Exceptional customer experience is not just an option for businesses in today’s digital market—it’s a necessity. If consumers and business clients find it difficult to place orders, get timely help, find what they’re looking for or complete some other transaction with a company, they might very well switch to a competitor that excels at customer experience.
Organizations are fortunate today that technology tools such as advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are available to help them deliver enhanced customer experience. But they need to prioritize deploying these capabilities—and using them correctly—to see any real benefit.
Many companies have accelerated their digital transformation efforts for the past few years, which has required they put a greater emphasis on customer experience, says Matthew Candy, global managing partner, IBM iX customer and experience transformation at IBM Consulting.
“Consumer expectations continue to remain high and get higher each and every day,” he said. “And we take experiences that we’ve had in one industry and those become the benchmark for what we expect in every industry. If I have an amazing experience with my bank and its digital platform and application, when I interact with my utilities company I expect the same thing. This notion of customer experience is the thing that creates competitive advantage for companies.”
Leveraging analytics, AI and other next-generation technologies can help organizations provide significant differentiation between themselves and their competitors, Candy says. They can facilitate a rich profile of a customer based on previous interactions with the individual to determine the customer’s preferences and to add a much higher level of personalization.
“And it’s not just delivering personalized experiences and recommendations, but contextually relevant ones,” Candy says, based on the customer’s situation at the particular point in time.
Letting data be the guide
Companies in various industries could see benefits from investing in analytics to improve customer experience. For example, auto makers could work with IBM Consulting to reimagine customers’ digital experiences at the first touchpoint—the website—and through the entire customer journey.
Using analytics tools based in the cloud, an auto maker could anticipate drivers’ needs and preferences, potentially deepening customers’ connection and loyalty to a brand in part by making it easy for customers to interact with the company.
Similarly, banks can work with IBM Consulting to improve customer experiences and build loyalty by improving the digital experience. For example, simple customer service inquiries can be handled by pairing a customer relationship management platform with IBM Watson chatbots. Once call agents are no longer burdened with responding to those less complex transactions, they are free to provide more high-value interactions with customers, equipped with the right tools and data to make informed recommendations and build customer relationships.
In a variety of industries, companies would be empowered to make business and customer-experience decisions based on data rather than assumptions, and through data can see holistic customer journeys and understand how consumers digitally interact with the company. These insights help the company continuously optimize what’s working and eliminate what isn’t.
“If I have an amazing experience with my bank and its digital platform and application, when I interact with my utilities company I expect the same thing. This notion of customer experience is the thing that creates competitive advantage for companies.”
Building better customer experiences
Candy says there are several best practices organizations should consider to help develop successful customer experience strategies utilizing data analytics and AI tools. One is to employ a design-led approach and ensure the design is holistic.
“That means really getting inside the heads of the users and what they’re thinking, feeling, saying and doing,” Candy says. “But the design doesn’t just focus on the individual and the individual’s needs, but on business needs and the broader cultural concerns. The key is to use design as a way to get to better customer experiences, and to have a continuous design process using data and AI.”
A second practice Candy recommends is having efficient data connections and use the right data to orchestrate better experiences.
“Many organizations have lots of data silos and different data sets that are all disjointed,” Candy said. “They need to be able to find a way to bring together those internal and external data sources to build a single understanding of an individual. They must be able to have that joined-up view of data in order to drive insights from it and then put those insights back into the experiences to create better outcomes.”
Another good practice is to focus on trust and transparency regarding customer data and how AI is used. “We need to make sure that we put trust at the heart of everything that we’re doing,” Candy said.
IBM has published a set of trust and transparency principles around the use of AI and AI ethics. These include: The purpose of AI is to augment human intelligence; data and insights belong to their creator; and new technology, including AI systems, must be transparent and explainable.
Candy also recommends using natural language to take friction out of interactions between customers and chat bots. With natural language conversations that help guide customers through processes, they will be less likely to need additional help from a human representative.
Finally, organizations need to reach outside of their own domains and think about the ecosystem in which they operate, in order to get to the outcomes they’re looking for. “That means looking for the right types of partners to help provide the best experiences and create better outcomes for the customer,” Candy said.
Learn more about how IBM can help your organization drive a more effective customer experience.
This post was created by IBM with Insider Studios.