The Human Touch: Evolving the AI-Driven Customer Experience
The use of AI has accelerated in the months since COVID-19 first gripped the world. With consumers seeking contactless or non-touch interfaces and AI tools expanding their capabilities, it’s clear that AI has a growing impact on customer experience and our daily lives.
According to Capgemini’s new report, The Art of Customer-Centric Artificial Intelligence, more than half of consumers (54%) now use AI-based systems daily, including chatbots, digital assistants, facial recognition or biometric scanners, compared to just 21% in Capgemini’s 2018 research. In addition, over three-quarters (77%) expect to increase the use of these touchless interfaces to avoid direct interactions with humans or touchscreens during COVID-19. Nearly two-thirds plan to continue to do so post-COVID.
Given its growing importance in our society, how can organizations unleash the full potential of AI on the customer
experience over the long haul? To many, it will be a focus—ironically—on the “human touch.”
In 2018, Capgemini research found that consumers wanted AI to encompass a human-like voice or personality. If interactions were more human-like, they would be keener to use these applications and have greater trust in the company. Likely due to recent concerns, there has been an uptick in AI acceptance. Overall, 64% of consumers now believe that their AI interactions are more human-like (compared to 48% in 2018).
Today, organizations are working to make their AI interactions more human-like (72% today, compared to less than half in 2018). For example, “Mia,” a virtual assistant developed by the National Australia Bank's digital arm, UBank, communicates with customers “face-to-face” and gives on-the-spot answers to more than 300 home loan application questions. To support UBank’s branding, Mia has been positioned to have a “cheeky” personality, fond of GIFs, animations and jokes, and provides query resolution in customer-friendly language.
AI solutions are also evolving to build deeper consumer engagement by understanding the human context. For instance, insurance firms are using AI to process accident claims within minutes, based on the vehicle pictures uploaded by the driver post-accident, facial recognition of the driver and the damage details they provide.
While consumer interactions with AI have gone mainstream, consumers’ expectations have also increased accordingly. In fact, AI is not yet consistently exceeding customer expectations. The research shows that only 57% of consumers are satisfied with AI interactions, compared to the more than two-thirds (69%) who were satisfied in 2018. Consumers seem to miss the “wow” factor in AI engagements: Close to half (45%) feel the value of AI interactions is below what they had expected.
As these solutions evolve and mature, it is important to address the ethical implications of such technology. In fact, according to Capgemini’s 2019 research, 76% of consumers agree that there should be a new law or regulation to regulate the use of AI by organizations. And 62% of consumers will place higher trust in a company if they perceive AI-enabled interactions as ethical.
While keeping in mind the ethical checks and balances and instilling transparency across AI-enabled interactions, organizations can unleash the full potential of AI use cases by enhancing the customer experience. To do so, there are four key steps to consider:
1. Exceed customer expectations with intention-driven design. As AI becomes more pervasive, applications that capture the attention of customers and engage him or her will tend to drive more value. To exceed customers’ expectations, it will become increasingly important to design an AI experience that strives to closely predict a customer’s intent, using all available sources of data.
2. Drive positive AI experiences with an emphasis on ethics. Research shows that 61% of organizations have attracted legal scrutiny as a result of data handling procedures for AI tools, and 43% have discovered bias in AI systems where they discriminated against certain demographics. As organizations scale AI interactions, exposure to ethical risks increases. To combat these risks, companies need to build transparency into handling customer data; make AI outcomes explainable; and ensure AI outcomes are fair.
3. Clearly define the role of people to deliver a collaborative human-AI experience. Consumers still prefer human-only interactions in several areas, especially when purchasing high-involvement products and services (50%); after-sales support for product maintenance (43%); and providing feedback or making a complaint (42%). It’s important to define which tasks should be delegated to AI and which ones should continue to include direct human interaction. It will also be important to design a seamless transition from AI to humans in order to avoid significant customer frustration when providing a collaborative human-AI experience.
4. Set up AI tech prerequisites for customer experience. There are several technology prerequisites to boost customer experience using AI capabilities. These include a customer engagement platform that powers a host of touchpoints from marketing to customer services; customer data hubs; and infusing AI capabilities into both. Using AI in customer-facing interactions can be an ideal response to the changes that the COVID-19 crisis has created in consumer behavior. However, making the most of this opportunity requires organizations to make some bold bets. Companies can only transform your customer satisfaction performance if they deliver an AI experience that delights customers beyond their expectations in a seamless and ethical way. A workmanlike response will not be enough – only strategies that significantly raise the customer experience bar will deliver a transformative impact on customer engagement, loyalty and long-term value.
Michelle Berryman leads interactive strategy for Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini in North America. The practice centers on guiding the vision and innovation efforts for digital customer experience with websites, social channels, e-commerce initiatives, software, portals and applications. Michelle is a Fellow in the Industrial Designers Society of America, has served as IDSA President and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Designers of the last 50 years by the membership. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia.