Shaping the customer journey with AI

The interest in artificial intelligence, or AI, is gaining more attention of late. Though typically portrayed in blockbuster movies as the sometimes-malevolent intelligence behind killer robots, the real-life use of AI is more mundane, yet also highly useful to marketers.

From an objective point of view, AI is probably best described as a marrying of machine learning models with efficient analytical algorithms. For marketers, this translates into the ability to draw deeper, more meaningful, and relevant conclusions to help build insights and make connections that may have proved elusive in the past.

Shaping the customer journey

One practical benefit of AI would be how it can help marketers to shape the customer journey. Because it runs on a machine, the technology is infinitely scalable – once marketers get it working right. While there is debate about whether we are anywhere near realizing the full potential of AI, forward-looking brands are already dipping their toes into the technology through interfaces such as chat messaging.

For instance, Singapore’s POSB Bank in January launched its AI-driven chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Though it only works with queries currently, the bank says customers can look forward to conducting banking transactions such as balance enquiries, fund transfers and card payments via the assistant by the second quarter of this year. There are also plans to extend this to other mobile messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat in the future.

And expect marketers should expect AI to make a further leap forward this year, as they evolve from basic bots to driving services with contextually aware experiences. Of course, the road to offering contextual and relevant information necessitates the use of personal user information, whether in past orders, previous interactions, and the kind of services that a customer use from the business.

Trust is crucial when it comes to leveraging the use of such information to benefit customers. This can start with the adoption of an opt-in policy so that they can easily choose the personal information they share, or keep safe. Obviously, organizations that don’t already maintain a central repository of data – or is encumbered with siloed databases, will need to first get their house in order.

Mimicking human touch

Whatever your individual opinion of AI is, expect progress to be made with AI chatbots. Indeed, analysts from Accenture thinks that the average person will have more conversations with chatbots than with his or her spouse without even realizing it within the next three years. This leap will take place once AIs achieve the capability to deliver an authentic human experience.

Organizations that want to develop the next wave of emotionally and contextually aware AI chatbots must first define themselves – quite literally – as a person. This entails embedding a person’s values into a variety of suitable personalities appropriate for a context that is relevant to a situation or person.

On this front, brand owners must understand that if conversations are the interface, then personalities are the next UX - and should address their creation and development accordingly.

And as services become more emotionally intelligent, the organizations behind them can expect to face difficult ethical issues. This makes it important to be able to define the “personal values” for an AI, ensuring that any decisions made while communicating with customers are those that the brand can stand behind.

There is no question that messaging platforms are appealing due to the comparative simpler nature of text, it is worth remembering that its very simplicity also makes it prone to misunderstanding once emotions are throw into the mix.

As such, businesses that are serious about bringing EQ to AI or a chatbot will be well advised to consider how to communicate this in a medium that is notorious for misinterpretations. Alternatives to text include emoticons and chatbots that send pictures. Ultimately, tone of voice will be key, regardless of the language.