According to a Hubspot definition, “Customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.” This is a great definition because it puts the focus on the customer’s choice.
Today’s customer engagement exercises – customer profiling, target marketing, lead scoring, technology interventions – help reach out to potential customers in a way they don’t feel their privacy is being violated. Customers also have the freedom to respond and to choose how they want to interact with a business.
Infusing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into Customer Engagement
Recently at a tech marketing innovations platform, Jodie Sangster, Chief Customer Officer, IBM Watson Customer Engagement (Asia Pacific) at IBM said that today you cannot understand your customer without the use of AI.
She couldn’t be more right. AI has helped organizations improve their methods of customer engagement by being constantly “on”, collating data from disparate sources, gauging them and coming up with information that makes sense. Marketers and sellers across businesses use these insights to engage customers more effectively.
According to a Gallup report, only one in four millennials (25%) are fully engaged. The only positive exception to their low levels of psychological and emotional attachment to a brand, product or company is that their engagement is highly dependent on technology. Customers are in the driver’s seat, and businesses that adopt omni-channel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to business that don’t. AI can step in here to play a significant role to convert the millennial population into loyalists by surpassing their digital experience expectations. This expectation can in no way be neglected simply because when fully engaged, millennials are more profitable and loyal than other customers.
How does Artificial Intelligence power Customer Engagement?
More than half of companies admit to not having a formal customer engagement program in place, and 60% didn’t know how many customers they’d lost over the past year. On the other hand, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage. Quite a gap there that needs to be filled, and soon! Because Gartner’s got the lowdown—by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human. AI is the reason. Why? Because…
- It thinks “tomorrow” – The first step, and one of the most important, is to not force customers into legacy that feels outdated and weighed down. AI is a great technology that enables intelligent and informed, yet simple customer experiences in an end-to-end customer journey. It helps re-imagine each engagement opportunity and makes them unified and personalized; an experience that would seem so organic that customers would simply sail through them.
- It uses data intelligently – There is so much data out there to process and develop into insights; and AI achieves exactly that. It enables in-the-moment engagement by simply filling in gaps and offering comprehensive integration, giving marketers the power to personalize real-time customer interactions.
- It shakes up customer service – Fast, automated, hassle-free, AI gives customer service a whole new personality. AI-powered Chatbots, which are conversation agents, provide instant personalized responses, round the clock; eliminating delays and errors, while using customer history to ensure they get all the answers they are looking for. Virtual assistants obey commands or answer questions, helping customers find what they are looking for. These AI-powered tools are giving customer service a great makeover.
- It’s more human than human – That’s the thing about AI—it can add a human touch to customer interaction even more than a real human can, just by using data in a better way. In the digital world it is impossible to gauge a customer’s mood or facial expressions. AI makes it possible to pick up digital cues to customize interactions from raw data and transforming them into actionable insights. With AI, customer engagement is not about engaging with a device or a channel the customer is using; but about engaging with the customer herself. This makes the interactions warm and welcome; not mechanical and intruding.
Be AI ready and make the best of it
If you are marketing in a competitive space, then you need AI now. With multiple digital platforms and channels, and an inundation of data, AI must step in to simplify and make sense. If you are dealing with a data deluge that your human team cannot handle, your business is already a candidate for artificial intelligence.
It’s natural to get carried away with algorithms and metrics when leveraging AI. But it’s critical that your AI implementation for customer engagement be human-centric. This may not be completely possible in the first few stages of implementation. However, when your AI-powered customer engagement strategies begin to settle in, they must become customer-empathetic to really be able to leverage the best that AI has to offer.
Lastly, be process-oriented. You cannot leverage the predictions that analytics throws your way unless you have a structure in place, which enables implementation to be durable and effective. AI is not just for a couple of campaigns; but a process that you need to incorporate in your customer engagement blueprint for lasting results as well as increased ROI. When you have a system that works in a seamless loop, you have better chances of improving it each time.