How AI Is Used to Improve Customer Experience in Today’s Business World

Smart business leaders have always tried to deliver best-in-class customer experiences. After all, satisfied customers are loyal customers who make more (even bigger) purchases and encourage their friends to do the same. But in today's hyper-competitive marketplace, the customer experience can make or break your business.

Illustration of a group of happy, excited customers standing in front of a large brain, representing AI.

Consumers' expectations have never been higher, but there also have never been more tools to help you engage customers, personalize communication across channels, and deliver superb customer service — all with the help of AI customer experience technology from leading cloud communication providers.

What Is Intelligent Customer Experience?

Intelligent customer experience is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to create a seamless, personalized customer journey — from a prospect's initial online search to your follow-up marketing to the first sale and every interaction that follows. All the behavioral data you collect along the way gets integrated and utilized to remove friction at every touchpoint. 

Simply put, a well-designed AI customer experience helps you better understand and engage individual customers. So, whether a customer is consuming your marketing content, contacting customer service, or making a purchase, your message is consistent and personalized and your team knows exactly who they're talking to and why. 

Intelligent customer experience doesn't just make your buyer's journey more seamless. It also makes your team more efficient, thanks to AI-powered chatbots and voice assistants that help lighten the load, and more effective, thanks to intelligent routing and AI-derived insights and prompts.

Why Customer Experience Matters

When customers have a great experience with your company, you earn their repeat business and perhaps even their referrals — but only if you keep engaging them and delivering consistently great service. According to a recent Emplifi survey, 86% of consumers will abandon a brand they've been loyal to after two or three poor interactions with customer service, and 63% will leave because of poor overall customer experiences. 

Yet delivering a great customer experience is tougher than ever, especially for traditional businesses that must now compete with digital-native companies that deliver AI-enhanced, omnichannel experiences right out of the gate. Consumer expectations have skyrocketed as technology develops, but multiple studies show that a large majority of customers feel that brands are failing to deliver the customer experience they expect.

How to Consistently Deliver Excellent Customer Experiences

The brands that meet (or, better yet, exceed) customer expectations are obsessed with their customers. They invest in AI-powered tools that let them collect and analyze as much customer data as possible, use what they learn to engage and empower customers, and deliver personalized and convenient omnichannel experiences.

Personalization

Consumers know businesses collect all sorts of data about them. They expect brands to use that information and modern (read: AI-enhanced) technology to improve customer experience. That means knowing your customers' individual preferences, anticipating their needs, and sending them tailored, relevant messaging.

For example, virtual assistants can answer basic customer questions and complete purchases, or intelligently route callers to the right agent. AI-driven chatbots help customers get quick service without leaving your website. And sentiment analysis can provide real-time insights into a caller’s level of frustration.

Consumers have shown that they will be more loyal to a brand that shows they really understand them and what they are looking for. Yet, Gartner reports that 63% of digital marketing leaders struggle to deliver personalized experiences largely because only 17% are leveraging AI and machine learning for customer communication.

Convenience

Your customers expect timely responses, fast resolutions, 24/7 support, and overall ease of use when engaging with your company. In a survey by Acquia, 90% stressed the importance of convenience when interacting with a business, but 68% indicated "My experience with brands online needs to be made easier."

Intelligent call routing, well-integrated chatbots, and other AI solutions can help you provide the fast service, thorough answers, and self-service options that modern consumers want from brands.

A Seamless Omnichannel Journey

Consumers move seamlessly from one digital or in-person channel to the next, and they expect brands to move with them — and to recognize and engage them however or wherever they choose to connect. 

Multichannel communication doesn't cut it anymore. To deliver a truly omnichannel experience, those channels must be integrated and sharing data so you can personalize the customer journey and deliver the right content at each touchpoint along the way. 

What Tools Do You Need to Create an Intelligent Experience?

When it comes to creating best-in-class customer experiences, the bar is high, and so are the stakes. Fortunately, cloud-based AI customer experience technology has leveled the playing field, making it possible for businesses of all shapes and sizes to compete based on customer experience.

