Navigating the AI Revolution:
A New Paradigm for Customer Journeys
The arrival of artificial intelligence (AI) is not just a minor upgrade; it's a revolutionary shift that will fundamentally alter how businesses and customers interact. The retail sector has since long identified the need to focus on this transformation, but the implications are far-reaching and will impact all industries.
AI's most immediate impact on customer journeys might be in offering personalized experiences. While the full scope of this transformation remains to be explored, several likely AI-driven developments in future customer interactions have already emerged:
We can expect decision autonomy for customers
AI will empower consumers with information, allowing them to make more informed decisions whether it's choosing a healthcare plan, a holiday destination, or a new car. We already see this in how travel apps use AI to provide personalized recommendations. For example the travel app Lola, a travel app that connects users with live travel agents, use AI to provide personalized travel recommendations and assistance and to learn from user feedback and improve its service.
We will see a shift from passive to proactive service
Businesses will transition from reacting to customer needs to anticipating them. AI algorithms will predict what a customer needs before they even realize it themselves. In an article in Forbes earlier this year, TAZI.AI, an adaptive, explainable Machine Learning platform, share how they helped one of their clients discover how they could reduce out-of-stock by 4% by recommending what to deliver to small stores. Thereby enable them to reducing the 4% out-of-stock caused unhappy customers to switch to other stores or brands.
We will see seamless Interactions
AI will integrate various touchpoints, creating a unified customer journey. Whether it's a retail shopping experience that starts online and ends in a physical store or a patient’s journey from online consultation to in-person treatment, the experience will be seamless. In a survey McKinsey released in August this year, we can read how telemedicine platforms are using AI to integrate online consultations and in-person treatments. For example, platforms like Teladoc and Doctor on Demand use AI to triage patient symptoms and direct them to the appropriate care, whether that’s a virtual visit or an in-person appointment.
All of these developments will be facilitated by AI-to-AI interoperability, where human touchpoints—once considered integral to operations—will increasingly be managed by AI, whether embedded in system architectures or functioning as virtual assistants at both ends of the process. We can already observe this in AI-powered personal assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, and how they are integrated into smartphones, smart speakers, and other devices and perform a wide range of tasks, from setting reminders and sending messages to playing music and controlling smart home devices. These assistants doesn’t just solve tasks within their “walled gardens” but also communicate with each other to coordinate tasks.
Regardless of industry or ownership of these AI systems, failure to adapt to this new AI-centric reality is not an option. Organizations must proactively understand both the capabilities and limitations of AI to leverage it effectively in enhancing customer experiences.
While it's premature to draw definitive conclusions about the optimal approach to this impending technological wave, it's crucial to begin asking pertinent questions about its impact on your industry and your state of preparedness.
Questions that can serve as a starting point to evaluate how you can approach to integrating AI into your operations and customer journeys:
- What is our long-term AI strategy?: How does AI fit into the broader business strategy, and what are the long-term goals?
- How will AI impact our current business model?: Will AI complement existing services, or will it necessitate a complete overhaul of the current business model?
- What is the ROI of implementing AI?: What are the costs involved, and what kind of returns can be expected?
- How compatible is our current technology stack with AI implementations? Will existing systems need to be updated or replaced?
- What data infrastructure is needed? Do we have the data quality and quantity to train AI models effectively?
- How will AI-to-AI interoperability work in our context? What are the technical requirements for ensuring seamless interactions between different AI systems?
Customer Experience Questions
- How will AI change the customer journey?: What aspects of the customer experience will be most affected, and how can we prepare for that?
- What ethical considerations come into play with AI-driven customer interactions? How will we ensure fairness and transparency in AI algorithms that affect customer choices?
- How will we maintain a human touch? As AI takes over more functions, how will we ensure that the customer experience retains a personal element?
Ethical and Legal Questions
- Who owns the AI-generated data? Is it the company, the customer, or a third party?
- What are the ethical implications of AI in decision-making? How will accountability be maintained?
- Are there any legal constraints or regulations that we need to be aware of?: What are the legal requirements for data privacy and AI ethics in our industry?
- Who are the key players in the AI space within our industry?: Are they potential collaborators or competitors?
- How can we differentiate our services with the use of AI? What can we do to offer unique customer experiences?
- How will our competitors act? Can we expect new competitors to enter our space, and what can we expect from our existing competitors?
The AI revolution is set to redefine the very essence of customer journeys, making them more personalized, efficient, and interconnected. While the transformation has already begun in some sectors, its ripple effects will be felt across all industries. Businesses and strategists must, therefore, prepare for a future where AI is not just an add-on but a fundamental component of customer interaction.
The time to adapt and prepare is now; the future waits for no one.