How Can AI Be the Secret to Better Customer Experiences?

By Michael Scharff, CEO, Evolv AI
Michael Scharff, CEO, Evolv AI discusses how AI can help companies create a better customer experience

Customer experience (CX) is now the most important differentiator. Ensuring that a company can stay ahead of changing customer expectations and powerful market dynamics is a job for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and platforms that can continuously deliver AI-driven optimisations.

Customer experience or CX has become the most important differentiator in most industries. For companies able to deliver a better CX, it is a competitive edge that translates into more revenue, a higher average selling price, and spontaneous actions by customers. In fact, CX today carries more weight on consumer decisions than pricing or even the product or service itself. It is no surprise that many companies are now seeing CX as the most critical investment they need to make over the coming years. It also means they are seeking ways to rapidly improve their CX and sustain innovation.

CX has become an umbrella term to define every aspect of the customer’s interaction with a company. It encompasses all channels and how a visitor or customer feels about the company they are associating with. Digital channels such as websites and mobile apps were already on a steady rise as a primary means to connect with visitors and customers. As COVID-related restrictions took root across the globe, digital channels exploded and transformed the way many people now go about interacting with companies. This is especially true for retailers, grocers, restaurants, financial institutions, and delivery services.

The New Standard in CX

2020 saw record volumes of business conducted online as people shifted to digital channels to make purchases for all their necessities and luxuries. Many companies had to innovate to meet changing customer demands and government mandates. All of a sudden, new options such as curbside pickup and partnerships with delivery services became the norm. Customer expectations changed almost overnight, setting a new standard by which companies are now measured.

The challenge for many companies comes from the fact that digital is making it even easier for customers to find what they want and alternative companies to get it from. As a result, customers have become far less loyal to brands and quickly shift away from companies that do not meet their expectations. 

At the heart of these expectations is CX. It all comes down to how a person feels about the company he or she is interacting with and whether he or she is pleased with the various aspects of their experience. Today companies have to deliver experiences which are consistent through all channels, on-brand, and as frictionless as possible. That is the new standard by which companies are being judged.

Getting CX Right Is Really Hard

The rewards for getting CX right have shown meteoric growth in revenue while failure has meant catastrophic outcomes. A major reason for failure centres on the inability to deliver a digital experience aligned with customer expectations:

  • 57% of customers won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website or mobile app
  • 50% of customers will stop visiting a website if it isn’t mobile-friendly, even if they like the business.

The combination of ever-changing customer standards and the complexity of digital channels has resulted in an even bigger gap which many companies struggle to overcome. What makes this even harder is the fact that the bar keeps getting higher and higher. For companies, this manifests itself in two dimensions:

First, is the amount of business that needs to come through digital channels to deliver on revenue expectations. Many companies saw record revenues in 2020 and early 2021. These records set new baselines by which they are now measured and expected to exceed.

Second, customers have become more sophisticated and diverse resulting in far more complex user journeys. Companies have to understand that not all customers need or want the same journey. What works for a tech-savvy twenty-something probably does not work for an elderly person. This means companies have to think through a much larger number of variables and options when delivering a digital experience.

Digital Transformation Is Now Mostly About Enabling CX

To meet aggressive growth rates through digital channels demands constant innovation to keep up with evolving expectations and a changing market landscape. This is why a majority of companies across diverse industries have accelerated their digital transformation plans by five to ten years. The primary objective is now on delivering better CX and becoming more agile and responsive to meet changing expectations. These same companies are making major investments in technology and looking for innovation, including ways to use Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI Is the Key to Better CX

AI is uniquely suited to solving the CX challenge and offers new ways to sustain innovation. Many companies have implemented various testing tools in an effort to improve the performance of their websites. Such techniques only scratch the surface and provide marginal benefits since they are limited in scope and require a lot of time and traffic to yield insights.

To meet the demands for sustained improvements in CX requires a shift to ongoing experimentation where companies are always seeking ways to optimise every aspect of their digital user experience (UX). AI-driven optimisation offers a different approach by constantly working to find the best digital experience. 

The process starts by identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) that a company needs to improve and uses live traffic from real visitors and customers to experiment with different experiences to discover what works better. This is a completely new approach where the AI is able to try an exponentially larger number of ideas and variations. It is also able to efficiently and rapidly determine immediate ways to start driving success and deliver on the target KPIs. What is most impressive is that it does so with a minimal amount of traffic and far less time than legacy testing tools. Even after the AI finds a better experience, it will continue to try and refine it which ensures it can stay ahead of shifting expectations and market dynamics.

CX Optimised by AI Delivers Major Growth

In 2018, a major mobile operator was running on average 100 tests per month with a KPI to increase conversions. Their focus was on up-selling existing customers through phone upgrades and more expensive plans, as well as phone accessories and insurance policies. 

In 2020, the same team using AI-driven optimisations was able to serve up more than 500,000 unique experiences to customers based on hundreds of ideas and thousands of possible variations. The result was a 370% or 3.7 times increase in optimisation driven online sales over a period of 18 months. This enabled them to shatter their growth goals while also increasing customer satisfaction, average order value (AOV), and customer lifetime value (CLV). 

AI has been the key to enabling this mobile operator’s team to quickly try out different ideas that better connect with their customers and drive more purchases. The AI also enables them to offer different journeys based on what a specific customer intends to do and personalise their experience. This mobile operator has been able to sustain this growth by continually delivering an experience that results in higher customer satisfaction all enabled by AI.

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