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Beyond Automation: Three Strategies for Embracing AI While Preserving Personal Relationships with Customers




In today's digital age, striking the right balance between automation through AI and personalized, meaningful customer interactions has become a significant challenge.

While AI offers unparalleled opportunities for streamlining processes, improving efficiency, and enhancing customer service, there is a fine line between automation that amplifies the customer experience – and automation that detracts from it.

This comes at a time when the relationship between business and consumer is undergoing a profound transformation. As the co-CEO of Channel Talk, an AI messaging platform dedicated to enhancing customer relationships, I am deeply passionate about exploring the intersection of technology and customer experience.

Simply put, relationships matter. Yet, many companies struggle to leverage customer service functions and emerging technologies like chatbots as a source for growth. This oversight not only leads to missed opportunities but also exacerbates customer churn, particularly in today's competitive economic landscape. With consumers tightening their purse strings amidst rising inflation, businesses must vie for their share of the market more than ever before.

Compounding this challenge is the dwindling availability of third-party data for customer insights. With tech giants like Apple and Google phasing out identifiers like IDFA and third-party cookies, brands are left with fewer options for understanding their customers' preferences and behaviors.

So, the question remains, how do companies best use AI-driven automation to enhance the quality of their customer interactions?

It comes down to three things: Segmenting your use of AI and prioritizing appropriately, identifying your VIPs and using AI to quickly gather their preferences, and striking the right balance to be most efficient in nurturing customer relationships.

1. Segment and prioritize how you use AI when dealing with customers

It’s always easy to go too far in one direction when experiencing a new technology. While AI is powerful in many ways, you must know when and how to use it to achieve multiples in its overall benefit.

For example, automating routine tasks such as order tracking, returns, or basic inquiries can improve efficiency. But for most brands, especially the small and medium-sized ones, this is where you will see the biggest impact. Relying on AI to handle all customer inquiries so you can reduce labor expenses may damage relationships if those customers don’t feel they can speak with someone who understands their needs. It’s in these instances that AI can be used for efficiency but not for everything.

At the end of the day, we all still crave human-like interactions and personalized attention, especially when dealing with complex issues or providing feedback.  We value the authenticity of genuine connections, and poorly implemented AI solutions can result in a disconnect between a brand and its customers, especially to their recurring customer base, or VIPs.

2. Know who your VIP customers are, and leverage AI to know them even better

Keeping VIPs happy is key to maintaining a strong bottom line. But doing this well starts with knowing who your VIPs are… Unfortunately, most companies don’t.

AI can help utilize identity networks to better understand who your best customers are, what they want, when they shop, and how they prefer to interact. In today’s day and age, these are all things that most customers expect their favorite brands to know. And if you have a poorly trained AI program incorrectly making these inferences, that customer is unlikely to continue shopping with you.

In the retail business, where VIP customers need to make up over 50% of revenue for a company to be able to grow, ensuring those interactions are personalized and monitored is key to success. These VIPs are the customers who continue to come back, driving sale after sale. To facilitate more sales, you need to know as much as you can about who these people are and dedicate your best resources to them.

Many AI algorithms reinforce biases or make incorrect assumptions about customers based on data. If not carefully monitored and calibrated, AI systems may inadvertently perpetuate discrimination or provide inaccurate recommendations, leading to negative experiences for customers.

In other words, AI should be used to handle those more mundane requests, so that more time can be freed up to focus on driving sales from your most valued customers. And when it is used on higher-level tasks, be sure it is relied on in the proper ways.

3. Use AI to enhance efficiency when building relationships

With the proliferation of chatbots and automated customer service systems, consumers often find themselves wondering whether they're conversing with a human or a machine. But when unforced errors are made, it becomes obvious – and in some cases infuriating. This then contributes to a general malaise and skepticism about companies’ use of AI.

This is an unfortunate reality that adds pressure on all of us working in the AI industry, which we need to address.

Skepticism surrounding online interactions has many people questioning the authenticity of every interaction. And when this is the case, consumers push back and that impacts the bottom line of anyone using AI as a customer experience tool. The need for human intervention needs to be carefully filtered out when using AI for this function.

But companies that successfully navigate this balance between automation and personalized interactions can more easily gain a competitive advantage in the market.

The balance is crucial – and achieving it can mean the difference between continued success or inevitable failure.  Brands live and die by the satisfaction of their customer base, so prioritizing authenticity, empathy, and customer-centricity is key.

Doing so by harnessing the power of AI is both the challenge and the solution to positioning businesses for long-term success in today’s automated world.

Josh Jaehong Kim is a serial entrepreneur who created and drove three successful startup exits. Currently, he is founder and Co-CEO of Channel Talk, a leading CRM-based, AI messaging platform used by over 160,000 brands globally.