Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are making noticeable differences in our lives. Asking Siri to update you on the latest news or have Alexa tell you to carry an umbrella is now commonplace. However, just a few short years ago, most would have regarded these interactions as a Kubrickian fantasy, far from the mundane occurrences they seem today.

For businesses, leveraging AI to engage with customers in new and innovative ways has become an arms race in an increasingly competitive landscape. In fact, in a recent survey 84% of business leaders reported that they believe AI will give them a competitive advantage

Consumers now not only have an almost endless possibility of choice in product, but a willingness to reevaluate the relationship they have with a brand at a moment’s notice. Customer experience has become king – THE competitive advantage that is pushing the boundaries of customer engagement. Using AI for better, faster, smarter engagement, if done well, can differentiate those who do it well from the pack.

Three ways AI is Improving Customer Engagement

One of the most obvious places to use AI for customer engagement is in the contact center. An organization’s contact center can help create customers for life or turn a once fantastic relationship south quickly. Contact centers provide the perfect environment to combine the efficiency of AI with human empathy that can help create engaging experiences for customers.

1. Anticipate Needs

Customers supply a treasure trove of data to organizations. Past purchases, major life events, even social media interactions all provide some insight into a customer’s potential needs. Leveraging AI technologies, like natural language processing and machine learning, customer data can be used to not only understand immediate needs, but also predict other likely needs based on similar situations.

Real-time voice analytics can be used when customers are navigating through an interactive voice response (IVR) system to direct them to the right agent who can help with their inquiry as well as offer related products or services. For example, if a customer calls into their insurance company to add a new minivan to their auto policy, it may be likely that a life event such as having a baby has happened, in which case they might also be interested in updating their life insurance. Or, in a more proactive engagement situation, a home printer company knows that on average, customers order new ink cartridges every 3 months, the company can predict who will likely need replacement cartridges and contact them with discounts for specific products.

By anticipating the needs of customers, organizations can engage with customers in more meaningful ways and provide differentiated CX to keep customers happy.

2. Constant Service

“Your call is very important to us. Please wait, and the next representative will be with you shortly.” Quite possibly the most dreaded phrase that customers hear. Customers are still forced to interact with agents for the most basic of transactional tasks (updating an address, receiving a shipping status, etc.), yet AI services, like chatbots, could reduce these often painful interactions and provide a much better experience for the customer. Not only can call volume be reduced, but agents are able to focus on more complex customer needs and provide greater levels of service.

AI chatbots and virtual assistants also enable organizations to provide service to customers around the clock. With the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, customers expect to be able to interact anywhere, any time. Enabling a global community of customers to engage, even outside of business hours, provides a level of service that customers have now come to expect.

3. Agent Service Levels

AI is not only providing a powerful set of engagement enhancements that customers can take advantage of, but AI is also helping agents better engage. For example, AI functionality such as real-time sentiment analysis allows agents to better understand the mood of a customer based on the interaction. Steps can be taken to help inject more, if needed, empathy into the interaction and help produce a more positive outcome.

AI voice analytics can also be used to provide agents suggested next-best-actions that can help drive up-sell or cross-sell opportunities and offer personalized experiences, increasing customer engagement.

Engaging Customers Through Technology

Increased customer engagement and better CX scores are a top priority for most companies, and AI is one of the best ways to maximize outcomes. AI can help provide personalized recommendations, new opportunities for differentiated experiences, and an overall more positive customer engagement. Additionally, giving customer service teams smart AI technology can allow them to focus on top-level care and retain and grow your customer base.

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