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Using AI to boost sales is not a new idea. In fact, back in 2017, the Harvard Business Review did an extensive story about one sales office of motorcycle maker Harley Davidson that was able to increase sales from two bikes per week to 15 per weekend using AI-powered marketing support. If predictive analytics increased sales leads by 3,000 percent back in 2017, what’s it doing for businesses now?
AI and predictive analytics are still making an impact for businesses in terms of identifying customer trends, building customer profiles, and constructing tighter potential target audiences. However, it’s also doing a lot more, both in terms of how it’s able to gather data and how it’s able to use it to offer customers the personalization they want and need. The following are some of the newest ways AI is helping to identify—and support—your best customers in the future.
AI and Your Customers: Smarter Chatbots
One of the first lines of AI defense in terms of reaching your customers is the increasingly popular chatbot. Unfortunately, in their early stages, chatbots have proven to be a bit frustrating for many customers, equipped with too few phrases and too little helpful information. While they may have saved the companies time, in some cases chatbots just left customers feeling more helpless than before.
A recent report from Forrester showed that personalized customer service especially delivers quantifiable results in terms of decreased costs, more productive human agents, and improved customer experience outcomes (i.e. more satisfied, engaged and loyal customers.) The study also found good customer experience has proven impact to top-line revenue in all industries.
It makes sense, then, that companies are starting to invest in smarter conversational AI—for instance, AI that pulls history and experience into the “conversational,” while also using emotional recognition tools to better understand the context of a customer’s inquiry. Even better, because they’re able to engage in deeper, more complex conversations, they’re able to gather much more data about the customer and answer their problems much more quickly.
AI and Your Customers: Knowing When Humans are Required
Another way AI can help you identify and keep the best customers—by telling you when it’s time to hand over chatbot interactions to an actual human. In another Forrester report released in January 2020, it was found that when done well, customer experience delivered by humans can actually boost loyalty, help the company understand customer needs better, and improve cross-selling and upselling opportunities. When using AI data, including contextual and emotional recognition data, chatbots are better able to notice when a human intervention may be necessary. That type of personalized experience is what will keep customers coming back again and again.
AI and Your Customers: At the Edge
Another change for AI moving forward is that it will require greater performance at the edge to ensure that customers interactions are as quick as possible and that data is processed in real time (or as close to it as possible.) Yes, this will require greater investment in infrastructure. AI can only function as well as its weakest technology link. However, making those types of investments can help you meet customers where they are—whether it’s on the website, in a chat room, or in their car driving past your brick and mortar location.
AI and Your Customers: A Personalized Shopping Experience
Because AI and machine learning and changing the amount of data companies are able to gather—as well as how they are using it—companies are better able to create a customer-centric, personalized shopping experience. This means removing any “friction points” that may have caused a customer to leave or drop-cart before making their purchase. For instance—a long line, a frustrating employee, a product that is out of stock—all of these issues can be eliminated with AI guiding a customer through the store, AI guiding the stocking and restocking of items, and AI managing the number of open lanes to ensure fewer lines at peak shopping periods. (Or, if using technology like Qless, AI can empower customers to avoid lines altogether.)
Yes, there are lots of cool things AI can do, and we will continue to see improvements as technology firms continue to improve AI’s ability to understand human communication and predict their wants and needs. Algorithms will continue to improve. Transparency (and human understanding) of algorithms will continue to grow. Chatbots for emotional support and psychiatric support will become “normal” things. The main point to keep in mind is that no matter how advanced technology becomes, people still want to know people are available if they need them. Hopefully, AI will be able to help us find the right balance and ensure the right people are there when our customers need them.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.