Front-running businesses have adopted an AI-first strategy alongside a customer-first mindset

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From airports investing in mobile androids that help travellers with directions, to hotels experimenting with voice-assisted in-room controls, winning organisations are adopting conversational chatbots to provide excellent customer service while gaining intelligent insight about them.

Tom Holtgreve

Our research ‘The Secret to Winning Customers’ Hearts with Artificial Intelligence’ tells us that customers will reward organisations with their loyalty, and therefore spend, based on receiving a good AI-enabled experience.

Front-running businesses have kept their consumers at the heart of their AI strategy and Burberry is a great example of this – they have successfully incentivised customers to share their personal data voluntarily by offering them a range of loyalty and reward initiatives in return. This data has then been used to provide highly personalised recommendations to that customer, both online and in-store.

Transparency ranks highest in customer expectations of AI with an overwhelming 80% of consumers expecting businesses to ensure transparency in the treatment and use of their data, for them to prioritise interactions enabled by AI. Getting it right provides a great return for businesses with more than two in five customers willing to increase their spend if they received a good AI enabled experience

Yet despite consumer appetite for AI-powered customer experiences, we found that many organisations are still struggling to embrace a customer-centric culture. Only 9% of organisations think of customer preferences when implementing AI, with cost of implementation and ROI being the main considerations for over half of respondents. Could AI be the catalyst to focus on customers’ true needs, or will AI broaden the gap between customer-centric and product or internally focused businesses?

A case in point. I bought a replacement phone charger online based on personalised recommendations and an average of 4-star ratings. The purchase was quick and seamless, and I trusted the platform. It was not until a little later while checking the lower starred scores that I discovered more than a few buyers had reported their charger catching on fire – I quickly cancelled the order. My trust in the platform diminished and I returned to find another charger immediately. Having checked the reviews more carefully, I was encouraged to see the lower starred ratings were glowing for the brand that had acknowledged its complaints, improved the product, and sent replacements; much to the buyer’s satisfaction. In some instances, they had personally contacted the buyer. I was sold!

Wouldn’t it be great if platforms could deploy AI focused on gaining my trust and loyalty versus giving me a ton of products and recommendations leaving me to sort the chaff from the wheat, without putting my home and family at risk? Platforms could deploy AI to proactively do the sorting, ensuring a better customer experience and enhancing trust. Merchants on these platforms could be using AI to identify and respond (through chatbots for example) and address issues or potential concerns instantly at the point of purchase and post-purchase to allow for more individual and proactive engagement. As Claire Charbit, Senior Vice President Information Management Commercial-Marketing-Digital, at Air France-KLM, told us: “We are in a very competitive environment. We need to compete on creating the most compelling value proposition and not only on cost. AI can be of monumental help in enhancing this value proposition by being very specific to what our customers expect.”

Our report suggests that consumers are ready for AI. 69% of consumers are aware of and satisfied with having AI-enabled interactions and 47% say the option of interacting with a personalised assistant is exciting. 55% are comfortable communicating with text-based conversational agents/virtual assistants when it’s a company they trust. It also emphasises to be transparent with consumers when deploying AI-enabled interactions across customer touchpoints – something which the front-runners are doing.

These are encouraging findings for the front-runners, who are setting the example for those organisations looking to become customer-centric. An AI strategy focussed on consumer preference, experience and transparency, rather than cost and return can create customer loyalty and advocacy.

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