The global coronavirus pandemic is dramatically changing our world, including the landscape of customer experience (CX) much faster than the marketing and media industries could have anticipated.
With people at home, brick-and-mortar businesses have to quickly adopt new digital strategies to provide their customers with what they need right now. In order to deliver on customer expectations, the best brands have strategies that continuously develop relationships through a series of thoughtful interactions, resulting in an increasingly hyper-personalized experience across the customer journey, which is usually backed by artificial intelligence (AI).
Companies who are already using AI with their CX efforts need to adjust their strategies to our world’s collective “new normal.” Customers’ experiences are underscored by anxiety, concern, stress, and confusion, and today’s AI must be emotionally intelligent. With this new and ever-changing landscape in mind, the following areas are what marketing and customer experience leaders must do to shift accordingly.
Hyper-Personalization with AI and CX: More Than A Name
Hyper-personalization is the CX term for it, but the root value is actually empathy. Human beings want to feel known — it’s about trust and comfort (especially at a time like this). Businesses can (and should) make their customers feel known and valued with digital experiences. AI makes this possible across huge swaths of customers in a digital landscape.
Personalization tactics have grown well beyond simply using someone’s name or location in an email campaign.
By continuously developing a healthy mix of both profile data (name, age, preferences, etc.) and behavioral data (what the customer does at your various touchpoints), companies can send timely, personalized communication or create unique experiences that are specific and helpful to each customer.
A great example of a company collecting data to empower hyper-personalization is Spotify. The streaming music app used by millions regularly looks at data to automate song suggestions and create daily or weekly playlists. While other streaming services pair song suggestions based on your listening preferences, few are actually predicting that you will or won’t like a new album (at least not with the success rate I find on Spotify).
Spotify also suggests playlists based on world events and situations that users are likely facing — humanizing the experience. For example, the company released a COVID-19 quarantine playlist for those needing some upbeat music (or meditation, study music, etc.) in their lives. Spotify’s ability to deliver on that experience and then to continually nurture a relationship with their customers is based entirely on their progressive use of data and AI.
Data Across A Digital Ecosystem
Being able to collect, decode and leverage complex data sets is essential for meeting CX demands during this quarantine period.
Since personalization is core to a dynamic CX, companies need to consider new and interesting ways to connect the data they have and to continually refine CX profiles for accuracy. Customers’ data should be drawn from and influenced across the customer journey: from marketing and sales and customer retention to product management and customer support. The entire digital ecosystem of data should be a collaborative touchpoint between product development, marketing, and support.
Customer’s Privacy And Personal Preference
Trust is an essential component of CX, particularly right now during this time of uncertainty. While customers are no doubt becoming more and more comfortable with the benefits of personalization, they get turned off if they think a company isn’t being responsible for their data. Building AI solutions that allow users to progressively provide information in exchange for real value is paramount.
While the promise of AI around automation and personalization is exciting, the narrative a company builds around AI and CX strategies need to align closely with customer needs and expectations. Customers want and expect hyper-personalization already; they just don’t want to think about what it took for a company to get there. Given our reliance on the digital world in our new reality, it’s more important than ever that companies are transparent and good stewards of your data.
AI also needs to be able to adapt to unprecedented circumstances and override some personalization settings in case of a crisis. Specifically, CX needs to include awareness of potential news events so that customers aren’t being served with distressing or inappropriate ads.
For example, takeout and delivery apps like GrubHub and Postmates have pop-up notifications about COVID-19, which also remind users about the impact this pandemic has on the entire restaurant industry (i.e., your order might take longer than usual due to staff shortages or certain restaurants that are not open, might not be accurately reflected in the app).
The old fashioned face-to-face, human-to-human customer service experience can’t be replicated across millions of online customers. But in times like this, if companies want to grow and set themselves apart from others, AI needs to be used primarily as a tool for automating and analyzing customer data collection so the CX can be relevant and emotionally aware to today’s ever-changing landscape.
This marriage of AI and CX will help companies develop a strategy for leveraging hyper-personalized data to give their customers what they truly want and need.