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How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Customer Engagement And Experience AI is making its presence felt everywhere and emerging as a powerful trend in marketing as well.

By Umair Mohammed

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Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. (Webopedia)

As much freaky as it sounds, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a work of science fiction where machines would take over the world a la The Matrix. AI has been around for decades, and it has proved its superiority over human intelligence several times. For instance, when IBM's supercomputer Deep Blue beat the world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. And, that was almost 20 years ago!

But, the history of AI can be traced back to as early as 1950, when the world's first computer scientist Alan Turing pioneered the idea of a "thinking machine' and said these famous words, "A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human". Since then, AI has brought a paradigm shift in the relationship of a man and a machine. Today, AI is seen as a specialized branch of computer science that aims to create intelligent machines (Techopedia). It uses elements of logic, visual perception, reasoning, and speech recognition to enable decision making just the way humans do.

One of the most significant developments in AI on the Indian map has been the recent investment made by Ratan Tata in Techbin Solutions Pvt. Ltd.'s, an AI-fueled chatbot that conducts conversations with customers to assist them to order a wide range of services using a chat interface.

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AI is making its presence felt everywhere and emerging as a powerful trend in marketing as well.

How does AI fit into customer experience and engagement?

In the last 5 years, organizations have been struggling to build superior customer experiences and strong engagement into their marketing efforts. Here are some interesting statistics to highlight.

A Gartner study indicates that 89 per cent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience from 2016 onwards.

Gartner also predicts that by 2020, the customer will manage 85 per cent of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.

An American Express report states that more than 50 per cent of customers are willing to spend more in the companies that provide excellent customer service. Indians are ready to spend 22 per cent more (highest across 10 markets under the scope of the study). In fact, 80 per cent of Indians have spent more in a company on the basis of a history of positive customer experience!

Customers are drawn towards experiences and it is these experiences that make them loyal to the organizations. Hence, it becomes crucial for the organizations to understand what creates unique & positive experiences and how to create such ones for customers.

The prime potency of AI lies in its ability to collect large volumes of data at a very high speed, recognize patterns, learn from them and enable better decision-making. Everyday, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last 2 years alone, says an IMB estimate! Social media itself generates petabytes of data!

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In this context, when AI is applied to understand the buyer behaviour, it can lead to more accurate predictions. It can further enable organizations and marketers to reach out to customers at a personal level, engage in deeper interactions and enhance their overall experience with the brand.

AI can also be used extensively to offer real – time, hyper-personalized recommendations to customers. Ever wondered how after your browse / shop a product on Amazon or Flipkart, it pops up the same, similar or matching products on every other page you visit thereafter? You have to thank AI for it. It gathers the information about the customer's activity and buying patterns which help the business make relevant recommendations as per his tastes and preferences.

It is interesting to note that AI can also build structured and sophisticated information framework using social media. Customers engage social media for different reasons, two of them being related to their purchasing decisions – find and write about products. AI can monitor, analyze and deduce customer behaviour and sentiments across various social media channels. So, while AI helps build deep customer profile on one hand, it matches it to their social experiences regarding the product on the other hand. With such powerful insight on their fingertips, organizations can aim for improving customer experiences or making them richer.

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Another area in marketing where AI is being perceived as a game changer is its potential to integrate online and offline customer experiences. The customers interact with the organizations across many touch points and it's only rational that the organizations add value to their experiences irrespective of the offline & online channels. Something similar to the way Edwardian Hotels London has started doing. In May this year, this chain of hotels introduced Edward, an AI powered virtual host for guest seself-serviceEdward allows guests to request a variety of hotel amenities – such as towels or room service, information about local bars & restaurants, and even express complaints, simply by sending a text message. "Edward' responds within a few seconds.

The Future

AI is the next big thing in the world. Both customers and businesses are set to gain immense benefits. However, businesses must ensure that they use AI intelligently to offer personalized experiences. The moment AI enters their privacy zone, it can result into a negative experience. Experiences can be engineered through AI, but ultimately it is the customers who own the experiences. So, it is important to strike the right balance. As Paul Greenberg, the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light, defines customer experience aptly "If a customer likes you and continues to like you, they will do business with you. If they don't, they won't".

Umair Mohammed

CEO & Co-founder, Wigzo

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