How to increase customer loyalty? Lead with conversational AI in your customer experience.

By | 3 minute read | January 12, 2021

Customer chatting on phone

The digital-first shopping experience gives consumers unprecedented access to the brands they love and choice between all available options. Meanwhile, brands can now speak directly to their customer base and collect data that helps them personalize and optimize every customer support interaction.

It’s cheaper to sell new products to repeat customers who have already been exposed to and persuaded by your brand messaging than to reach entirely new customers. That’s why customer loyalty programs, from free products to punch cards to point systems, have been a major part of the brand experience for centuries.

Today, all rewards programs are mediated by digital experiences, and customer loyalty strategies must take a holistic approach toward synthesizing all customer touchpoints, whether that’s a brick-and-mortar store, an e-commerce site, a social media presence, or a mobile app. The way to accomplish this is through intelligent workflows driven by AI (artificial intelligence).

How conversational AI helps drive customer loyalty

Historically, loyalty programs and incentives have provided higher quality customer experiences at premium levels, long before “CX” was coined. What’s exciting about today’s customer loyalty initiatives is that now conversational AI is enabling companies to offer a “white glove” or concierge-level experience not just to “high value” customers, but to all of them.

This is because conversational AI scales where human service cannot. Virtual assistants can be everywhere at once, building customer relationships 24/7. They can remember every minute detail about every customer interaction, at every touchpoint. And they can communicate that information to other systems within the CRM tech stack. Virtual assistants can also retrieve information and respond to customers in milliseconds, a big improvement for anyone who’s ever waited on hold during a customer service call.

The result is positive experiences that are seamless, fast, personalized and consistent, occurring across every channel and device, and at every touchpoint along the customer journey.

The presence of omnichannel virtual assistants helps customers feel that they are getting a singular experience, mediated by a helpful voice that knows their preferences, their history of interactions with the brand, and all the collective knowledge of the business. And the more the customer interacts with the brand in this way, the more the virtual assistant learns and improves its performance over time, resulting in satisfied customers.

Virtual assistants can be augmented with AI search technology, giving them access to data relating to specific customers as it lives across many applications and domains throughout the organization. For example, IBM Watson virtual assistants are often used in tandem with Watson Discovery.

Business intelligence tools powered by machine learning can predict consumer behaviors, and even the behavior of individual customers. These can be used alongside conversational AI applications to optimize customer experiences.

Take the Stikets Company, a small business focused on selling labels and other adhesive products. Stikets fulfills more than 350,000 orders annually, but many of those orders are squeezed into the back-to-school rush. During those weeks, Stikets withstands a dramatic spike in customer service requests. This was forcing some customers to wait up to 24 hours for a response.

Stikets knew they needed to accelerate their customer service innovation, so they integrated Watson Assistant, IBM’s virtual agent technology. Their chatbot “Stiky” now resolves up to 90% of all queries and conducts an average of 165 conversations daily. And now that the chatbot is live and collecting data throughout its engagements, that customer data can be used to provide better experiences, using customer complaints and unhappy testimonials as fuel for the cultivation of long-term customer loyalty.

As these virtual assistants enable a business to build a higher-definition profile of loyal customers, the brand can develop an ever more robust and individualized ecosystem within which it engages the customer. As this ecosystem becomes more robust it reduces customer churn, improves customer retention, and increases customer lifetime value. For the consumer, it’s not just about their preference for a discrete product, but about their ongoing relationship with the brand. Conversational AI can help you develop a loyal customer base filled with happy customers who won’t want to leave.