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Thursday, November 21, 2019

CEO Journal

Are You Using AI to Keep Customers Happy? 3 Case Studies

Looking to engage—and keep—your customers? In today’s on-demand, always-on digital age, customers’ expectations have radically evolved. We know that customers aren’t as loyal as they
used to be to brands, products, or even price. The biggest differentiator of success is the customer’s experience.

Do you know where your customer experience is failing? Have you taken a look at your business to identify where your customers’ pain points are? Now’s the time to start.

Look at your website with fresh eyes. Look at your storefront, your telephone system, your ordering system. Where do your customers stumble? What’s the most inconvenient aspect of doing business with you, from their perspective? Don’t listen to your own excuses, and don’t explain or justify.
Look at the entire process through the eyes of a brand-new customer.

As you identify the pain points, ask yourself if there’s a way you can make them go away. In many cases, you can with AI.

Case Study 1: Amazon Go.

Amazon Go has done an excellent job of optimizing the process of grocery shopping (both online and in person). The tech giant evaluated what consumers liked and didn’t like about buying groceries, and their research revealed that the pain point for grocery shopping is the checkout experience. People hate waiting in lines. In fact, they dislike the entire process of paying for their groceries.

So what did Amazon do? They installed ceiling-mounted sensors and cameras backed by artificial intelligence. This AI enables the company to track what you pick up and put in your bag, or put back on the shelf. When you’re finished walking around the store, you simply leave. Just like Amazon’s one-click online checkout, you are charged for what you walk out of the store with; purchases are automatically charged to the credit card you have linked to the Amazon Go app. Amazon effectively minimized the pain of the checkout experience.

Case Study 2: Netflix

Netflix looked at their main pain point, which was bandwidth issues in emerging markets. Using AI algorithms, they developed a new protocol: they review each frame of every video, so they can compress it without affecting image quality. This method, called dynamic optimization, not only improves streaming quality over slower speeds, it also tailors content for viewing on tablets and mobile phones. That pesky bandwidth issue? Solved.

Case Study 3: 1-800-Flowers

Online gourmet food gift retailer 1-800-Flowers was one of the first retailers to embrace AI to improve the customer experience, while at the same time increasing revenue by using conversational chatbots.

The pain point they were alleviating was a frustrating and confusing ordering system. Although the name of the company implies they sell only flowers, they offer much more, including gourmet foods and gifts. Their online ordering process became too cumbersome; they needed an easier system.

Now, they use IBM’s Watson supercomputer to offer GWYN (Gifts When You Need), which has transformed their online experience for customers. According to IBM, GWYN is a “conversational commerce engine”—a smart virtual shopping assistant that intuitively guides customers through their shopping experience to select the right gift. GWYN asks questions to make the right recommendations. She asks what the occasion is, what the sentiment is, and what types of things the recipient likes (such as roses, lilies, or chocolates). The more interaction between GWYN and the customer, the smarter GWYN becomes.

The result? Online tech magazine Digiday reported that just two months after GWYN’s Facebook launch, 70 percent of the company’s chatbot orders came from brand new customers.

1-800-Flowers then took AI a step further and teamed up with Amazon Alexa. All you have to do is say, “Alexa, ask 1-800-Flowers to send a box of chocolates to my wife on Valentine’s Day,” and it will be done. By integrating AI into their customer experience, 1-800-Flowers has attracted tens of thousands of new customers. And as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, “It’s pretty ironic: To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

AI improvements aren’t limited to large corporations with deep pockets. AI can immediately help any business. It can improve your customers’ experience—and alleviate your own headaches—in a variety of ways. For instance, ask yourself how AI could:

Automate the process. Are there existing products and services that could make your customers’ lives easier? Which areas of automation could make their experience better? Could you add kiosks, a chatbot, or an automated service? Do things need to be done the way you’re doing them now? Or has someone else invented something that would benefit you and your company?

Maximize your staff’s impact. Is your team bogged down with time-consuming tasks? Assign time-intensive activities to a bot to maximize your human impact. Instead of having your customer service representatives directly on the front lines, ask yourself if a chatbot could handle even some of your company’s basic inquiries, concerns, and orders, leaving your customer service team to handle more complex situations. This will not only make your service response time faster (which makes customers happy), but it will also amplify human-to-human contact in cases that need a personal touch.

Pin down where you’re losing customers. If your business is online, identify (via your analytics) where the highest percentage of your customers are leaving your website. This can be painful,
but really examine the data to determine where your service isn’t quite as good as it could be.

Artificial intelligence can easily make your customer service better than before. Spend the time to figure out where your customers aren’t loving the process. And then find out where AI can make it better.


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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the CEOWORLD magazine.
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Rhonda Scharf
Rhonda Scharf is an award-winning speaker, consultant, and author specializing in tech-driven people power. For over 25 years, she has helped companies and individuals get on the right track and improve their productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency. She’s conducted more than 2,500 training workshops and seminars for Fortune 100 companies and tens of thousands of people worldwide. Her new book is Alexa Is Stealing Your Job: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Future (August 2019). Rhonda Scharf is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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