Using Artificial Intelligence to create a high definition customer experience


Craig Charlton, CEO of SugarCRM, looks at how the modern-day customer experience can be improved

In the early two-thousands, I can vividly remember walking into a local electronics store and catching a glimpse of a high definition television for the first time. The quality of the visuals took television to a new level and made it feel like a truly immersive experience. It was streaks ahead of the grainy box that was sitting in my living room and I knew then it would revolutionise home entertainment. I can also remember a similar moment around the beginning of the last decade when 4K televisions began to hit the market, and we’re now seeing the emergence of 8K devices.

CRM has reached a comparable watershed moment. Currently, most businesses have a fragmented, dated and distorted picture of their customers, which is affecting the level of service that they can achieve, severely impacting their ability to grow.  Poor data quality hits organizations where it hurts – costing business an average of $15 million according to research from Gartner.  But to deliver a next-generation customer experience, businesses need to replace their current hazy view, with a sharply focused picture that’s rich in breadth and depth. We call this high definition customer experience, or ‘HD-CX’, and by delivering on it, businesses can reach new levels of performance and predictability, and increase customer lifetime value. With research indicating that 91% of data in CRM systems is incomplete, and 70% of CRM system data goes bad each year, there’s a long way to go, however.

The future of CX

Forrester states that over the next 5-10 years CX will become “crucial for brands to survive, for them to avoid disintermediation, irrelevancy, blandness, and/or cluelessness about customer sentiment.” Those brands that choose to wait 5-10 years before delivering a HD-CX experience however, will have found themselves disrupted and behind the curve.

To leapfrog competitors and fuel growth, companies need to obtain a high definition view of their market, business and customers as soon as possible. Right the way from formulating ideal customer profiles (ICP) and identifying sectors with propensity or intent to purchase, through to customer lifetime loyalty. HD-CX is all about drawing on accurate, up-to-date information from multiple sources and from across the organisation to reach new levels of business performance and predictability. The value of performance and predictability applies to businesses of all sizes and in all industries.

The importance of CRM being ‘time aware’

It’s about time we redefined the 360-degree customer concept and added the key missing component: Time. It was Benjamin Franklin that said, “Lost time is never found again.” Although nobody can stop the flow of time, what we can do is ensure a complete historical record of every change event in the customer journey, and augment this information via a rich repository of relevant information to ensure full situational and directional awareness of a customer.

It’s no good just having a 360-degree view of one moment in time—right now. Recording every change event in the customer journey is essential for predicting future outcomes. Accurate predictions enable companies to make better business decisions, manage risk, respond to problems and take advantage of opportunities. Organisations need to gain insight into the past, present, and future of their customer-facing business processes.

Using artificial intelligence to create a competitive advantage

Making sense of all this data can be a perennial issue for companies, with the average company holding on average 162.9TB of data. To make sense of this data, create a competitive advantage and deliver an unparalleled level of predictability across a whole array of different business use cases, Artificial Intelligence is the key.

Understanding your current state and how you got there is essential, but what if you had the ability to look into the future toward what your business could be? I’ve already stressed the importance of having a complete historical record of every change event in the customer journey to ensure full situational and directional awareness of your customers and your business, but AI considers the other direction of time: the future.

AI has the ability to deliver exceptional predictions, even with limited or incomplete CRM data by leveraging vast external data to consider factors your data doesn’t cover and surface insights that you may not have known existed. These unparalleled predictions allow businesses to make confident decisions and focus on the highest priority activities across marketing, sales, customer service, and more.

A word of caution however, predication accuracy is essential. Not all AI-powered prediction is created equal. This means a proven platform with deep learning models combined with both the best quality external data and CRM data, a combination that most companies can not provide to their customers.

Change is afoot. The companies that can create a time-aware, high-definition picture of their customers, utilising AI to provide exceptional customer experiences and business predictions, will benefit from greater customer relationships and unparalleled oversight of their businesses. Those that persevere with an old, outdated, standard-definition view of their customers, will quickly find the gap between them and their competitors can no longer be closed.

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Craig Charlton

Craig Charlton has been building and running high-growth businesses for 25 years. Before joining SugarCRM he was CEO of Oildex – the financial automation software and services provider – where he drove growth and oversaw the company’s acquisition by Drillinginfo. Craig also served as CEO of Abila, the financial and CRM provider operating in the association, non-profit and government space.