In an age where customer experience is paramount, Jason du Preez, senior vice president Asia Pacific, SugarCRM discusses how artificial intelligence (AI) can help businesses win and retain customers.
As Australian businesses focus on rebounding from the pandemic, investing in Artificial Intelligence is a high priority to better understand the customer and deliver an intuitive, fast and frictionless customer experience.
The 2022 Customer Impact Report revealed that 98% of Australian businesses plan to invest in AI over the next two years. Here are four ways AI can help in the battle to win customers and retain them, while also maximising cross selling and upselling opportunities.
- Understanding real-time customer lifetime value
Real-time access to data and insights can help identify which customers represent the greatest opportunity for lifetime value. Australian companies report that 74% of sales leads are either underqualified, poorly qualified, or not followed up on.
AI and machine learning can help analyse an organisation’s lead prioritisation and identify leads and prospects that are similar to other businesses in their customer base in order to determine whether they are likely to be profitable and where conversion can be quickly maximised.
- Unlocking the power of sentiment analysis
Once a customer is engaged with your organisation, you can use sentiment analysis to understand how your customers respond to your brand, products and services at an emotional level. When face to face with someone, we pick up dozens of subtle cues. We hear the tone of voice and can tell whether a response is sarcastic or more direct. Posture can tell us if the person is relaxed or stressed. Even silence can tell us something. Discerning all of this in a digital interaction requires a different capability. And this isn’t just about lots of data – it’s about having the right data so the AI is operating effectively.
AI, using natural language processing, can collect the data, look for key words and phrases in order to discern the sentiment. Some AI can even understand sarcasm and irony. And it can do this in a fraction of the time that it would take a team of people to create a high definition customer view. AI can also assist with personalisation and empathic marketing to customers, through deeper insights into their current needs and preferences.
Businesses use information from public social media feeds, recorded phone calls, email, chat bots, and myriad other sources to gain a deeper understanding of their customer. Once that data is integrated into your CRM, AI can derive insights that help you make better decisions about how to deliver a high definition experience at each step of the customer’s journey.
- Mitigating the risk of customer churn
AI can help mitigate the risk of customer churn. While most Australian businesses reported a good understanding of their inbound sales funnel, almost two-thirds of businesses of the 400 Australian firms surveyed in the 2022 Customer Impact Report said they do not understand the reasons for churn with a similar number admitting they struggle to quantify and track churn rates effectively. AI can deliver actionable insights that allow businesses to better understand what is happening at every stage of the customer journey.
When leveraged as part of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, AI can unlock valuable insights. AI can help people trawl through large slabs of data and automate some decision making. With almost seven of every ten Australian businesses saying they want more from their CRM, AI is undoubtedly part of the solution to their customer experience challenges.
Natural language processing and AI work together and provide sales and service teams with information about a customer’s emotional state and intent. With these insights, sales and service personnel can make better decisions on the best action to support the customer journey. This creates greater predictability which, in turn, drives performance as organisations can apply a laser focus on activities that deliver the most positive experience for customers.
- Leverage out-of-the-box AI solutions to hit the ground running
So, how can a business that is time and resource constrained take advantage of AI? They can start by avoiding the trap of thinking they have to do everything themselves. While every business is unique, very few of the challenges they face are. And that means the tools they need are most likely already available.
CRM systems are the glue that brings together data from multiple sources in a business. When AI is applied to data in the CRM, as well as external data sources, it’s possible to create a comprehensive view of your existing customers so you can anticipate their needs and identify the risk of churn. And you can use what you know about existing customers to make predictions about leads and prospects.
AI might be the most ticked box in your tech team’s game of Buzzword Bingo. But it’s a powerful tool that, when applied in areas where it can deliver actionable insights, can make a significant difference at every step of the customer journey from when they first peek over the edge of your funnel to when they might be thinking about leaving you.