AI – Key to Personalizing Your Customer’s Experience

Whether I am buying an expensive car or a Valentine’s Day card, my personal experience during the buying process is an important determinant of whom I buy from and what I buy. The same is true for my experience with service calls after the purchase. Will I buy this product again?

Dave Edelman teaches at the Harvard Business School with a focus on Artificial Intelligence, AI, and how it is changing the customer’s buying and service experience.

Prof. Edelman told the story at a recent HBS event of how he and his wife bought solar panels for their home in suburban Boston. Solar power installers flooded them with unsolicited promotions with 20% and 25% off offers. Off what? They had some interest in solar panels, but nothing engaged them to respond.

They received an email addressed to them by name including the street address of their home. The email said that the configuration and location of their home allowed for a solar panel installation that would reduce their electricity cost by 25%. Clicking on the I Am Interested link brought up a Google Earth image of their house and showed a calculation of how solar power would reduce their electric consumption from the grid.

Another click and they were online with a sales rep with the information about their home in front of him. The rep took them through the complex lease or buy options. They bought the solar system and recommended it to their neighbors. Solar panels are a commodity product. The company that convinced Prof. Edelman to buy personalized the sales pitch to him and to his home.

After hearing this story, I related my experience buying a new car. Last year, I went to the Ford dealer from whom I purchased my last car. The dealer knew I was one of their customers. The sales rep was somewhat surprised that I was in the showroom asking about buying car. She took me to her desk and called up a link to the Ford Motor Company website. Looking at the website, she asked what Ford model I wanted to buy. I asked to look at the Bronco Sport and together we looked at options displayed on the site. I settled on a configuration and ordered my new car. Both the dealer and Ford had me in their data base but used none of that information to sell me a car.

Auto companies spend lavishly on TV ads to the general public, building brand awareness and image. Cars are a commodity with different models. Would their sales and marketing costs be lower if they better understood their customer and spoke directly with a personalized message to their most likely buyer?

Dave Edelman teaches at the Harvard Business School with a focus on Artificial Intelligence, AI, and how it is changing the customer’s buying and service experience.

I am thinking of how Carvana took the salesperson out of the auto-selling process but still relies on TV ads. Will a company use AI to target potential car buyers with a personalized pitch matching them with the car make and model meeting their particular needs and circumstances?

Prof. Edelman worked at Aetna Insurance before coming to HBS. He helped Aetna use the information they had on their insurance customers including their real-time interaction with the Aetna website to significantly reduce their customer service costs. AI allowed the Aetna customer service platform to know who the customer was and what problem they were trying to solve. If a service rep talked to the customer, the rep already knew who the customer was and what they were trying to do.

What can AI do for your company to personalize your customer’s experience while buying from you or receiving customer support? Do you know enough about your customers, and do you have the tools to capture the power of AI?

Flowers in the Desert
The Super Bowl football game was competitive and exciting to watch. The game was played in Arizona, home of the Grand Canyon. Much of the state is desert and while we don’t usually associate a desert with flowers, I saw some stunning flowers during a recent visit to the Grand Canyon. The vibrant colors of a prickly pear cactus are particularly dramatic against the red earth color scene.