So you think AI will improve customer experience – forget it

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If telcos or any other businesses think that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to give customers a fabulous experience then I have bad news, it won’t.

I base this contrary opinion purely on personal experience because after forty years of enduring crappy customer experiences I believe I am well positioned to challenge the current thinking that AI, or anything other technology, for that matter, can improve things.

For a start, we are all different and we all have differing expectations of what good service from a provider is. There is no one experience that fits all and any attempt to tailor an experience to an individual’s expectations automatically has a massive hill to climb.

Let’s take online advertising for a start. You know that every website you visit and every online store you browse is tracking your movements with the use of cookies. Don’t even bother trying to stop them either, you will end up spending most of your life tracking them down and switching them off despite GDPR, privacy laws and a myriad of tools meant give you privacy protection.

Those supposedly clever things are supposed to work out what you are after and tailor pop-up ads flouting what you are after. The only problem is that even after you have bought an item these brilliant data gatherers never seem able to put two and two together and continue to bombard you with the same junk ads for months after.

Advertising claims to be an early adopter of AI but I’m not sure how it is going to cope with two or more people using the same device for browsing and shopping and distinguish who, in particular, is interested in car parts or lingerie.

We also have a habit of changing our minds, often with no pattern or sense. One day we might want to take a holiday in the Canary Islands the next day a fantasy flight over the Antarctic. I have been living with my wife for forty years and she has no idea what I will come up with next so how is a machine going to do that any better?

More annoying is the current trend of sending out “customer satisfaction surveys” every time you fly, stay somewhere or buy something. Last week I had to battle with ten of these incredibly inane and annoying emails that purport to taking a few minutes to complete and end up wasting half an hour of my valuable time. And what for? So some marketing wally can meet his KPIs?

Give me a break. I’ll tell you how to gauge customer satisfaction the easy way. When you don’t hear from a customer it generally means they are happy enough not to bother you. If they complain, that means they are not happy, and you should do something about it quickly because if you don’t, they will resort to the most effective means of getting your attention – social media.

You don’t need AI to work out customer satisfaction or even how to improve the customer experience, just listen to your customers. Train all your staff, public-facing or behind a screen to listen to customers and give them a channel to easily react to or relay the comments customers make to a central body that makes sure each comment is heard and responded to.

I, for one, am sick and tired of telling service providers, banks, stores, utilities and the like why I am not having a good customer experience only to be told that is how it is or that those dealing with it are not empowered to change anything, let alone fix the situation.  Oh, and some of the responses are so dumb, they defy logic. Only last week I raised an issue to EasyJet about the failure of their Speedy Boarding process at Gatwick Airport (where you pay extra to board first). Those special customers were put on a bus first but were last to board because the masses had streamed on after them and were first off the bus when it reached the aircraft. My Twitter feed explained it all so simply, yet the response was to send another direct message to them when they had all the details already and could easily have checked the flight records to see who I was, a supposedly valued EasyJet Plus member that travels extensively. Duh!!! I had better be careful I’m not blocked on social media like some airlines are doing.

I could go on for days but won’t. Let me conclude with some simple advice to any business that thinks AI will solve these issues. It won’t because the core concept of individual customer experience, without knowing each customer personally, will never be achieved. Get used to the idea that a quiet customer is probably a happy or contented, one that never comes back or complains is not a happy one. End of story, dead simple logic. So, don’t waste your money on massive data collection, machine learning processes and AI gobbledygook and get back to basics – watch, listen and respond. You will soon find out if you have it wrong.

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