The Fourth Industrial Revolution and your evolving customer experience
Artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), Internet of Things (IoT)—the Fourth Industrial Revolution has arrived, and it’s quickly closing the gap between man and machine.
The First, Second and Third Industrial Revolutions brought us steam power, electricity, digital technology and more, but the way we develop and apply technology is now rapidly changing across industries and around the world. Companies are reconsidering how best to interact with consumers, with digital transformation making its way to the top of their priority list.
Through research and experimentation, brands are finding that tools like AI and bots are the key to meeting modern consumers’ needs. The time is right to determine where these next-gen technologies fit into your business strategy in order to drive a more convenient, seamless and superior customer experience.
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One of the most notable technological trends to come from the Fourth Industrial Revolution is automation, particularly in the form of conversational bots. According to Deloitte, chatbots are gaining traction among consumers for three reasons: mobile messaging is now a preferred method of communication; consumers are experiencing “app fatigue”; and mainstream brands like Facebook and Microsoft are integrating chatbots into their experiences.
The more comfortable users become with this form of communication, the more marketing potential there is for businesses. For example, The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas doesn’t just use its chatbot “Rose” to take room service orders and handle requests for fresh towels – ‘she’ also drives guests to its own bars and restaurants. Chatbots also offer another perk. When used strategically, they can give companies a competitive advantage through better customer service.
“The one-on-one connection, especially as natural language processing and machine learning techniques continue to evolve, adds the opportunity for increased satisfaction for customer service,” says Al Ming, vice-president of product management for Discovery Communications, a media company that lauds the value of this digital technology.
“The ability [for customers] to engage with our brands easily without having to leave a [messaging platform] is becoming more and more important in the attention economy of our smartphones. So as the chatbot platform continues to mature, companies will find it more important to take advantage of that opportune moment.”
Earlier this year, Lifestyle Digital Studios — a branch of Discovery Communications — developed a chatbot for HGTV called Hazel. The Facebook-based messenger bot provides design inspiration, decor tips and an option to shop online.
To make sure Hazel met its audience’s needs, the studio employed design thinking and product-discovery techniques that incorporated insights from its product, engineering, content and marketing departments. The result is a bot that’s “personal and direct” with users, setting HGTV apart from the crowd. “It really stresses that we’re paying attention to our customers,” Ming says. “We understand what they’re looking for, and how their habits and behaviors have changed as they’ve taken new tools and apps into their lives. We’re right there with them.”
As chatbots have grown in popularity, so too have predictive and AI-powered analytics, another form of digital technology that stands to influence how companies interact with customers. When brands employ the help of machines to mine and analyze rich customer data, businesses are better able to focus on how to apply the insights they glean to create an enhanced experience for their customers.
A big advantage of this technique is that it allows businesses to produce more relevant content and make customer interactions far more personal. AI equips contact center agents with the ability to identify behavior patterns, allowing them to preemptively determine why a customer might be reaching out to the customer service department for the second time this week. Instead of starting the conversation at square one, agents can proactively solve their problem and ultimately reduce abandonment rates.
In an era when on-demand content and customized brand experiences are the norm (think Netflix’s personalized video recommendations, or Apple’s Siri answering questions on the spot), this approach is becoming crucial to brands. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the power to eliminate the irrelevant and zero in on an individual’s needs.
In every Industrial Revolution to date, machines have taken some of the physical and mental pressure off of humankind. The same can be said this time around, as digital transformation has made customer-company interactions more streamlined and less complex.
“From a business standpoint, AI and chatbots allow for scale that’s never been possible before,” says Nick Murphy, an NFL veteran, HR-tech entrepreneur and host of The Job Lab Podcast. “The best word to describe it is ‘seamless.’ There’s nothing to do other than set up, track the data points you need and plug it all into your omnichannel marketing tools.”
Murphy points out that in its current form, this technology isn’t designed to replace humans entirely. “You’re still going to need people,” he says. “But those people will be empowered with big-picture data.”
Next-generation digital technology that maximizes the power of machine learning is a must for businesses looking to get the most value possible out of their marketing tech (martech) stacks. “If you’re a service company or retailer, there’s an awful lot you can do with it to get customer information, answer questions and follow up in a personalized way,” Murphy says.
There is no doubt digital transformation has blurred the line between man and machine, but in the process it has also created countless opportunities to engage and assist consumers. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to evolve, the key to business success will be evolving simultaneously in order to provide a revolutionary customer experience.