent on authentication, offers can be made using pre-existing analytics, and customer history. Real-time analytics algorithms, pricing algorithms, product offers based on chat conversations, etc. can be leveraged to provide detailed and relevant information to the customer. For example, a customer looking to purchase an international calling card can be provided references for both local and international service providers with a detailed cost break-up. Additional services such as subsidized internet packages or free calling services to a few local numbers can also be offered, based on the customer’s calling history and internet usage during their international travel.
Problem seeking resolution – At this stage, the customer has already made a purchase and is looking for a specific remedy to a problem. By studying the customer query log or past ticket details, customer master data, call center records, and email exchanges, the business can prevent repeated customer queries and timely resolutions can be set in place. Proactive recommendations can also be made to avoid further customer complaints and queries. For instance, a customer has purchased a monthly internet package of 5 GB with a telecom service provider. However, due to increased usage, the customer often tops up his plan before the end of the billing cycle. This causes multiple queries in the monthly billing cycle which is calculated on a pro-rata basis. As an alternative, the telecom service provider can leverage AI to study the customer’s usage patterns in real time, and offer alternative internet packages which will suit his internet consumption better. This is only possible if insights are available correlated to the customer journey. Earlier patterns need to be coded. But, using AI patterns can be detected in real-time and decisions taken using these hitherto unknown insights.
Interaction for compliance or problem resolution – Here the customer reaches out to the business because there is pressing need or requisition to do so. In such cases, ensuring customer convenience is key to a superior customer journey and experience. A common example is the due diligence process conducted by financial institutions for KYC. Issues such as recognizing missing data, easing the process for the customer to provide that data through available channels, reducing multiple follow-up calls, avoiding physical presence, and detecting and preventing fraud are conveniently addressed using AI.
Artificial Intelligence has tremendous potential to improve customer journeys and transform businesses. It can help businesses transform existing services as well as identify unmet customer needs by designing new products and services sooner than expected, thus ensuring continuing relevance in today’s Business 4.0 era. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are innovators who have use cases and value adds from adopting AI early. While they have all faced their initial set of hiccups, they are successfully riding the AI wave, today.
However, laggards that are yet to adopt AI can still play catch-up. AI is constantly evolving and has much to offer every business willing to jump onboard the bandwagon.
About the author(s)
With over 20 years of experience at TCS, Santha leads Intelligent Process Automation Services. She's responsible for creating, establishing and nurturing the Intelligent Process Automation Practice across industry verticals and products.