Customer data + AI: creating personalized, empathetic customer experiences 

Editor’s note: Clare Dorrian is CMO of Calif.-based software company SugarCRM. 

Pandemic disruption continues to teach us that companies operating from a place of empathy and customer knowledge build stronger relationships and loyalty – the hallmarks of an effective marketing strategy.

Marketers must operate with compassion. The challenge is that with the rise of the digital economy, marketers are swimming in copious amounts of customer data to interpret and inform personalized, empathic communications – an unfair match for the human brain without the help of artificial intelligence (AI). 

When AI runs in the background, sifting through massive data sets across customer channels, it can help marketers identify the next-best actions and opportunities. Even still, AI is hard for most organizations to get off the ground. Gartner says, “63% of digital marketing leaders still struggle with personalization, yet only 17% use AI and machine learning across the function.”

Combining empathy and AI helps to improve marketing results to sell and serve customers more effectively. With empathic AI solutions, better data and data detection bring new marketing performance levels via a high-definition customer experience view.

AI: A marketing tool to improve CX

Today, bringing data-fueled AI to marketing automation helps facilitate rapid and reliable marketing lead qualification and prioritization through AI-powered predictive lead scoring. AI can analyze historical lead activity, account, deal and company data to predict which leads are most likely to become customers. With AI, lead scoring is based on similarity to historical conversions, while ideal company profile matching identifies similar leads to a company’s past and current customer bases.

Imagine the power of sales and marketing synergy that comes with reliable lead qualification and prioritization based on predictive lead scoring and its measured contribution to conversion to understand its significance. AI predicts leads’ likelihood of converting to marketing qualified leads and flags prospects to prioritize for sales.

With AI-infused marketing automation solutions, marketers can deliver a high-definition customer experience, remove the blind spots, busy work and roadblocks.

Empathy is vital to marketing success 

Empathy is critical yet elusive. According to Forrester, “Consumers are gravitating toward the brands that prioritize people over profits. While nearly all businesses know the importance of showing customer empathy, most struggle to deliver it.”

Using AI to identify how customers feel – so customer-facing professionals can understand and respond in real time – has many organizations prioritizing humans and bots working together to bring out each other's best capabilities. Today, AI-driven sentiment analysis capabilities are supercharging CRM functions such as sales, marketing and service interactions with the power of knowing each customer's and prospect's emotional state and intent.

Paul Greenberg, President, 56 Group, and author of “The Commonwealth of Self Interest: Business Success Through Customer Engagement,” has written about the business empathy imperative – the ability to understand what customers and employees are going through, along with the relevant context, and act accordingly. He says, “One of the highest callings of customer experience professionals and enabling technology platforms is helping customers via an understanding of their struggles and aspirations.”

Empathic AI solutions are becoming increasingly good at using sentiment analysis capabilities to understand the customer better, leveraging a combination of natural language processing and AI to surface next-level or next-best-action for empathic customer engagement. Greenberg says, “AI-powered sentiment analysis weds customer voice and text to business action, providing every sales and service interaction with the means to account for customers’ emotional tone and attitude – context indispensable to supporting exceptional experiences.” In addition, business professionals can review sentiment data to evaluate overall customer experience and journey effectiveness – providing the means for continuous improvement in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Human empathy augmented by AI is helping front-line employees who work directly with customers better understand and respond in context to the range and depth of customer behaviors and emotions to ultimately serve them better.

Compassionate marketing 

For marketers to make a material difference to customers in today's CX era, they must lead with authenticity in every communication. Don't dress your marketing up with language your audience doesn't understand. Compassionate marketing leads to greater engagement and trust (and ultimately increased conversions).

AI can help marketers better understand the customers and prospects they stand the best chances with – marketing dollars will go further, and as a result, brand reputation will improve. Leveraging AI using sentiment analysis capabilities also provides the predictive insights businesses need to recognize customer emotions and intent with accuracy and precision at scale. In turn, that also augments the overall experience for customers.

Marketing knows AI is coming "over the hill," and while there are still many grey areas around how to get started, it's time to take hold of AI to enable marketers to do what they do best. And that is not crunching thousands of data sets – it is connecting with customers and prospects on a deeply human level.