Beyond the Bot

In the post-pandemic world, Customer Experience drives purchase decisions. AI can power significant market advantage with hyper-personalized experiences.

The pandemic has accelerated new, hyper-personalized customer experiences powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These technologies bring the ability to efficiently analyze social, historical and behavioral data, enabling a highly targeted understanding of customers. And, unlike traditional data analytics, AI continuously learns and improves. Hence, modernization strategies that were already underway have grown exponentially.

In a recent report, Forester points out “that customer service organizations must accelerate their adoption of AI-powered self-service technologies for frictionless service. Customers actively choose to resolve problems on their own. These interactions should start with understanding the customer's intent, followed by the best action for resolution. AirAsia saw questions about refunds increase 285% month over month in the early days of the pandemic, and the company's bot successfully handled 96% of those inquiries. Qapital, a personal finance app, resolves 25,000 issues per month; less than half require agent support.”

Today, market differentiation is gained by optimizing this customer experience. For Anthony Behan, Cloudera Managing Director for Communications, this goes beyond churn: “If you focus on churn, you will only be so effective. By bringing together the right data sets, you can create a true 360-degree view of your customers along their journey and across all of the diverse interaction channels, products, lines of business, and more. Customer profiles and usage data, network performance metrics, location data, and social media streams all enable personalized, targeted marketing, and enhance the end-to-end customer experience.”

Build the models, measure, automate, and optimize. This allows a transition from simple chatbots to sophisticated robotic processes and network automation, delivering a more intelligent, cadenced conversation with your customers.

These new tools are key, says Bob Caruso, an Orchid Black Operating Partner. Bob has worked as a senior executive in the Aerospace industry and with multiple professional services firms, including Deloitte, J.D. Power and DXC, where he led $40M P&L providing Microsoft Dynamics 365 services focused on Customer Experience. In a recent article on Customer Experience, he notes that in increasingly digital relationships, employing the right technology is essential: “Whether your business is a one-person hot dog cart at the beach or a Fortune 10 global conglomerate, helping your customers through their journey is about having the tools available to do exactly that. Empower customers to help themselves, provide opportunities to allow them to learn about how best to use the product or service they asked you to deliver.”

With new AI and ML tools, autonomous customer interaction replaces repetitive tasks, freeing agents to spend more time on prioritized interaction. And even in these prioritized human interactions, AI is improving conversations. Companies such as VoiceBase and CallMiner offer technology that monitors customer-agent interactions and sends alerts triggered by acoustic measures such as agitation or unusual blocks of silence. These real-time alerts, followed by conversation prompts, help agents optimize interactions.

In marketing automation, AI is building highly effective customer campaigns with technology like Regio is a platform that customizes campaign conversations and cadence, depending on exactly who you’re talking to and how they’re responding. This sales enablement tool is based on a massive database of over 9,100 buyer persona combinations that personalizes outbound, inbound, and follow-up campaign workflows. Regio features granular personas, activities, tone, messaging and structures, all driven by machine learning. 

“Sure, we create content,” explains Matt Millen, Regie Co-Founder and CEO, “but most importantly, we establish a rigor and a process for how to communicate to your customer. We start by focusing on pain points. This is about being clear about their pain that you solve. It’s about a relationship, not a product.”

Frank Foster, Orchid Black Operating Partner, was a chief and senior executive in a wide range of media, advertising and communication organizations, including AT&T/Xander, TiVo, and Carlyle Partners. He co-holds seven patents in Big Data, AI and Pattern Recognition. Frank points to the inherent risks in not building customer relationships on data and machine learning: “To drive efficiencies in the media space, buyers and sellers must leverage technology, deterministic data and probabilistic data. AT&T (AppNexus, DirecTV, WarnerMedia) lost $80B in shareholder value. While a lot of factors play into that number, at least some of it can be attributed to miscalculations in their advertising technology and data strategy.”

Frank believes the solution is in the technology, noting an automated infrastructure “de-risks the transition from contextual advertising to a more targeted approach.” Now campaigns become less scattershot, more personalized. They rely on sophisticated data management, so performance metrics can be tried, tweaked and decision making improved–all based on key performance metrics such as reach, frequency and ROI.

And today leveraging AI and ML is no longer a “nice to have.” In a recent Venture Beat interview, Chris Howard, Gartner VP, noted that “We have now entered the realm of AI-augmented work and decision science — what we call ‘augmented intelligence.’ If you are a CIO and your organization doesn’t use AI, chances are high that your competitors do and that should be a concern.”

Gartner recently predicted that “in a few years from now, 89% of businesses will compete mostly on customer experience.”

You read that right: Not product, not marketing—it’s all about customer service. So if you’re still trying to do this manually, you’ll lose. AI and ML handle massive amounts of data to make more accurate decisions—all in real time. This hyper-personalized, hyper-effective customer journey is table stakes in our post-pandemic world. 

About the Author

Noel Burkman is a software developer by training and is keenly aware that strategy, The Four P’s of Marketing, and product development are the pillars that bring synchronistic qualities of transformational leadership to the fore wherever he has worked. Industry experience includes tech startups, retail, news and media, manufacturing, agency, and higher education. Noel is also an active board member of the Chicago Small Business Advocacy Council.

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