Ipsos is a Business Reporter client.
Personalization is the crux of the customer-centric promise, but with the explosion of GenAI, a paradox has been created.
Creating a brand’s identity makes an organization tangible, relatable and appealing – it humanizes it. As advancements in technology, and most recently machine learning and AI, have become more important in the marketer’s toolkit, leading brands have successfully showcased their identity through personalization. In fact, personalization sits as the hallmark of the customer-centric promise, and brands that have embraced experimentation have led the pack in relevance, timeliness, accuracy and relatability at each interaction.
Today’s chief marketing officers are racing to apply GenerativeAI (GenAI) to their customer-centric mission. It offers significant promise to solve unresolved gaps in the customer experience: Ipsos research found that while 68 percent of people have used an automated customer service chatbot, 88 percent still prefer to talk to a person when they need customer service help. Why? Because the chatbot doesn’t have human-like relatability. GenAI could be the solution to better automated, human-like experiences.
Empathy is what makes or breaks interactions with, and perceptions of, a brand, especially in sensitive or emotionally tumultuous situations. Arguably, GenAI could better and more consistently deliver empathy than a human, but it’s to be determined when that day will come, when consumers will embrace it, and when brands can consider that to be an authentic experience aligned with company values.
The paradox for marketers is therefore making artificial authentic. In an unchartered space, mindful and cautious experimentation is the only viable path forward. Ipsos’ FAST framework guides experimentation with principles of fairness, accountability, security and transparency. But beyond responsible experimentation, leaders in this uncharted territory must ground their AI strategy in core company values and reinvigorate the spirit of their customer-centric mission. Every organization is on the brink of a brand identity crisis with GenAI, and there will be winners and catastrophic losers.
It’s not just about seeing what works, whether customers or employees adopt it, and what savings hit the bottom line. Success and ROI with GenAI includes a deeper question on what is right – today, in six months, and in five years. The moral obligation of brands that have been enlightened by ESG commitments is even further emphasized by their choices in how GenAI is applied. There is now a much deeper, riskier and powerful meaning behind being an empathetic leader.
The root of all experience design: understanding people
GenAI is creating opportunities for brands to rethink how they interact with customers. But fundamentally, designing and delivering experiences successfully requires a deep understanding of people. This means understanding and shaping expectations by acting with empathy and accounting for the context in which customers operate.
Experience is more than a delivery process. It is an opportunity to express and demonstrate the purpose of a brand and connect with customers authentically. Every customer experience moment or interaction, physical, digital or in-between, is an opportunity to deliver on the brand promise to forge stronger relationships.
There are overarching principles when it comes to successful experience design and delivery that apply to both human and digital interaction, including those driven by AI:
• Shaping and meeting expectations: Experience is an integral part of the brand promise. It is crucial to express the values the brand stands for and to demonstrate that promises made are grounded in reality.
• Understanding and integrating context to optimize experiences: Not all moments are equal, and they need to be designed in response to what a customer is trying to achieve at a given point in their journey with a brand.
• Putting empathy at the heart of experience design and delivery: This means understanding the needs of customers and how they feel to act in their best interests. Using the Forces of Customer Experience to better understand people (customers, but also employees) creates experiences that meet functional, relational and emotional needs and builds strong, mutually profitable relationships.
Towards the future of experience
Hope lies in lessons learned from the past. Machine learning and AI didn’t work perfectly on day one – in fact, we still see irrelevant recommendations during interactions across sectors and there are countless customer service representatives who aren’t equipped with the right data to deliver great experiences every time. It is naïve to believe that GenAI will leapfrog these gaps overnight, but there will be a leap. And taking this particular leap is more complicated than any prior business advancement. Beyond embracing the customer-centric mission and brand values, protecting the brand identity, leading with empathy and experimenting diligently, a material culture shift is required. Most organizations have yet to truly embrace a test-and-learn mentality and the grace to fail fast. For GenAI to effectively drive the future of customer-centricity, failing fast is the only way to win.
To truly succeed in this changing environment, organizations will, more than ever, need to harness the power of data, enabling them to stay in tune with changing customer needs. Smarter action planning tools can predict and influence customer outcomes and guide organizations towards increasingly successful customer journeys.
At the heart of experience, past, present and future, remains a fundamental need for brands to understand people and the role they play in their lives. By emotionally engaging customers and employees, brands will create strong, meaningful and mutually profitable relationships that drive positive business outcomes.
Stephanie Bannos-Ryback ‘s combined experience in CX consulting and as a program owner in enterprise organizations provides her with a deep understanding of the importance of attributing value and outcomes to CX initiatives. As such, her approach to elevating customer experiences is data-driven, insights-led and pragmatic. She particularly enjoys helping clients manage to stakeholder expectations and is passionate about the increasingly complex role of data in driving CX insights and activations.
Jean-Francois Damais is an expert in customer experience and research, helping brands across a wide range of sectors and geographies create strong relationships and positive business outcomes. Jean-Francois has led the development and global roll-out of several innovative solutions in the CX area, authored several papers, and regularly speaks at conferences. He heads up an international team specialized in the modeling of both structured and unstructured data.
To hear more about the challenges and opportunities presented by AI, and Ipsos’ wider take on the state of play in Customer Experience and Employee Experience, listen to our Global Voices of Experience Webinar 2023