Digital-first companies and startups are harnessing emerging technologies such as AI and ML to find intelligent and actionable insights to provide stellar user experiences

As consumers and businesses rapidly move toward online engagement, customers demand more impressive and personalized service interactions. Companies that offer a good customer experience at every touchpoint have a better chance to diversify offerings and outdo the competition.

A study conducted by a global customer service software company, Zendesk, reveals that the recent health crisis has triggered an ecosystem change where the majority of the customers are flocking to social media and exploring new buying habits. The study highlights that 64% of customers have started using a new customer service channel in 2020. This trend has pushed almost 85% of the companies to tweak their customer connect and support strategy in 2020.

It’s the customer ultimately who makes or breaks a brand’s success. And who would know the art better than the new-age companies? Many digital-first companies demonstrate how new growth areas can be identified by constantly innovating their customer experience strategy leveraging tech.

Intuitive customer experience strategy is a key

There are two parts to the personalized experience problem statement. The first is to understand the psychological behavior of the individual, and the second is to present it in the most intuitive way possible. “We win half the battle if we understand our users’ psychological purchasing behavior and show those results they like. The second half of the battle is to present the data correctly and intuitively possible, which we provide through Augmented Reality. AR-VR-MR are the only ways where we can provide an excellent experience and purchasing assistance to the user,” says Devvrat Arya, Vice President – Technology, Pepperfry.

During the pandemic, Pepperfry was one of the first digital service providers to take cognizance of the transition in consumer behavior from offline to online and deployed simplified UI/UX to ensure a seamless experience for consumers, especially first-time buyers (FTB). The company started offering a 3D model viewing feature where users can view a product in a 3D model and interact with the effect on their mobile phones and website.

From a business perspective, Pepperfry’s tech-integrated logistics infrastructure aided in clearing the delivery backlog caused due to the lockdown in a brief period. “We have been leveraging an in-house analytics solution called ‘Athena,’ named after the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy, to help our team stay updated on important metrics and trends. This has enabled us to craft powerful strategies to continue championing the online furniture and home space,” Arya adds.

According to Ben Boesch, Chief Digital Officer, VFS Global, tech players mostly pushed innovation to market during the pre-pandemic times. “Smartphones are a good example – customers didn’t ask for a keyboard-less phone; tech companies convinced them that this design is superior. Post pandemic, the tables have turned, and the heightened expectations of customers confront enterprises,” Boesch states.

Traditionally, the visa application process has been largely paper-based and involved physical primarily interactions such as document check and submission, payment, and biometric enrolment at Visa Application Centers (VACs). VFS Global’s appointment management system (AMS) allows customers to find their preferred VAC, visiting time, and services.

“Customer insight has shown that most of our customers would welcome a solution to upload documents before their visit, reducing the anxiety of incomplete or erroneous documentation. We are now rolling out a digital document check (DDC) for applications for specific client governments, allowing customers to do exactly that,” Boesch informs.

Beyond pure digitization, VFS Global has implemented ML solutions that eliminate the need for data entry if the information is already available in supporting documents (e.g. passport or flight booking). Working with an AI startup VFS has reduced the time required to complete an e-visa application by more than 50%.

“Listening to our customers, we currently aim at shortening the interaction time in our physical touchpoints by offering digital document checks ahead of the visa submission or providing our services remotely altogether with our highly popular Visa At Your Doorstep (VAYD) product,” adds Boesch.

Delivering a seamless experience across all touchpoints

Businesses today have multiple touchpoints to connect with the customer – be it social media, online, website, conversational chatbots, email, or phone. It becomes critical and challenging to continuously meet customers’ expectations digitally by keeping a consistent approach across all touchpoints.

However, by leveraging the latest technological innovations, new age companies and startups demonstrate the best ways to deploy action-oriented strategies to excel in this area. The customer wants a great and consistent experience at every touchpoint. Leveraging AI and ML-powered tools and solutions, these emerging companies focus on managing their customers’ journey efficiently – every customer complaint, usage pattern, and feedback get documented and analyzed – to understand the gaps and proactively address them.

“One size doesn’t fit all, and the hour’s need to deliver exceptional customer experience is the personalization of products and services. Organizations should analyze data and insights, such as customer data and monitoring interactions, and devise strategies to improve customer engagement. For instance, in today’s time, providing an omnichannel experience for the customer at multiple touchpoints helps provide better customer experience,” says Jyothirlatha B., CTO at Godrej Housing Finance.

As new engagement channels open, the customer experience platform needs to make sure they can seamlessly integrate with minimal downtime and faster time to value. The healthcare industry, for instance, has been long waiting for such innovations at scale.

“During the peak wave period, we built several tools to identify available COVID beds in hospitals, conduct lab tests at home, and enable people to register themselves for the vaccination program,” says Enbasekar D, Co-Founder & CTO, MediBuddy. 

By leveraging AI, data science, natural language processing (NLP), MediBuddy has been analyzing millions of data records to track its initiatives, understand healthcare requirements, and monitor the quality of medical services that doctors provide on its platform.

“Providing stellar user experience is a key priority for us. We have a strong team of product managers, analysts, and tech specialists who interact with customers to find how to best design user interfaces, create trust with users, and deliver ease of use,” Enbasekar adds.

Another digital-first company Zoomin, a leading digital photo printing and gifting app, has been leveraging specialized software and algorithms at every part of its operations to deliver innovative gifting solutions and smartly connect with customers at each digital touchpoint. Leveraging cloud infrastructure and analytics ensures that relevant designs and products are being offered to its target user segment, as per their choice.  

“We use client-facing AI tools to make the photo creation process far simpler and easier for customers, both on the Zoomin App. By leveraging the latest web and app technologies, we provide access to the customers and help them create the photo album. In addition, we have an end-to-end production workflow to make sure that orders placed are printed fast and ship at the fastest possible time,” says Sachin Katira, CEO & Director at Zoomin.

Ready for today and preparing for tomorrow

The young and digital-first companies are better equipped to tackle and spot the market trends, tread fearlessly but with a tech-driven intelligent approach while avoiding pale imitation. 

By leveraging AI-powered chatbots and deep learning-based algorithms, they seem to be ready for today’s transformative times and prepare for tomorrow to improve operational efficiencies and manage customer queries at higher precision. The challenge, however, will be to do that consistently as we continue to evolve digitally.

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