Artificial Intelligence enhancing Customer Experience –

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  • April 25, 2020
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In the fast-changing digital milieu, people like brands to treat them like humans and not merely as transactions.By Ajit Kumar and Vidhya VisweswarababuImagine walking into a room of strangers, friends and family, expressing your intent to start an exciting new initiative and asking them for an investment. The strangers will likely ask you questions and make an investment if they see a benefit. Friends on the other hand feel happy for you knowing how hard you worked for it and may proceed to make an investment if there is mutual benefit or because you’re a loyal friend. Family on the hand, knowing your personality, capabilities, dreams, desires and aspirations may choose to inquire, advice and collaborate to drive you to the right outcome. As a brand, your engagement with your customer might feel like a stranger, friend or family. AI enabled bots today can feel like a stranger and friend at times, empathizing and conversing to help customers achieve their goals, but not necessarily connecting with them at a human level. In the fast-changing digital milieu, people like brands to treat them like humans and not merely as transactions. They also expect brands to act like human. This means people expect brands with which they interact to embody human qualities – be steadfast and transparent in their beliefs, consistent in their actions, and authentic in their intentions.Brands that graduate from a stranger to family are likely to be those that embed emotional engagement on top of rationality to enhance experience for their customers. In a recent Deloitte Digital survey of 800 consumers, 60 percent of long-term customers use emotional language to describe their connection to favored brands; likewise, 62 percent of consumers feel they have a relationship with a brand. Trustworthiness (83 percent), integrity (79 percent), and honesty (77 percent) are the emotional factors that consumers feel most align with their favorite brands1.So, what does it take for brands to achieve this higher level of emotional engagement? It requires a combination of technology and turning customer experience into an operational discipline, embedding emotionally intelligent capabilities into every fiber of a company’s operations.Technologies like Affective computing or Emotion AI can bring in a paradigm shift in experience by combining data driven experiences embodying the latest techniques in Human Centered Design (HCD) inspiring deep emotional connections with products and brands, which in turn can drive loyalty and business growth. Operationalizing customer experience at scale requires contextually relevant content, which is the major touchpoint for a brand to engage with customer. Brands earn higher lifetime value by presenting serendipity moments to their customers through relevant content. Marketers leverage content, the familiar frontier of AI, to deliver the experience. Empathetic, contextualized response strengthens emotional bond. A great example is what we’re seeing unfold right now during the COVID crisis. Some brands have introduced “zero contact delivery” service in the country addressing the safety and health concerns of both customers and delivery staff. A classic emotional driven response to the unspoken human needs of customers and employees in the context of the crisis. A leading paint company in India, recognizing painters, dealers and customers form an integral part of their stakeholder ecosystem announced an early disbursement of funds through a strategic programme (up to Rs 36,000 per person). A classic emotional driven response to the unspoken human need for financial well-being of their stakeholders. Another example is that of AI driven apps designing custom drinks and fragrances for fashion-show attendees based on emotional quotient (EQ) inputs. These apps factored mood of the attendees, their stress levels based on responses to questions to then create custom drinks and perfumes that matched their context and sentiment. Humans are complex emotional beings, so an inherent challenge in such cases is to distinguish between conscious demonstrated emotions and unconscious hidden sentiments. Same is true for many cognitive bots these days which are getting closer to human like interactions thanks to a combination of voice and tone recognition, facial expression recognition resulting in emotion detection and subsequent action. Their effectiveness is good as long as the demonstrated emotion is consistent with true customer sentiment. Neurosciences and detecting brain-activity has potential to take it to the next level. An air traffic controller handling a high volume of passenger jets and private planes without a break for several hours is feeling fatigued. She tries to focus on the radar system, but it sends her a message: “Christina, it’s time for a break. Let’s find someone to cover for you.” The air traffic controller is wearing brain-sensing earbuds that contain electrodes measuring her brain’s electrical activity. Upon analyzing these electroencephalographic (EEG) signals, machine learning algorithms can detect increased distraction and stress in the controller’s brain activity patterns and suggest that she needs a pause2. A simpler manifestation of this is already available in many cars today, warning drivers when they nod off while driving. Today, trend pioneers are integrating affective computing, AI, and neuroscientific research into their strategies and systems to enhance customer experience. In the near future, “emotionally intelligent” technologies and tactics are expected to likely give rise to new business models and ways of working. Time to ask yourself “Are we there yet?” The authors are Ajit Kumar, leader, Deloitte Digital, Deloitte India and Vidhya Visweswarababu, managing director, Deloitte in India. Views expressed are personal.