When introducing the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) to clients, I often start with a few basic questions:
- Do you feel like you could improve your customer experiences?
- Would it be helpful to have an ear to the ground all the time, listening to your customers cues—what they like, what they're looking for—all the time? Can you imagine the decisions and personalization you could generate?
- What if you were always available to your customers—no matter the time, the day, or the location?
As they nod their heads with interest and excitement, my next question is:
Have you heard of Conversational AI?
Conversational AI is quickly changing the way customers interact with brands: in a recent report, Gartner notes by 2020 40% of users will primarily interact with new applications that support Conversational AI. By 2022, it’s anticipated that 20% of all customer service will be handled by Conversational AI agents. In short, Conversational AI is exploding right now—and brands are buying into it. But why?
Conversational AI is a set of technologies (think bots or virtual assistants) that respond to text or voice inputs naturally. It moves past rigid bots programmed to respond only to a pre-determined set of questions, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand and engage with wide variety of inputs instinctively.
While there are many reasons Conversational AI has thrived as of late, one in particular stands out: its ability to improve customer experiences. Brands that successfully reinvigorate their omnichannel mix and strategy through Conversational AI are able to enhance the real-time, two-way dialog between customer and brand. Ultimately, it enables the 1:1 engagement essential to creating an optimal customer journey, shaping the positive experiences consumers demand along the way.
Conversational AI, the customer journey, and connected experiences
For any marketer, the customer journey is key. Understanding the way in which individuals first engage with your brand, the steps they take to conversion, and the relationship forged afterward is arguably as important as the conversion itself. Conversational AI gives marketers new ways of providing customers with immediate connection points to real-time services and product inquires.
Interestingly, Conversational AI as a channel doesn’t have just one designated place in the customer journey. It’s omnipresent. Conversational AI enhances the customer journey and facilitates personalized experiences, while “always on” in the background—learning and understanding the actions of a customer, ready to engage by feeding data through your marketing technology. Consequently, Conversational AI crafts the ultimate connected experience, and successfully drives outcomes like loyalty reward programs, unique shopping experiences, and cross sell or up sell opportunities. See, for example, below: vvvvvvvvv
In this instance, the bot was able to leverage observations of the customer’s previous behavior to engage with her in a highly unique and relevant way—guiding her to a conversion (and beyond)—all while painting a clear picture of her journey from start to finish. Not to mention, the rich first- and third-party data collected can be used to make her experience even better the next time she visits the site.
Why does Conversational AI improve the customer experience?
Conversational AI offers up many ways to improve the customer experience, including fostering connected conversations and streamlining user experience.
Brands are always looking for a direct line of communication to their customers; bots and virtual assistants embedded in websites or apps offer just that. The icing on the cake is customers are willingly engaging with them, offering up key insights to leverage in real time.
After all, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember and provide relevant offers and recommendations, and 83% are willing to share their data to allow for such personalized experiences. With a 1:1 communication channel, brands are able to provide a true connected conversation—one that is highly relevant and personalized to the individual. This ad-hoc communication will leave customers feeling satisfied and tended to by your brand. Marketers can also nurture those customers post-conversion.
And when a customer returns to your site, the insights gained from previous interactions will help brands immediately connect with relevant personalization. Conversational AI ultimately sits at the intersection of customer engagement and need. Fueled by past behavior, Conversational AI can:
- Greet customer by their first name
- Ask them if they need any quick problem solving.
- Recommend relevant products based on current chat dialog, their last browsing session or purchase
User experience has the opportunity to make or break a customer journey. If a brand’s website or app is hard to navigate, generally confusing or overwhelming, customers will take note. Bots and virtual assistants are ready to assist customers at any moment, anticipating their needs, and answering any navigation or functionality questions they may have—it’s like having a 24/7 assistant at their fingertips.
In terms of the bot or virtual assistant itself, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to get help from a stuffy bot that can only understand and answer a few simple questions. Conversational AI is able to engage with a more sophisticated array of inputs, making it an asset that will genuinely provide value to the customer while offering a “human” touch.
In practice, Conversational AI can provide a best-in-class CX, creating connected conversations between the brand and customer through a seamless UX.
Brands that got it right
This healthcare brand offers up actionable health insights for users based on trusted data sources. In short, it is a symptom checker powered by artificial intelligence. Users interact with a chat bot, disclosing health concerns or symptoms. Then, the bot will suggest useful information and help users solve their health problems, such as: possible diagnoses, at-home remedies, or places to visit a physician in-person. The bot responds to customers concerns in real time, offering up natural dialogue and a seamless experience for users.
The insurance company’s use of artificial intelligence nails the customer experience. Progressive’s mascot, Flo, has a unique and witty personality that shines through in the chat bot—always ready to respond with funny anecdotes while customers search for an insurance quote. The key to Progressive’s Conversational AI success is that it is truly conversational, and feels like you’re speaking to an actual agent.
The pizza giant recently unveiled their new virtual assistant, DOM, to customers. While many choose to place pizza orders online, millions still call in to a Domino’s location to order—says Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer. Instead of having an associate answer the phone, DOM’s voice recognition software handles it. After taking the customer’s order, it is placed by DOM, and the pizza is out for delivery ASAP. DOM is a way to accommodate less tech-savvy customers that may not feel comfortable placing an order online.
As the nature of customer-brand interactions continue to evolve, brands need to evolve with it. When Conversational AI finds its way into the customer journey, brands can connect with customers 1:1, improve their experiences through past behavior and ultimately strengthen brand loyalty.
We understand the idea of bots or virtual assistants may seem confusing or overwhelming, but as discussed above, there are clear benefits for taking the leap into Conversational AI. Download this informational guide to learn more.