robot
Credit: Cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Artificial intelligence isn’t way off in the future like in Terminator or I, Robot—it’s here now, and we all need to figure out how to use it to help build customer loyalty

In his monthly column for BCBusiness, branding expert Ben Baker shares his insights into how to communicate value effectively, so people want to listen and engage. In the end, it’s about creating influence through trust.

Change is terrifying for many people. However, it isn’t the change itself that’s scary but the unknown and the misunderstood.

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and predictive analytics (stay tuned for my article next month) are buzz phrases that have crept into the business vernacular. People speak of using computers to do humans’ jobs, but with little understanding of how this will work and how it can affect the corporate brand.

I’ll leave the nuances of the technology for people much smarter than me. What I hope to get across here is that tech, when paired properly with human engagement, is a powerful ally to enhance a brand, build client loyalty and increase profits.

Used improperly, though, with too much reliance on technology and not enough on human-to-human engagement, it diminishes brand value. The company spirals toward offering a low-value commodity, with fewer and fewer people championing its cause.

Roadside assistance 2.0

Here’s a recent example of AI done right. I was in my driveway, and my car battery died. I’ve been a BCAA member for years, so without even thinking about it, I dialled their number for assistance. The voice-activated technology gave me the option to wait for a live operator or use their automated response system to book a roadside call. I was intrigued. 

After five questions, the software had identified me, my car and my address and let me know that a driver would be there in 45 minutes. Within 20, the driver phoned to let me know that he was less than five minutes away. Ten minutes later, he had solved my problem, given me useful advice and left for his next call.

The following day, I got an email with a series of survey questions that was short and simple to fill out, and even gave me room to write comments.

To me, this is how technology and humans must work together now and in the future. It should be a symbiotic relationship that enhances a company’s brand, not only by impressing customers but by creating loyalty as they tell others about the great experience they had. This leads to long-term profitability.

Technology fail

On the other hand, a supplier I won’t name has decided that technology is the be-all and end-all. As a result, person-to-person engagement is almost impossible or non-existent. This company has abandoned its call centre and forced clients online, based on the assumption that they can easily search out every answer to every question.

The problem is, that assumption isn’t true. It has left me and many others I know so frustrated that we’re all searching for a replacement service. When one of us finds it, everyone else will follow.

Too many companies believe that technology will become a viable low-cost solution that lets them cut their workforces and scale up. In some cases, this may be true in the short term, but over the long haul, becoming too reliant on tech is dangerous when it comes to brand loyalty. People want to engage with people, and when there’s an issue, no machine will listen, understand, empathize and problem-solve like a human.

By all means, use technology for repetitive tasks; it’s designed for that. But realize that it has its limits—and that people want the companies they engage with to go beyond those limits and help solve their problems in the here and now.

Here are five businesses that are using AI and data to improve experiences. I hope you can learn from their example and develop systems and processes in your organization that enable customers and employees alike to benefit from the marriage of people and machinery, enabling them both to add value to your brand.

Ben Baker wants to help you retain and grow your most valuable asset…your employees. He provides workshops and consulting to enable staff to understand, codify and communicate their value effectively internally and externally and Lead at Any LevelThe author of  Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours and host of the IHEART Radio syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show, he writes extensively on brand and communication strategy. Contact Ben here