Customer-focused AI – not just science fiction

The tactical use of artificial intelligence to glean deep client insights will enable companies to begin delivering proactive, personalised customer service.

Johannesburg, 23 Mar 2020
Read time 4min 20sec
Andre Wissler, Head of Client, Mint Group
Andre Wissler, Head of Client, Mint Group

There is a growing realisation that businesses can more effectively leverage the vast amounts of data they own and act on these insights to improve customer service. This has led to an increasing interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

According to Andre Wissler, Head of Client at Mint Group, machine learning is now moving into the marketing space, enabling companies to get smarter about their customers. With it, he explains, businesses can be more nimble in how they handle customer experiences across the board, by serving up relevant content and offers, and/or real-time responses during customer interactions.

“When it comes to customer service, the key lies in effective insights and properly understanding the customer and their behaviours better. Therefore, if you can predict their behavioural patterns and know what they like, you can begin to proactively deliver more personalised service to them,” he says.

“There are multiple examples of how this can be done. It may be that when they stop for fuel, the AI is aware the customer likes coffee and can send them a message offering a discount on a cup of coffee purchased at the garage’s coffee shop. Beyond that, it might even inform the server that the customer is coming in to take advantage of the offer, and they can greet the client by name, something that always makes a customer feel great. There is no doubt that AI and machine learning will help improve customer service and help to deliver a better overall customer experience (CX) – and we are not talking science fiction here, as this is something that is already happening across industries.”

The potential, however, is still enormous, he adds, pointing to the concept of AI linked to facial and object recognition tools. He indicates that this can significantly improve service delivery, if implemented correctly.

“Say a clinic dispenses anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs – if patients are pre-registered and their facial features captured, it becomes a simple task to ensure that the correct medicine is given to the right person at the most appropriate time. It will significantly reduce both fraud and long queuing times, and offers the opportunity to deliver first-class service.

“Success with this type of customer focus comes from using AI to properly analyse the data, in order to provide insight and enable a business or government department to be proactive in how they approach a specific customer.”

There is another side to the coin, states Wissler, that of improved customer insight. Remember, he says, while a major current buzzword is the phrase ‘360-degree view of the client’, achieving this can be extremely difficult. This is because there are a multitude of disparate systems within an organisation that may well only capture certain customer details.

“This is where the cloud comes in, as it allows for the hyper-scaling of information into data lakes, from which the AI can parse the information for patterns and relevant details far faster and more effectively than any human would be able to pull these disparate strands together.

“Perhaps most crucially, it can assist a business with the key issues of customer complaint management. Firstly, by enabling the company to predict that a customer is unhappy – based on previous attempts to contact the company, social media posts about the business and the like. Once you know this, you can escalate the issue to a human who can pre-empt an angry customer call by contacting them first and offering to help them solve their particular problem.”

Proactive customer service of this nature helps to build brand loyalty and reduce churn, continues Wissler, since customers always like to feel special, and by contacting them to resolve the issue proactively, you demonstrate a high level of care and will thus build trust and goodwill.

“As we move forward, this technology holds enormous potential to play a greater role in areas like customer enrolment and on-boarding, by reducing the length of the authentication process, something which will be hugely beneficial to highly regulated industries like financial services. It will also play a big role in the public sector space, speeding up things like hospital admissions, school enrolments and identity document applications, to name just a few.

“A quick look around the world shows that a lot of this technology is already in operation in both the private sector and government, and there are lots of opportunities in South Africa to deliver the same and even leapfrog ahead. The technology will no doubt have huge impact here – progressively improving both the CX and the entire customer journey,” he concludes.