A Crucial Ally for Customer-Obsessed Brands — Conversational AI

Étienne Merineau
June 21, 2019

Introduction – (It’s about more than just a mentality)

It’s trendy now to say your brand is “customer-centric”, but what the term signifies a great deal more than a staunch ‘the customer is always right’ mentality. So what does it really involve? How does a truly customer-centric brand differ from the rest?

With plethora of choice and information at their disposal, your customers are more empowered than ever and their expectations just keep rising. This sounds daunting, but it presents a brilliant opportunity for brands too. Brands, in turn, are also privy to more information and, with the right tools for harnessing that data, they can align themselves with customer expectations like never before.

Brands now have the opportunity to proactively anticipate the future needs of customers and see their own brand and product the way their customers see it. A customer-first company will use that data as their guiding light.

Being truly customer-centric doesn’t just mean putting the customer in the driver’s seat; it means handing over the keys. Being customer centric is great but it’s just table stakes. The true visionary brands are now taking it to the next level— they’re customer obsessed.

Netflix: The pioneer of customer obsession

The concept started with Netflix – the wonderkind of customer experience. While most boardrooms were still discussing customer focus, Netflix was busy pioneering a whole new approach to customer experience.

In his insightful 2018 post about Netflix’s virtuous cycle of customer obsession, the company’s former VP of Product Gibson Biddle shared an interesting anecdote:

“In 2005, as I joined Netflix as VP of Product, I asked Reed Hastings, the CEO, what he hoped his legacy would be. His answer: “Consumer science.” He explained, “Leaders like Steve Jobs have a sense of style and what customers seek, but I don’t. We need consumer science to get there.”

Hastings’ vision was carried out by his product team through a process of relentless experimentation that involved centralizing millions of data points through ground-breaking machine learning programs. The result: cult-like, market dominance in a matter of years. Their success has entirely disrupted the way we relate to streaming, to the internet, and to storytelling. In fact, Hollywood is now wondering whether it’s fair or not to exclude Netflix from the Oscars.

Borrowing from Biddle’s original post, we rehashed his work and pushed it a step further. This is our take on his “focus vs. obsession” table:

Customer focus

  • Listen to what customers say
  • Understand current customer wants and needs
  • Focus on immediate customer satisfaction
  • Provide better product and value than the competition
  • Balance customer satisfaction and short-term margins

Customer obsession

  • Engage them in ongoing one-on-one conversations
  • Anticipate future customer wants and needs
  • Invent and deliver on unanticipated, future needs
  • Nurture customer relationships consistently over time with delightful interactions
  • Provide better customer experience than the competition
  • Focus on long-term customer delight to maximize lifetime value

Conversational AI: the secret ingredient in your customer-obsession sauce

Survival of the fittest is no longer the name of the game in an age of perpetual disruption; now, adaptability is what keeps you in the ring.

Just as Netflix did, brands should be crafting their strategy in the real world, and in real time. It isn’t worth gambling your ideas on assumptions or sexy marketing tactics anymore – especially when concrete consumer data points and proven facts about your own brand are available to you.

Consumer science is not infusible, but it can easily be earned. The quickest route to mastering this art is becoming better at listening — and that means enhancing your capacity for gathering customer feedback.

Your consumers have something to say and they’re more than happy to share. All you need is a platform that can organically accept their feedback and ideas in order to guide your decision-making and keep customers happy. Because when you’re truly customer-obsessed, you’re only happy when your customer is happy.

Conversational channels like Facebook Messenger host 10 billion customer conversations with businesses every month. These channels function as live marketing labs, or as I like to call them “focus groups on steroids”.

A private one-on-one chat between you and your customer is simultaneously a gold mine for declared data, and a tool for experimentation that allows you to continuously hone your brand’s customer obsession strategy.

Let’s take a closer look at how conversational AI transforms customer focus into Netflix-caliber customer obsession.

One-on-one conversations at scale

By leveraging messenger apps and automation capabilities, brands are now capable of having personalized conversations with thousands of individuals at once.

And it’s not only brands that are harnessing this technological power, governments are also well known for using Conversational AI to connect with citizens.

At the end of 2018, Heyday demonstrated how Conversational AI could be used for good with a campaign for The Government of Canada’s Ministry of Public Health called #DontDriveHigh. Our goal was to educate young Canadians on the perils of driving high through one-on-one conversations across multiple channels.

In only five weeks, 1.46 million messages were exchanged. The intimacy of these private message-style conversations resonated deeply and naturally, and encouraged increase engagement with the important issue at hand— imagine what the addition of a feature like this could do for consumer brands.

Be proactive, not reactive

When you’re able to tap into your customer preferences and their psyche you’re well positioned to anticipate their needs. The goal of a customer-obsessed brand is to stay on the pulse so as to accurately foresee future needs and deliver on those proactively. Chatbots is the anticipatory butler that never sleeps — it’s the indispensable tool that gives rise to the proactive brand.

Continuous satisfaction and consistency

Helping a customer find what they’re looking for should never be the end of a story, it should be seen as just the beginning.

A first step towards ensuring long-term customer satisfaction is looking beyond the immediate solution. Use every Conversational AI interaction as an opportunity to gain deeper insight and intuitively reach hero status amongst long-term customers by always thinking a few steps ahead.

The data generated by these conversations is invaluable for internal planning and for strategically crafting your next round of experiments.

If the data you’ve collected tells you that your customer has a family of four, a propensity for camping and a cottage; you can begin intuitively recommending a product or service that is most likely to suit their needs. Don’t waste their time making them scroll through your inventory of Ford GTs, instead demonstrate that they’re in good hands.

Externally, Conversational AI can give you that wow factor people actually notice and remember. Instead of sending out mass campaigns of hit-or-miss messaging, why not proactively and automagically ping customers to delight them on their birthday with something you already know they love?

Focus on the deep stuff, leave the rest to AI

Replicating customer experiences with AI is surprisingly easy, and has a compounding long-term effect. If you analyze your data, you’ll likely find that most of your conversations are quite straightforward and repetitive. Conversational AI can help free up your team from those time-consuming interactions so they can apply a human touch to the more complex, high-value interactions that truly delight customers.

When a customer is deliberating about a product or service, conversational AI is the helping hand they’re learning to crave. With round-the-clock support seamlessly built into an experience, that little extra measure can easily tip the scale in your favour by incentivizing customers to stick with you as they grow more confident in your brand and in their own, self-paced decision-making process.

Opt for less transactional, and more relatable

When your brand is perceived more like a friend than a big brand, you’re already miles ahead of your competitors in your effort to develop a meaningful, solution-based relationship with your customers.

According to research conducted by Gartner, less than 10% of major retailers see themselves as “highly effective at personalization,” and less than a third of them admit they don’t have the capacity to achieve a level of personalization that’s now in such high demand. That said the means to help businesses learn about customers preferences and gather the data required to unlock future value exists in the world of Conversational AI.

Transforming your approach to customer service by cultivating a one-on-one relationship is a simple but groundbreaking way to become a brand people grow to love. And, just like any long-term relationship, the obsession is always best when it’s mutual and reciprocated. To truly set yourself apart, becoming customer-obsessed is the surest way to become your customers’ obsession. So how are you going to earn your customer’s obsession?