• Nathan Simkiss, Author |

COVID-19 has created a New Customer, one whose behaviours and values have changed immeasurably. Already we have seen significant shifts towards digital channels with many now comfortable using online. Ease has been at the heart of this digital shift, which has touched all parts of society, irrespective of age.

This shift to digital interactions has opened new opportunities for organisations to consider the experience they want to create for their customers and the adoption of Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a key trend as businesses look to service those needs.

However, the marriage between tech and humans to seamlessly provide personalised customer experience needs to be orchestrated and needs to align to how your brand wishes to engage or be known be for in market. Those that do it best are setting compelling case studies for the adoption of AI.

The New Customer and AI

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of life, from the personal (how people live and work) to the professional (how companies interact with their customers, how customers choose and purchase products and services, how supply chains deliver them).

COVID-19 has had major economic implications but this can present opportunities for macro trends to be accelerated. When it comes to the adoption of AI, this trend is now firmly in the era of implementation.

KPMG’s latest UK 2020 Customer Experience Excellence report research shows that from this new economic and environmental reality the New Customer’s expectations of the type of experience they look for is vastly different to their expectations earlier in the year.

Alongside these rising expectations AI is finally reaching mainstream businesses. A new cohort of tech first AI businesses are flowing into the market, shifting the competitive landscape for incumbents. In looking to continue to give customers an outstanding service these companies are differentiating themselves by using digital technologies to drive proactive and personalised customer experiences. While fintech’s are leading the way, we are also beginning to see the adoption of AI in the public sector. 

What are the trends that are emerging?

Brands are wishing to take a digital first approach and are making a conscious decision to deliver a differentiated service in new ways. For M&S the crisis illustrated how differently they can use technology to run stores and make decisions faster. They have drawn up a new ‘never the same again’ agenda to govern their digital transformation to ensure their business pivots as it needs to.

Remote working, digital self-service, messenger bots and AI are all tech trends that have experienced accelerated use during the months of COVID-19.

When interacting with organisations customers expect to be able to move easily between channels and be able to start in one and pick up in another, with error free, frictionless interactions. Technology enabled channels, SMS, social media, messaging apps, video calls and webchat, allow interactions to be orchestrated across all channels and the entire customer journey.

Advanced analytics allow companies to give new levels of attention to detail to individual customer interactions. This means that companies can anticipate rather than react to customer needs. New ways of enhancing choice and personalisation will continue to evolve, as will the automation of many aspects of ordering, service, and delivery, leaving human players free to focus on higher value tasks.

In short, managing customer interactions is about delivering end to end experiences, fusing the advantages of technology and people to inspire advocacy and loyalty through a Six Pillar customer experience. 

Who is doing this well and where are the opportunities?

So, who is leading the way in the adoption of AI to service Customer needs? The best in class create customer experiences that are using advanced technology to disrupt the market.

For example, Lemonade in the USA have disrupted the insurance market with a combination of AI and Behavioural Economics. Lemonade take a “human-oriented technology” approach to maximise customer satisfaction. Maya, its own chatbot, uses AI to create and deliver personalised insurance policies and handle claims, without requiring insurance brokers. Speed is a key advantage of using AI, Maya can offer a policy in a matter of seconds without any paperwork or phone calls and with full transparency. In its first two years in business, Lemonade has grown from 96 customers to 250,000. And these customers are happy: 98 percent would recommend Lemonade to a friend. In the case of Lemonade, their technology defines the customer the experience.

Similarly, Bulb and Ocado in the UK have aligned their platform for customer interaction behind a fully orchestrated digital offering, ensuring customers interact primarily digitally, but ultimately have recourse to a human, whether through digital channels like Chat or through traditional voice when needed. It is essential to get the balance right between embedding analytics in customer service but making humans available when needed.

Outside of fintech, insurance and retail, AI is proving to have benefits for the public sector too. Improved planning, personalisation, and tracking of investment are delivering a much-needed step change in both the efficiency and effectiveness of government services. AI is helping by automating repetitive and mundane tasks, enabling staff to take on higher value work. For example, the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions have deployed AI to process incoming correspondence. By tackling labour intensive tasks, AI can positively transform the public service workforce and the desirability of government jobs. Health care is also a promising market for AI, where there is enormous potential in its ability to draw inferences and recognize patterns in large volumes of patient histories, medical images, and other data. 

What can we learn from this?

  • Post COVID the new customer behaves differently, is more digitally-savvy, value conscious and principled.
  • Customers now expect service interactions tailored to their transaction and interaction history; AI is an essential tool in meeting these demands.
  • In order to compete in the coming months and years organisations must adapt more rapidly than before. This means being extremely clear on what they need to offer - defined as a Six Pillar Experience - in order to build an enterprise that is lean, digitally enabled and fit-for-purpose.
  • There are opportunities for AI to mirror its impact in the private sector in government and health care.
  • Humans play a key role in the success of AI, being there for customers when needed is as important as ever.


Interested in reading more? Please see the links below for access to our latest Customer Experience Excellence Centre Reports on the New Customer and how AI and other trends are changing the way we interact with customers for good. 

2020 CEEC Report and Customer Connections: Competing in the new Reality