Delivering an intelligent omnichannel customer experience involves APIs, apps, and AIs.

Communications APIs and Apps

Communications application programming interfaces (APIs) let you integrate different communication channels and add new ones.

When building your communications stack, you can piece together apps from different vendors, using APIs to integrate them. Or you can invest in a unified communications platform, like Vonage Business Communications, which has already combined all the standard communication channels — voice calling, video conferencing, and instant messaging — into one unified user experience. That means your team can switch seamlessly from one to another based on customer preferences.

Then you can use communications APIs to build those communication channels directly into your website, mobile apps, and contact center platform. Customers will be able to call or message you in one click without closing their browser or leaving the app.

Vonage APIs also let you add new communications channels and AI functionality, such as:

  • Voice. The Vonage Voice API lets you create automated, personalized customer interactions powered by sophisticated machine learning algorithms. This includes virtual assistants that intelligently route customers to the right contact center representative or voice bots that answer customers' questions, qualify sales leads, and enable 24/7 self-service. The Voice API also enables multichannel recording, interactive voice response (IVR), text-to-speech, and sentiment analysis.

  • Video. The Vonage Video API lets you build a custom live chat experience into your website or mobile app. In this way, customers can communicate with you without downloading or signing into third-party apps, and you can capture the communication history and integrate it with other customer data for deeper analytics.

  • Messaging: The Vonage Messages API lets you build private, two-way SMS into your apps and website so customers can safely and seamlessly book appointments, check order status, and even complete transactions via text message. It also lets you send automated, relevant messages at the right time to the right users, including appointment reminders, sale notifications, and delivery confirmations.

APIs also enable you to integrate all these communication channels with your CRM.

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Noting Vonage’s history as a pioneer in the Communications as a Platform (CPaaS) space, Omdia recognizes the company for leveraging its considerable assets to provide unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS), as well as CPaaS.

Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)

When you integrate your communications apps and APIs with your CRM, you also integrate their data, which creates new opportunities to apply and leverage AI functionality. 

When a customer reaches out to your business, the call or message can be routed to the correct agent based on customer history. Before the agent joins the conversation, they see screen pops with customer history data and AI-generated predictions about why they might be calling. It also alerts the agent to other business that could be handled during the call — for example, information that needs to be updated or anticipated future needs. That conversation, and all the data derived from it, are then automatically logged into CRM to be used for marketing, sales, and the next customer service interactions.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence isn't a tool; it's a combination of tools and functionality that let you automate tasks and glean deeper insights from your data. With the right AI-powered tools in place, you can serve customers more efficiently and understand them more effectively.

AI customer experience tools include everything from conversational AIs that power chatbots and virtual assistants to machine learning algorithms that mine your data and provide contextual insights to speech recognition and voice analytics that help you improve each customer experience with real-time intelligence.

How AI Helps Generate Intelligent Customer Experiences

What are the most valuable AI customer experience solutions?

Virtual Assistants

AI-driven virtual assistants can replace phone trees with conversational, intelligent routing, so customers don't have to listen and respond to lists of options to (hopefully) find the right agent. Instead, they simply tell the virtual assistant what they need, and the AI uses that information and customer history data to connect them with the appropriate person. The virtual assistant can also answer simple questions and, depending on your integrations, provide support and complete purchases. With an advanced virtual assistant like Vonage's, the AI analyzes customer sentiment and feedback in real time, using words and content to respond more effectively. If at any point the customer wants to talk to a human, the virtual assistant can pass them to an agent with a full summary of what was already discussed so the customer doesn't have to repeat themselves.

Chatbots

Chatbots are like virtual assistants but in writing. They can direct inquiries, answer questions, and enable self-service. You can add them to your website, app, and social media properties, allowing customers to engage with your brand anytime and get quick answers to their questions without leaving your content or product listings. 

Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis AIs listen in on conversations and give you real-time insight into a customer's emotions. This can help you know when they're engaged or when they're annoyed. If the AI detects escalating frustration during chatbot or virtual assistant interactions, it can automatically engage a human representative. And if customers are unhappy with the agent's service, it can loop in an expert supervisor. Vonage’s Sentiment Analysis solution also provides agents with clear, real-time feedback they can use to improve their skills and provides managers with insights they can use to better coach their teams and improve the customer experience.

Speech Recognition

Speech recognition AI uses natural language processing to better understand customers and respond conversationally. It powers everything from IVR to virtual assistants and chatbots to call transcription. Speech recognition can also be used as a security measure to verify customer identity and let them access account information and self-service options.

AI Customer Experience Benefits

Enterprise use of AI has expanded rapidly in recent years. NewVantage Partners' Big Data and AI Executive Survey 2021 found that 77% are using AI in some capacity, and 96% say the technology has helped them achieve successful outcomes, up 25% from 2020. When you build an AI customer experience, your business gains several advantages:

Save Customers Time and Money

Chatbots, virtual assistants, and in-app communications APIs make the customer experience more convenient. Nearly half (53%) of consumers told Acquia, "I'm looking forward to artificial intelligence (AI) making interacting with brands a better experience." Likewise, 58% of consumers told Gartner they would use a brand's AI to save time, and 56% would use it to save money. 

Engage Customers With New Sales Opportunities

AI can help inspire more purchases with personalized product recommendations and special offers. It can remind customers when it's time to reorder products based on buying history. And by adding communications APIs to your website and apps, customers can ask questions about products without leaving the product page and complete purchases via chatbot.

Improve Customer Retention

By improving customer service, AI can reduce customer churn by up to 50%, according to Pegasystems. Gartner also found AI could help improve retention, explaining, "The more time [consumers] save, the more likely they are to purchase a product, and the more money they save, they're likely to return to your business to buy again."

Increase Employee Productivity

By intelligently routing customers, qualifying sales leads, and offloading customer service tasks, AI frees up human agents to focus on their core competencies and insights that help them work more efficiently. Accenture predicts that introducing AI will increase enterprise productivity up to 80% by 2035.

Make Data-Driven Decisions That Improve the Customer Experience

While your AI-powered solutions are enhancing the customer experience, they're also gathering and analyzing data that can help you better understand the customer journey and identify pain points that could lead to customer churn. This information helps you better train your team, remove friction at various touchpoints, and streamline workflows.

AI Customer Experience Use Cases 

There are many different ways to deliver intelligent customer experiences depending on your industry and business model. Here are a few real-life examples from Vonage customers:

Novo Labs Takes Food Orders With Conversational AI 

No matter how many digital communication channels restaurants open up, some people just prefer to call in their order. But busy food joints don't always have time to keep picking up the phone. Novo Labs solved that problem by creating a conversational commerce solution that connects an order-taking virtual assistant to business phone systems using the Vonage Voice API. 

The Rank Group Improves Customer Service With a Conversation Analyzer

When The Rank Group transitioned from a cost-focused organization to a customer-experience-focused one, the company needed a way to know how good that experience actually was and how to improve it. They used a conversation analyzer AI to generate the data and insights they need to keep improving their service. 

Key Travel Uses Voice Assistant to Scale Customer Service

As the world's largest agency for nonprofits, Key Travel grew quickly and needed a way to scale communications to ensure they never missed an important call from a humanitarian traveler. After implementing Vonage Contact Center, they added voice assistants to intelligently route and offload calls, and now use AI-driven analytics to further streamline communications.

Next Steps 

Not long ago, AI was reserved for large tech companies with large budgets. Now it's everywhere, powering the apps and services we all use every day. Delivering an AI customer experience is within reach for all businesses, but the use cases vary from one company to another.

Which solutions do you need to deliver a convenient, personalized omnichannel experience? Check out Vonage’s Conversational AI solutions to learn more about AI built for businesses just like yours.

Tim Kimber
Tim Kimber

Director of Product Marketing at Vonage

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