How artificial intelligence drives genuine ROI from real customer feedback

Neil McIlroy is head of product at Feefo.

Artificial intelligence is transforming the effectiveness of marketing, using insights extracted from content contributed by customers in reviews and surveys.

Until now, however, it has been tough for marketing departments to convince sceptical boards of senior directors that this is an area deserving of investment. What has changed is the ability to demonstrate direct ROI from the use of these insights. Ears prick up when it’s explained how AI generates increased individualisation and potentiates the impact of marketing, leading to substantial increases in retention.

As is often quoted, it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to retain one and a five per cent increase in retention can deliver substantial revenue increases.

AI turns real feedback from real customers into a goldmine

The gains flow in when an organisation uses authentic feedback from a platform that only admits reviews from customers who have genuinely bought the product or used the service. This provides a goldmine of reliable data. In the past that might have been just a dataset among many, leaving marketers wondering how to derive any coherent strategy from it.

Now, however, the bundle of technologies that constitutes AI can predict the return on investment from the use of particular themes and topics that emerge in near real-time from what customers are saying or indicating in their feedback. This is highly detailed analysis, yielding insights that have acute impact – and their ROI can be measured so marketers can see the course of action they could or should follow across the channels they use to address their customers.

Marketing departments are no longer limited to examining response rates to their social posts, email or digital campaigns. They can see what will happen if they pursue course of action, associating the themes surfaced by natural language processing (NLP) with the percentage of clients affected, giving the outcome in revenue terms. This works with any form of opinion collected by a business, including survey feedback.

Customer experience AI transforms individualisation to increase revenues

The increased or enhanced abiltity to make correlations between the profile of the customer and the theme makes for a hugely effective combination – and it is all achieved through automation. The NLP capabilities of AI can comb through thousands of reviews or survey responses, using filters to reveal customer sentiment on any theme and relate it down to the level of individual customers.

NLP will rapidly enable a travel provider, for example, to see where customers are especially happy with a streamlined check-in service or unhappy with the airport transfer; an online retailer will discover that a shoe design is proving highly popular within a tightly defined demographic and act to improve stock levels and direct marketing.

Conversely, it can take remedial action if it discovers another footware company is constantly under-sizing products, causing mounting irritation. 

AI collates data like no other customer-facing technology

The fast analytical capabilities of AI means data from customer experience platforms can automatically be cross-referenced with information from other sources, including social media, to create an animated, very detailed picture of all the currents that make up consumer demand. 

Having these insights provides a vital source of intelligence, enabling an organisation to develop faster, more agile and more profitable responses to the rapid emergence of micro-trends or shifts in taste or perception. A business will soon discover where it is excelling, where improvements are required and where new opportunities are emerging.

Outcomes can be measured and associated with the themes on which they are based.  From here, AI is set to give businesses evidence-based recommendations for decision-making, using the power of predictive and prescriptive analytics to move forward – from describing what is happening, to what could and should happen. Historical data on customer behaviour is analysed and compared with current data, to provide accurate predictions. These in turn can be exploited to predict the best course of action to achieve optimum returns.

Direct improvements in the customer experience frontline

These AI capabilities steadily improve how front-line staff at consumer-facing businesses address different segments of customers. It’s a vital and fast-developing area. By next year (2020) Gartner predicts that 85 per cent of interactions with an enterprise will not involve direct contact with a human. This means when customers do speak to customer service departments, they expect fast resolution.

The AI-derived insights about individuals from their feedback on experience platforms inform staff about the history of a customer’s concerns and their interaction with the business. Predictive analytics prompt them to make the right recommendation for resolution of a problem or to achieve a sale.

These capabilities enable a more personalised service that delivers greater levels of satisfaction, boosting conversion and retention. Similarly, AI is being used to improve the effectiveness of the on-site experience, retaining customers and increasing conversion.

The embedding of AI in feedback platforms is just one aspect of how the technology is transforming customer experience in a key battleground. Gartner research reveals that 80 per cent of marketing leaders expect customer experience to be the main area of competition in future.

And for marketers it has this huge internal advantage. If you can demonstrate tangible ROI you get priority at the top table when it comes to deciding budgets. Even boards of directors should understand that AI can exploit customer feedback to generate definite ROI.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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