Let me tell you a true story. A couple of weeks ago I received an email reminding me to renew my motor (auto) insurance. I wasn’t best pleased as the premium had increased considerably. So I called the insurance company. Speaking to the agent he offered me 5% discount, as if it was a personal favour he was doing for me. I said, “that’s exactly what happened last year. Why don’t you just build that discount into the rate for long term customers?” And I continued, “But more importantly, even with the 5% off the top, the premium has now increased by over 20% in two years!” The agent said basically, “take it or leave it.” I asked for the case to be escalated on the basis of being a long standing customer, but he became just a little stressed. So I wrote an email to the firm, stating my case; and after two days I received a standard reply saying, sorry nothing doing. You might be thinking, why didn’t you look around – and I did, but I have several policies with this firm and I want to keep the multi-policy discounts.
At this stage the renewal is coming within 7 days, and the very next day I receive an email making me some amazing offers if I renewed; would you believe a €200 holiday voucher, or a three month cinema pass, or fully funded family fun day, or a round of gold on a leading course. Now none of these would really cost the insurance company €200, but they would still involve serious cost, even if the uptake rate post renewal was low.
So I called the company again and spoke to another agent, “why not just cut the cost of my premium by say half of what the special offer would cost?” Predictably the answer was in the negative. Oh just not possible. Nor was it possible to talk to someone who might just be interested in what a customer had to say!
I make no apologies for the shaggy dog story because it highlights an essential truth about how large businesses operate. They fail to coordinate marketing and operations in both cost and policy. So when business analysts talk about cross channel user experience are they simply figuring out the mechanics? Do they ignore the policy separation and customer behavioral impact? Clearly that’s what happens in this big insurance company, and I would bet they are typical. They take a view that they will lose a certain percentage of their base on renewal each year and work on new business strategies to compensate. As opposed to looking at the overall problem from the customer behavioral perspective!
What’s this got to do with AI? Well you might say that your AI based system is only as good as your policy set and your ability to drive policies and strategy from an understanding of customer behavior. We have all complained down the years about the literally terrible call center agent experience; but very often this is not down to skills, it’s down to policy implementation, not allowing the agent to operate as a human by taking responsibility for some discretion. So in an AI context the question is with what sort of intelligence will you aim to replace your agents? And how much do you really understand about your customer behaviors so you can implement customer responsive policies?
To conclude, user experience (UX) must be more than just the mechanics of allowing the customer to renew a policy, place an order, manage a process etc. It’s got to respond to real customer needs in a manner that improves the business performance and customer satisfaction. And this won’t happen without major change in the way you track customer needs and develop policy. And surprise, surprise, this will lead to AI getting a bad name, not just for destroying jobs but also being totally unresponsive as more and more barriers are put in place between the organization and it’s customers.