OpenMarket Study: Brands Must Embrace AI to Improve Communications With Customers

Sixty-three per cent of consumers want more AI in customer service & half of the consumers don’t think brands understand proper communication channels.

Companies need to look towards automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide customers with the service they want, according to a new study of more than 4,000 consumers and 600 customer experience leaders conducted by mobile messaging solutions provider OpenMarket. The study also revealed customers don’t feel brands understand the best platforms to use to communicate with them.

The report, Empathy in the Age of AI,” revealed brands are finding it difficult to achieve the type of empathetic, interactive service they would like to offer and that consumers are demanding. The study showed that, while consumers want timely updates that provide the information they need, when they need it, 64 per cent of consumers feel brands don’t go out of their way to meet their needs and more than half (56 per cent) said brands made it too difficult to interact with them.

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The report revealed that the answer to intensifying customer relationships without blowing limited CX budgets lies in the consumers changing attitudes towards AI and automation. The study showed that 66 per cent of respondents said functional automation was as important as human interaction, while 63 per cent want AI and automation to play a bigger role in customer service.

According to the study, nearly four-fifths of consumers (79 per cent) want brands to understand which messaging channels they prefer, but just 45 per cent of consumers feel brands actually understand the proper channels to communicate with them. Among the top preferred platforms for consumers were email (54 per cent) and mobile messaging (41 per cent).

“As modern technology takes on a larger role in the customer service process, our study shows that businesses relationships with their customers that are forged through automated systems can be just as strong as those forged as a result of interactions with (human) brand representatives,” said Tracey Milham, Global Brand Lead, OpenMarket. “However, we must remember that machines do not have the ability to vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. To this end, brands must use this technology to maintain always-open lines of communication to their customers.”

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Determining the Best Approach

While automation provides the greatest upside, nearly all respondents (97%) felt their organisation needs to review and overhaul its existing customer interaction strategy within three years or less. Business leaders agree – more than three quarters (77 per cent) of CX leaders say their businesses need to review and overhaul their CX strategy within two years to ensure they become efficient and empathetic.

The challenge businesses face is made greater by the fact that the study showed many business leaders don’t know how to best leverage automated technology to reach customers. In fact, according to the report, 80 per cent of business leaders cited the ability to communicate with customers in an automated fashion on various channels as a key barrier to improving customer relationships. Meanwhile, 79 per cent of business leaders said leveraging data and insights to optimise interactions were a primary concern.

The report found that the best way for businesses to overcome these barriers is to understand what customers want in a communications experience. Customers indicated speed (85 per cent), seamlessness (84 per cent) and personalisation (80 per cent) ranked as the most important qualities for delivering a high-quality customer experience within a channel.

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The report found that customers prefer not to talk to humans – 67 per cent of consumers indicated they find it less stressful to deal with brands via messaging than by call centres, and 60 per cent find it less stressful than email. Meanwhile, 74% say the mobile inbox is their primary communication, and 83 per cent of consumers say they are likely to receive and read mobile messages more quickly than every other channel.

“Customers’ expectations for service are changing faster than many companies can keep up,” said Milham. “Consumers crying out for data-driven, multi-channel communication solutions, and businesses must take the action of understanding, being aware of, and acting on the feelings, experience and needs of customers to meet this demand.”