If You're Asking Customers How You Can Help, It's Too Late

Artificial intelligence can help your company give people what they need (before they know they want it).

learn more about Sid Shah

By Sid Shah

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When political commentator Amanda Carpenter got stuck in an Amtrak elevator, she tweeted an SOS. Amtrak tweeted back -- seven months later.

Far too many companies keep repeating Amtrak's mistakes. They are reactive, assuming all their relationships are fine until it's much too late. This approach to customer-relationship management (CRM) is sorely outdated. Modern brands must go beyond relationships and prioritize consumer experiences. That means resolving issues seamlessly and behind the scenes, before customers notice anything is wrong.

Today's artificial-intelligence capabilities mean there's no reason firms can't quickly transition from CRM to CEM: customer experience management. In fact, their continued relevance depends on it.

Poor customer experience costs companies money.

Unfortunately, many companies' marketers remain in their bubble, detached from client satisfaction. Their approach is to wait for the phone to ring and then use the digital version of a Rolodex to address the problem. Only one-quarter of North American marketing executives currently employ customer-experience strategies to monitor satisfaction and detect problems.

That negligence is costly. Last year, research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated brands lose $300 billion annually because of poor customer experiences.

Related: The Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience

Consider my experience with my internet-service provider. After an initial complaint and six consecutive months of poor internet speed, I called to see what was being done to resolve the problem. The customer-service representative blamed me for not telling him about my issues sooner. Fed up, I canceled my contract. Even if they had tried to retain me, their efforts would have been too little, too late.

A more attentive company would have detected my problems and offered solutions -- or at the very least, followed up on my initial complaint. I'm not alone in my frustration. Nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults want businesses to contact them proactively.

Good customer experiences bolster brands.

Brands can use artificial intelligence to create positive customer experiences. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, for instance, uses AI to glean information about individual customers' itineraries. That helps them draft informed responses to questions received via services such as Twitter and WeChat. The same year KLM upped its AI capabilities, consumers ranked it the third-most customer-friendly long-haul airline.

Focusing on CEM doesn't just delight customers, it also pays off. Companies that score highly on customer-experience measures such as ease and enjoyability of service interactions grew their revenue an average of 17 percent from 2010 to 2015. Firms that scored poorly on those measures experienced just 3 percent revenue growth.

Related: 6 Strategies Smart Brands Use to Satisfy and Retain Their Customers

AI can help anticipate customers' needs.

Some companies think artificial intelligence chatbots can deliver great customer service at scale. These automated customer-service systems can send texts or messages, but they're every bit as reactive as the human customer-service agents who wait by the phone. Both engage customers only after problems arise. AI's true promise lies in its ability to anticipate consumers' issues and needs.

Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business

Google Maps offers one example. It uses real-time data to proactively reroute drivers around traffic jams. Here's another: Apple recently patented an AI system that analyzes consumers' usage patterns and automatically adjusts devices to conserve power. An iPhone could switch itself to energy-saving mode in anticipation of heavy battery usage during the evening commute.

Finally, Adobe's Virtual Analyst, a digital business assistant, monitors company data 24/7 to check for anomalies and alert companies. When a bug started erasing items from a retailer's cart, a beta version of Virtual Analyst caught the error on its own -- saving the brand from a 70 percent spike in cart removals that would've cost the company $1.7 million a day in uncaptured sales.

Related: The Growth of Artificial Intelligence in Ecommerce

Every business has a choice. It can let problems fester and drive customers away. Or it can retain customers and grow revenue by actively improving consumer experiences.

Sid Shah

Director of Customer and Product Analytics for Adobe Experience Cloud

Sid Shah is director of Customer and Product Analytics for Adobe Experience Cloud, where he focuses on extracting and analyzing product usage data, deriving insights to improve customer product and evangelizing data driven insights to change the way companies manage and optimize customer journeys.

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