AI has gradually been entering consumers’ lives over the last few years. From chatbots that respond to customer queries in real-time, to tailored content recommendations that get served to film and music subscribers, companies have been using intelligent technologies to create new customer value.
The beauty of this technology is the more it’s used, the more it learns and evolves. It becomes intuitive, almost human-like. Its application and potential across all elements of customer services is limitless.
Many consumers may not have previously been aware of their AI interactions, but things are changing. Some of the most in-demand and price-compared goods over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend extravaganza were smart home technologies, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, as well as Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats and lights from the likes of Hive and Philips Hue.
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Some may consider these connected technologies as something of a novelty, but the impact on customer behaviour is huge. These intelligent technologies are offering customers a new level of convenience and personalisation which, in many cases, they’ve not experienced before. It’s like having a personal assistant on demand. And it sets a precedent.
Hyper-relevant customer experiences
Raised customer expectations will force companies operating in consumer industries to rethink how they interact with, serve and sell to their customers who are craving smarter, relevant experiences.
Connected technologies will instigate an era of ‘hyper-relevance’ where companies will use reams of customer data, collected from smart devices, to deliver uniquely tailored and highly customised experiences.
As technologies such as AI, machine learning and digital assistants become more sophisticated and adopted, new touch points, offerings and services will emerge that intelligently anticipate and flex to their customers’ precise needs at any given time. This is when consumers will really feel the difference.
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Some companies are already taking steps to achieving this reality. The online personal stylist, Stitch Fix, which promises a service that “evolves with your tastes, needs and lifestyle”, is already selecting fashion items for their customers based on a deep understanding of their personal preferences. Style choices evolve as customer tastes change. The Chapar offers a similar service.
It’s just a stepping stone for what’s to come. Today’s subscription services, that require customers to schedule regular orders of groceries or household goods, will become much more sophisticated. With deeper consumer insight, companies will remove the burden of customers needing to proactively order items altogether. Algorithms will not only select goods that customers may want and like, but also pre-empt when those items need replenishing and order them on their behalf. The entire shopping process will be technology-driven and totally effortless.
The trust imperative
Digital trust is critical to enabling hyper-relevant experiences. According to new research, UK consumers are actively craving more intuitive brand experiences. Nearly half would use ‘smart-reordering’ services where intelligent sensors in the home pre-empt when a product, such as laundry detergent, is running low and automatically re-orders it on their behalf. Nearly a third use digital assistants today. While the vast majority are satisfied with the experience, over two fifths say it can feel slightly creepy when technology starts to correctly interpret and anticipate their needs.
This is the conundrum UK consumers are facing; they want better customer experiences, they get frustrated when they don’t receive them, but at the same time, they’re concerned about the privacy of their personal information. They’re don’t want companies knowing too much.
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Expectedly, the majority of UK consumers say that it is extremely important that companies protect the privacy of their personal information. Another 43 percent fear intelligent services will come to know too much about them and their family. Overall, 58% want companies to earn their trust by being more open and transparent with how their information is being used.
Companies more than ever have to continuously earn the trust of their customers to make them feel confident that their personal information is safe and protected. Digital trust will become increasingly challenging for them to achieve as they look to capture new categories of customer data, such as biometric, geo-location and even genomic data, in their drive for greater relevance.
It’s likely concerns will inevitably rise, so it’s critical that companies have strong data security and privacy measures in place, they give customers full control over their data, and are transparent with how they use it. This is particularly pertinent as organisations prepare for the EU General Data Protection Regulation coming into force in May 2018.
Only when customers feel truly satisfied that their personal information is safe will they start benefiting from more relevant, personalised, technology-driven brand experiences. They may even be willing to share more of it in order to reap the rewards.
Sourced by Rachel Barton, managing director, Advanced Customer Strategy EALA lead, Accenture Strategy