Artificial Intelligence in the Age of the Customer

One of the keys to a successful business hinges on the ability to cultivate and develop relationships with prospective and existing clients. There is a lot of talk about how we, as a society, are now in the “Age of the Customer”, but what does that really mean?

Today, customers truly have more access and availability than ever before to learn, evaluate, and understand the products and services they are interested in. They are able to make judgements before they ever interact with someone from a sales team. One way we can bring balance back is to leverage Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Why CRMs can’t do it all

Most businesses implement CRM with the goal of having one “view of the truth” of their customer relationships. There are two primary reasons why this strategy does not always yield the desired results. First, CRM is usually missing the details about the relationship that are found in email, calendar items etc. That is a topic for another blog. Second, while there are great reporting tools to analyze quantitative data like “days to close” and “average selling price”, tools to understand qualitative data like sentiment are just coming to market.

This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in. AI technology will allow businesses to understand the sentiment of their customers towards their products and services and the sentiment of its own employees in relation to their customers. AI could very well be the counterbalance that helps companies understand their customers better than the competition, thereby providing a competitive advantage by arming employees with the most recent and relevant insights on that customer.

According to Destination CRM, CRM vendors are betting that with AI, businesses will be able to deliver more predictive and personalized customer experiences across sales, service, marketing, commerce, and more. This is not happening ten years down the road, it is happening right now, adding value by paving the way for a faster means of generating opportunities and increasing revenue.

“AI has the potential to have a huge bearing on everything we are doing around technology and frankly, our lives,” noted Ken Lorenz, Riva Director of Sales and Alliances for the Americas.

A big part of the benefit of AI is that it is able to learn to comprehend and understand, which in turn makes it easier for people, especially sales representatives, to interact with customers in a way that is in alignment.

Artificial Intelligence

AI and Machine Learning (ML) differs from typical algorithms in that as a key feature of the technology, it learns and gets fundamentally smarter the more we use it.

“On the simplest level, AI brings people to technology – no different than when we talk to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. Part of what AI does is to read written text, listen to audio, and watch videos – taking in the information while also trying to understand it,” said Lorenz.

Rather than spending time analyzing the data on their own, companies can use AI to process this information in a matter of moments.

For the AI to optimize its usage, it requires the user to interact with it, and help it learn. “It’s not just about asking the AI bot a question, but more about AI offering predictions and recommendations,” he said.

For example, if you ask the AI bot a question, it will give you a response. If you take that response and put it to use and go back to the bot and tell it which options worked and which didn’t, going forward it will know to exclude the offerings that did not work.

Customer Intelligence

For the past decade Riva has been known as a leader in synching data between email systems and CRM systems.

“We are really at an inflection point in relation to the real value we provide, which is Customer Intelligence,” Lorenz explained.

Customer Intelligence (CI) refers to the process of gathering and analyzing information regarding customers, and their details and activities, to build deeper and more effective customer relationships and improve decision-making by vendors. This includes both quantitative and qualitative data.

By combining AI and CI companies are able to better and more rapidly understand specific insights for an account or opportunity. This is all done with a single click to relevance so that customer-facing teams can respond more accurately and fully to customers.

According to a study commissioned by Salesforce conducted in June, 2017 entitled “A Trillion-Dollar Boost: The Economic Impact of AI on Customer Relationship Management”, the majority of businesses currently working with or planning to use AI in the future, intend to put it to use for email marketing, sales forecasting, sales and marketing lead scores, and sales opportunity scoring.

AI and Riva

Riva currently provides CI through Riva Insight, which is a mashup of different data sources that is displayed directly within a user’s email. With the introduction of AI, we are now able to build cognitive analytics directly into the Riva platform allowing our customer’s access to this next-level, powerful analytical tool to immediately increase their win rate.

Riva is implementing Sia created by Opentopic using IBM Watson technology. “Ultimately, we are working toward providing the best tools in the market in combination with each other to be able to provide that level of customer intelligence that you can’t get now from one particular vendor or data source,” said Lorenz.

Sia was developed primarily to understand written or oral public conversations. Riva is working with Opentopic to expand that to what happens within the four walls of a business. Imagine Sia being able to access internal emails and notes in your CRM to provide the best chances of aligning with a customer’s true needs.

Sia has the ability to consume data and come back with observations about what it is learning and will be trainable, meaning you can teach it the information you want it to find. “We will be able to dial in the observations to help differentiate what customers are seeing,” said Lorenz.

Sia’s plug and play functionality begins offering Immediate ROI since it can be used right away.

“Essentially, it is a digital assistant,” noted Lorenz. “It’s like bringing on a new employee, a digital employee with the skills of a PhD.”

For Riva, this AI technology means being able to provide customers with significantly more value because it is providing tools to help clients make better sense of the information and data they are seeing and allows them to maintain deeper and more meaningful relationships with their customers. It means companies can know and understand their customer better while at the same time, creating customer loyalty.