Credit by Daniel Newman

We all know that artificial intelligence is playing a huge role in how businesses operate. AI programs and services are helping transform everything from data collection and processing in the marketing department to on-boarding in the HR department. While AI and automation hold tremendous value in terms of time and cost savings internally, there is another area in which AI promises even bigger, more meaningful returns: customer experience. As I’ve said many times before, customer experience is the root of digital transformation. Every tech decision we make should return to this core foundation. With massive growth in data, comes opportunity to utilize the data for machine learning and AI that can improve everyday experiences for customers. It’s also important to note that good AI has to start with the right data coupled with sound data science practice or the results can be less than impressive. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the five biggest ways AI is transforming the customer experience.

Empowering self-service

By far, one of my favorite aspects of AI is that it eliminates the need to wait “on hold” for the next available agent to help me with a simple problem with my bill, product, or service. AI has changed all of that by allowing companies to use chatbots and virtual assistants to answer common customer service questions, allowing customers to get in and out in a jiffy. Back in 2011, Gartner predicted that by 2020, 85 percent of customer relationships will be managed without human interaction. I’m thinking that number might hit 90% by the time we hit the turn of the decade. The first thing I do when I hit a snag on most websites is search for the “chat now” button. Yes, I know I will most likely be talking to a robot. But, as long as they answer my question quickly, I’ll leave a happy customer.

Sure, I know some of you are probably thinking that chatbots aren’t completely effective just yet, and you’re definitely right. But I would argue that for the most part chatbots are doing enough to solve little problems for customers. This frees up customer service reps to work on the more difficult issues.

Improving Personalization.

Another important way AI is transforming the customer experience is by providing personalized content. This is an era when we rarely need to search for the products that would make our lives easier. It’s so easy now to find a recommendation based on your past history. I’m talking recommended videos and movies on YouTube and Netflix; recommended music on Spotify; recommended TV shows on Hulu; recommended concerts and performances on Bands in Town; and recommended products on Amazon. AI is essentially putting “in the know” hipsters out of business by bringing any and all content to the forefront. This is an age where everyone knows everything relevant to their needs and wants. AI is also finding its way into the cloud where companies are putting their data lakes to glean faster insights from data and analytics. Azure and AWS , for instance, both offer deep expertise in building applications around AI. This enables companies to scale their AI capabilities quickly leveraging capabilities and experience from the leaders in public cloud.

In addition to personalized recommendations, companies are also turning to AI services to help develop personalized content. I’m much more likely to buy from a company that has taken the time, or has a used a program, to get to know me. I like when my marketing messages are targeted directly to me. Yes there are some issues with privacy, but for the most part I’m satisfied with what I’ve experienced.

Available 24/7.

Another bonus of AI: it never needs to sleep. Similar to empowering customers via self-service, AI is also allowing customers to have 24/7 support—something most companies would not be able to afford or staff in the age of old. What’s more, 24/7 support isn’t just “good CX”—it’s table stakes in today’s market. Most customers are not willing to wait until you open your doors to get answers to their biggest account questions. AI makes that possible.

Allowing for automated life assistance.

Most of us use Alexa to turn on music or dim the lights. But more and more, companies are using Alexa, Google Home and other robotic AI to make their customers’ lives easier. Banks, for instance, are linking with Alexa and Google Home to allow customers to schedule transfers and bill-pay. Stores are allowing them to order products by voice. Movie theaters can allow them to purchase tickets, select seats, and pre-order popcorn before they even leave the driveway—without even hopping on their smart phones. These are the ways AI is transforming the customer experience, and these use cases will only continue to grow as AI expands outward.