Presented by Bold360 by LogMeIn

The second day of the Conversational AI Summit, cohosted by Bold360 by LogMeIn at this year’s Transform event, shifted its focus, ever so slightly, from the tech behind what makes it such a powerful strategic tool to how to wield that tool for maximum results: Customer retention, engagement, and loyalty.

Here’s a rundown of the second day of talks, from customer support success stories to the balancing act of personalization, all powered by conversational AI.

Keynote: Amit Ben, Head of Technology & AI, LogMeIn

Why do we thank our digital assistants out loud? Because AI is reshaping the way we interact with technology, said Amit Ben, Head of Technology & AI, LogMeIn during his keynote at Transform 2019. AI has made our machines able to communicate on a human level, whether through language, vision, or voice — opening up opportunities to create new experiences.

“AI is now finally ready to become the leading digital transformation initiative for businesses today,” Ben said. “It’s already at a level of maturity in which we can completely transform the way we interact with technology, and in turn, the way your customers interact with your brand.”

This is essential, as we now know that the human connection is the leading factor in promoting brand loyalty and brand recognition, says Ben. It’s the reason that big online brands like Warby and Amazon are investing in brick-and-mortar locations. They’re attracting the next generation of consumers, a cohort that expects not just expert customer service but personalization that makes consumers feel like more than just an order number. Language, vision, and voice AI help companies deliver game-changing experiences for their users, he said.

“Remember at the end of the day it’s not about the technology, it’s about the experience it creates,” Ben said. “And I challenge all of us to rekindle our empathy and embrace humanity through AI.”

Customer support: Impressive stories you’ll want to write home to your CMO about

“As an industry, we’ve seen the tremendous success companies have had in being customer centric, which actually has a downstream impact in terms of having a positive impact in terms of cost, efficiencies, and so on,” said Vishy Krishnamoorthy, Chief Product Officer at Humana. “We look at AI and machine learning as an enabler to drive better experiences. I actually feel that we’re at a point where the technology, the compute stack, the algorithms are here, to help us be extremely customer centric.”

The goal is to be customer obsessed, agrees Scott Bajtos, Chief Customer Officer at VMware.

“At the same time, being customer obsessed is about creating that trusted advisor relationship, thinking about the emotional connection,” Bajtos said. “When you put yourself truly in the customer’s shoes, understanding what outcome they’re trying to achieve, and reach that value realization. That’s true customers obsession and customer success. That’s a differentiator.”

At VMware, the company is actually building AI capabilities into the product itself to derive intelligence and insights from the customer on the use cases and outcomes, helping them understand the customer’s needs top to bottom. And when you establish an emotional connection, that loyalty factor kicks in.

“We see AI as a fabric to extend the relationship, we don’t see this as a cost savings mode or job elimination road,” Bajtos added. “We actually see this improving the frontline engineers’ lives by arming them to become more knowledgeable about our customers’ environments differently.”

The most valuable asset in a company is your human capital, Krishnamoorthy says, and AI can have a direct and dramatic impact on the churn rate in customer call centers by automating administrative tasks freeing up agents to tackle the more interesting problems, as well as augmenting their knowledge and coaching them through calls.

“Associates feel empowered, they can spend more time with customers, be more empathetic with them,” said Krishnamoorthy. “And in today’s customer-obsessed world, associate experience directly correlates into customer satisfaction.”

Customer journey: Making AI personal, but not creepy

AI-powered personalization is a double-edged sword. It offers tremendous results, but it can get you in trouble. Is the balancing act worth it? Chris Hansen, Senior Director, Digital, at TGI Fridays believes so.

“[By] using AI and machine learning for personalization, we have seen tremendous opportunity and growth,” Hansen said. “It’s about identifying a problem, tying it to our business goals, and then finding how the technology will help me solve that problem.”

One of their problems was engagement, and it was solved by taking the data a customer authorizes them to use and turning it into a genuinely valuable experience for that customer. As an example, he points to the push reminders they use to say, hey it’s Friday evening and you seem to have liked grabbing an order of ribs on the way home before – why not make dinner easy tonight, too?

At DoorDash, the goal of personalization is to ultimately reduce friction, and improve conversion, retention, and engagement, says Jessica Lachs, VP of Analytics at Doordash. When they started, the company’s approach to personalization was similar to Hansen’s, she adds: sending email reminders about orders a customer has placed in the past.

The reorder reminders, as well as personalized restaurant recommendations based on their previous orders, saw an improvement in not just the click-to-open rates, but also in conversion — an early signal that just using averages, or overall popular restaurants, was not nearly as effective as getting more personal and speaking to consumer preferences.

At iheartradio, it’s about enriching users’ lives by presenting the entire universe of audio as a personalized experience prioritizing the content they love the most, says Chris Williams, CPO at iheartmedia.

“Our job is to be our users’ audio companion, and help them sift through content with what we know about them, their habits, their tastes, their listening location,” Williams said. “When somebody opens our app, I want the content that we present to them to be the content that’s most relevant.”

They rely on machine learning to be able to scale that in a one-to-one relationship by building completely personalized listening experiences, and have seen a 45 to 50 percent retention rate.

“And over time we trust with our users by getting it right…and getting it right and getting it right,” Williams said.

