The original article appeared in VentureBeat.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are not just tools for streamlining customer engagement. They represent an opportunity for companies to completely rethink how they build context around each individual, ultimately creating a better experience and a more loyal customer.
By tapping into the potential of these new technologies, brands can cost-effectively enable and empower sophisticated, relevant types of two-way communications with existing and potential customers. These technologies also change how brands can use digital channels to reimagine their essential communications — such as bills, statements, tax documents, and other important information. Traditionally, these touchpoints were static, generic mailings created to address the widest audience. They lacked personalization and relevance and while informational, were not engaging.
An important brand message no longer needs to be a common document that looks the same to everyone who receives it. Personalized essential communications bring additional value to the customer. Brands can offer more than a sum-total utility or service bill, for instance, by showing how a customer’s usage compared to the previous billing period or year and providing tips on how to cut down on their use and cost. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With some strategic planning and investment, businesses can tap into machine learning and AI to transform customer communications by following these four steps:
1. Offer an omni-channel experience. To ensure businesses adapt their communications to better engage with customers, they must first understand what touchpoint(s) their customers prefer. Customers should experience seamless and consistent interactions, whether they prefer to communicate via social media, text messages, websites, chat, emails, print mailings, phone calls, in-person, or some combination of these. Of course, this customized and heightened level of interaction creates large amounts of data. Most companies haven’t yet learned how to fully tap into that wealth of information about individual customer needs and preferences. They haven’t found an affordable way to employ enough ears to listen to each individual or enough bodies to respond accordingly.
2. Understand the customer’s changing needs via AI. With artificial intelligence, businesses can automate the detailed analysis of these massive volumes of structured and unstructured data that are streaming in by taking a linguistics-based approach. AI can also analyze that data to “mash up” what’s known about a particular customer to determine what content to include in a specific communication, how that communication should be presented, and where it should be delivered. All customer interactions, already omni-channel, will be able to utilize the customer’s intent, location, past history, and personal preferences at any specific moment.
3. Get specific with machine learning. In the past, consumer profiles only included basic data, such as a customer’s name, gender, location, and career sector. This allowed for only a modest level of personalization — not enough to surprise or impress recipients. Brands trapped in the old way of thinking about the limitations they face in segmenting customers by likes and dislikes will be left behind. With machine learning, brands are no longer constrained by their current number of customer profiles. Instead, they can create indefinite numbers of profile segments from the information they receive from customers. Brands are empowered with not just data, but actual customer intelligence that represents a changing landscape with customer preferences, behaviors, and actions.
4. Make digital communications interactive. Powered by AI, brands can now utilize digital communications to ask individual consumers questions in direct, meaningful ways to improve their overall experience. For example, “Do you want a reminder when a bill is coming up?” or “Would you like reminders sent via email, text message, or a social media platform?” Brands now have a chance to build unique profiles for each customer, rather than classifying individuals into a broad segment or demographic group. With this advantage, organizations can focus their interactive, two-way communications on the types of information specifically selected for the individual, highlighting key messages and data that will facilitate engagement and, ultimately, drive a desired action.
Consumer expectations for how they engage with brands are continually evolving. Customers now demand that every piece of communication be tailored to their individual needs and preferences. These technologies enable brands to meet and exceed these constantly rising expectations.
It’s no surprise that first on the list of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017 is AI and advanced machine learning. These solutions can sift through, analyze, and respond to volumes of data at a speed no number of humans can rival. As these technologies continue to advance, they have the power to benefit both companies and the customers they serve. They represent an opportunity for companies to completely rethink how they build context around each individual to create a better experience and a more loyal customer.
How will you embrace these new technological innovations to catapult your business into the next year and beyond?
Reprinted with permission from VentureBeat.