AI, Data, and Empathy: The Future of The Customer Experience



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Taking care of its customers is one of the most important aspects of most companies’ business, as customers drive every success and failure. The advancement of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, though, has opened a new frontier in customer service, making it easier and cheaper to deliver high-quality, personalized experiences for customers.

Justin Norwood, a product strategist at IBM, outlined a number of ways that customer experience is being improved by tech, such as how IBM is developing technology that allows doctors to access research and information on patient conditions that they would never have had access to otherwise, greatly improving consultations.

Ana Andjelic, SVP and Global Strategy Director at Havas LuxHub, commented on this issue from the perspective of more commercial industries, claiming that many retail brands now send customers emails and sometimes even Facebook messages that seem very personalized but are actually driven by AI.

While technology has certainly improved the lives of both companies and their customers, every panelist admitted that it does have its drawbacks. Norwood noted that AI does not always work, either malfunctioning entirely or simply failing to provide a truly personal experience. At best, such failure can cause frustration; at worse, such as when it is being used in healthcare, it can have serious consequences.

While automation of the customer service industry rarely causes catastrophe, it more often than not feels somewhat impersonal. Andjelic claimed that customers are often left feeling that they are cared for personally at one moment and then left helpless the next.

All the panelists agreed that one of the greatest risks that companies run into when using technology and AI to take care of their customers is relying too much on the technology. Doing this can allow companies to grow very large very quickly, but does not create a strong foundation the will provide lasting support.

Jess Beck, a panelist who is the COO and Co-Founder of Hello Alfred, is intimately familiar with this tech versus human question. Hello Alfred is a service that allows people to have their own personal “butler” who completes errands and chores for them.

Beck claimed that she and her partner knew that they would only succeed by putting people at the center of their business, even though customers access and control the service online.

Despite naysayers who claimed that they would never build a strong business without more automation, they persevered with their idea that people were the center of their business, even instructing the “Alfreds” who complete customers’ tasks to leave handwritten notes detailing what they have done. The startup has become such a runaway hit that it now has a waiting list.

Hello Alfred’s success proves correct the observation of the panel’s moderator, Colin Nagy, who claimed that the best business today are the ones that use tech and AI to modernize and streamline experiences that have been well-developed in the first place and stay true to the way the company operated before technology came into the picture.

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