Modern CX: The Impact of AI Across the Entire Customer Journey

“AI is a really unique opportunity to start building that more enduring and conversational relationship,” said Ryan Lester, Senior Director, Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn. “The challenge though, is when you look at the world of customer experience, today, it’s not getting less complicated, it’s getting more complicated.”

Customers have all the power. They can do a Google search and find all your competitors instantaneously. When they walk into your physical store, they often know much more than your actual store employees know. They have a lot more information because they have a smartphone in their hand.

However, the good news is consumers are becoming more and more loyal. They care about the brands they buy from, and they care about the experiences they get from those brands. So these are challenges, but also great opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves through their experiences, and drive that differentiation through artificial intelligence.

The modern customer experience puts the work on the consumer to do the navigation, expecting them to do the filtering and the finding, but conversational AI switches that from an unassisted world to an engaged world. One where someone comes to your website, and you’re immediately welcoming them, you’re asking them, ‘Why are they here? What are they looking to accomplish? What do they value? How can I help you? How can I create more value for you?’

A recent LogMeIn survey showed that companies are investing in technologies like AI, Lester says, and it’s helping them deliver dramatically better business results: improved customer experience, increased conversion and revenue, and increased profitability.

There are an enormous number of ways for companies to create a better customer-facing experience, a better employee-engagement experience, or better understand where there’s friction points in the customer experience, and leverage conversational AI to address these. And then find the next problem, find the next opportunity, and find the next use case — and rinse and repeat.

“So AI once again, is impactful because it helps your sales teams, it helps your marketing teams, it makes your finance team happier,” said Lester. “It’s this kind of pixie dust that lives across your customer experience, and really can help you transform your business to being a leader, both in customer experience, but also a leader in growth and profitability.”

Operationalizing Voice AI: From Hype to Reality

Since 2015 to 2018, right, there’s been about a 9 percent drop in the number of people who are calling call centers to get their needs met – and most folks would rather clean the toilet than call customer service.

“Either we’re doing a really, really good job on all of our websites and stacks, or society is changing, and people are looking for different ways to get their needs met,” said Beaumont Vance, Director of Digital, AI and Automation, at TD Ameritrade.

Customers don’t really want to call, usually because they’re upset. But on the flip side, companies are spending a lot of money on customer service centers. In the U.S. alone there are 3,400,000 call center reps. But call centers are the most expensive way to serve customers, and on top of that, from a technology standpoint, humans simply aren’t scalable. If you know you’re going to have four times the volume of calls tomorrow, you can’t hire four times as many people to be in the office tomorrow, and then fire them all the next day when the volume goes back down.

But you can do that with tech.

According to Juniper Research, chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of over $8 billion annually by 2022, up from $20 million in 2017. And the reduction in calls between 2015 and 2018 has already saved close to 20 billion.

“The ROI that we can get on this particular technology is massive,” Vance said. “But if you don’t spend the time required to train your model, you’re going to launch a product that’s essentially a glorified FAQ engine. And we’re looking to do something more than that. We want to meet people’s needs, not tell them that you can ask us just these 10 things.”

Vance also offered a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the TD Ameritrade chatbot ecosystem, which includes bots on Alexa and Google Assistant, Apple business chat, Facebook, Twitter, and WeChat, as well as bots specifically aimed at Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mainland China audiences.

“A lot of our customers want to know, what’s my balance? How much did my portfolio go up or down in the last 10 months?” Vance said. “They have very specific questions. And we don’t just have to fetch specific data. We also have to authorize them.”

Building a virtual agent (one that can actually correspond and engage with your users)

“There are two pretty different types of virtual assistant,” said Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO & Head of AI, at Five9. “You’re either assisting the customer, or the agent.”

If you look at what a contact center does today, it typically uses their IVF or their voice response system to do two different things: business segmentation, which is making routing decisions, and then self-service — the classic deflection case. Huge numbers of voice queries tend to be log-in issues and other low-hanging fruit for deflection cases. And then there are the customers calling to cancel their service, which means it’s important to route that call immediately to a human agent.

“We’re seeing a lot of success with the deployment of bots in two ways,” said Akhil Talwar, Senior Product Manager of LogMeIn. “The first is the external capacity in the way you’re helping your customers. But we’re also seeing a lot of interesting applications of internal productivity.”

On the employee side, increasingly, a lot of organizations really want to differentiate in terms of employee experience and want to bring that consumer experience in-house for their employees. So things like HR benefits and health insurance and new employee onboarding are all ripe opportunities for the deployment of AI, automation, and chatbots inside of an organization.

Over at Hulu, they’re on the verge of breaking double digits using the chatbot to deflect, says Matt Kravitz, Director of Service Applications, Viewer Experience.

“We’ve really put a lot of energy around being humble, and being transparent,” Kravitz said. “It says, you know, I’m still learning, I’m young, So I think it’s about being humble and letting your customers know that you’re not attempting to say I know everything. You don’t want to negatively impact your experience. And we’ve been very successful in that.”

“You have to tread that line very carefully — you don’t want to be interacting with someone with the impression that they think you are a person because you get into that sort of uncanny valley where it’s sort of just weird,” said Callan Schebella, CEO, Inference Solutions. “And it’s just much easier to be front and center. I’m a virtual agent, I can help you with all sorts of things. At any time you can get out of this experience and get to a live agent. But I’m going to prove to you here that it’s useful to talk to me because I can help with lots of things.”

Go deeper: See all the videos from the Conversational AI Summit right here. 

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