Where is the science of customer experience headed? The answer given by experts may surprise you. Their answers may suggest future directions for your own customer experience improvement.
Rick Collins writes for SiliconAngle, an independent media company that publishes technology news. He points out that in many instances, the first way customers experience your brand is in a search listing they receive from Google or another search engine. At that touchpoint, Google is in control. If you were in control, you would certainly do a better job for your brand.
Designing A Better Customer Experience Improvement Program
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future opportunity to get back some of the control lost to Internet search, which has made itself a customer experience touch point. The future is one in which “customers begin to expect more proactive support, and more personalized and relevant self-service solutions.” Search as we know it is limited in its ability to give exactly the right answer at the right time. But AI should be able to do a better job. AI can behave like a very good, very fast customer service representative. The title of Rick Collins’ article on this subject is "Search stole the customer experience; AI is your chance to get it back."
One example to consider is virtual personal assistants (VPAs) like Siri and Google Now. Ideally, the user asks for what they want, and the VPA provides it, whether it’s factual information, dialing a phone number, or mapping a route. A VPA meets the customer need using search and much more.
It may not yet be obvious how AI could fit into your own customer experience improvement program. But it’s a question that’s worthy of thinking about, and Rick Collins offers some other thoughts that may help.
What Does a Better Customer Experience Look like?
Think about Siri and Google Now, the virtual personal assistants (VPA) that we want to do everything for us, but which really can’t. The problem is that they are spread too thin across too many brands and tools and sources of information.
So, what makes AI intelligent enough to accomplish more proactive, personalized, and relevant service? To begin with, it needs more and better data about the customer experience. To appreciate this, think about something Microsoft has done for many years. At some point, your computer has probably asked you to participate in the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program. If you answer “yes,” your computer collects and sends information about how you use Microsoft software to Microsoft—without your even being aware. Presumably, Microsoft is analyzing this rich customer experience data to improve the experience of using their software.
Collins writes in another article that the real action in AI and customer experience improvement is going to be at the enterprise level, not in all-encompassing VPAs like Siri:
“For an AI to truly function at the enterprise level, it will require such deep integration with company knowledge, and even proprietary information and data, that the experience necessitates control of the VPA by the company. This isn’t cut-and-dried back-end software; this stuff impacts every aspect of the customer experience. Outsourcing the experience is too big a risk, regardless of any upside from standardizing on a platform.”
What this means is that in the future, your brand might need its own unique VPA. Your VPA will be able to help your customers much more than Siri or Google Now, because those broad-based VPAs can’t know what your VPA will know about your customers. Instead of searching on Google, your future customers may simply speak to your VPA, a persona designed just for them.
How should it impact your customer experience improvement program right now? Here are four suggestions:
- Every brand should establish its own Customer Experience Improvement Program.
- Like Microsoft, we need to collect and organize all possible data about our customer experience.
- Our ideal should be to emulate the service level provided by a VPA: proactive, personalized, and relevant.
- We should embrace technology to help us get there.
This will look different across different business types. Can we imagine the future? How do you see it?