This article was co-authored by Devon King (Senior Account Executive, Sales) and Colm Bermingham (EVP, Sales) at Inbenta.

Businesses are losing Gen Z. At least, those businesses that aren’t living up to the expectations of their young, savvy, digitally native customers. 

Combined with Millennials, this cohort makes up over 42% of the U.S. buying public. Their expectations are clear, and they’re willing to pay for them. According to a recent survey, 48% of Gen Z consumers are willing to pay a premium to have online orders delivered faster. 

Nearly half of respondents rate quick and easy checkout as the most important factor in their shopping experience. A third rate quick and helpful customer service as a top priority.  

So what are businesses who fail to understand this missing? 

1. Gen Z wants access.

Born and raised in the era of smartphones and social media, this generation of consumers has a fundamentally new relationship with technology in every aspect of their life, from researching a subject to shopping for jeans. They want, and expect, instant access, fast answers, and self-service. Many even prefer digital interactions to phone calls or meeting face-to-face.

Given this consumer group’s lower tolerance for negative experiences, there is minimal margin for service slip-ups. Such as being re-routed to multiple agents, enduring long hold times on calls, or waiting days for matters to be resolved. This is particularly noteworthy considering that 83% of consumers expect immediate interaction with a company representative, according to a recent Salesforce survey.

This shift in consumer behavior has paved the way for the rise of AI technology that lets companies be available to their customers 24/7. For any business looking to cater to a younger, more digitally connected audience, understanding this technology — and how it could affect your bottom line — is key. 

2. Gen Z wants answers.

When thinking of AI applications to enhance customer experience, you first need some definitions. Generative AI, for instance, generates its responses from the patterns it’s learned. It’s sometimes described as a black box. Its answers can be hard to predict and based on statistical models that can’t be reverse engineered. In a chatbot, for example, generative AI tends to be a one-way interaction, featuring a prompt and a response. 

Conversational AI, on the other hand, is like a glass box. It’s based on natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and a lexicon, and its output is transparent and controllable. It can ask questions, clarify needs, and it can understand the nuances of language to interpret the intent behind a customer’s query. For organisations looking to integrate AI, this single element can be the difference between a customer finding what they’re looking for, and abandoning your site in frustration. 

As AIM Research points out, 40% of enterprise applications are expected to incorporate conversational AI by 2024. That’s up from less than 5% in 2020. This is a staggering jump, and a sign of just how quickly things are changing. A well-built AI chatbot can handle up to 85% of routine customer inquiries, freeing up customer service teams to focus on more complex or revenue-generating tasks. From quicker response times to more consistent support across the company, it’s not just more efficient, it’s a better customer experience. 

3. Gen Z wants honesty.

Customers honed on social media expect honesty and transparency. And the same rule applies to the use of AI in any customer interaction. Clearly communicating, for instance, that your chatbot or virtual assistant is powered by conversational AI will help you build trust with your customers. They might even prefer it to other businesses whose tech is less personable, or worse, keeps them waiting. 

By harnessing conversational AI in a personalised and thoughtful manner, with the customer at the core of your strategy, you can enhance your relationship with them and establish the groundwork for lasting customer loyalty.

The way forward  

Implementing AI technology doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. Many companies can get up and running with a conversational AI chatbot in as little as four to six weeks. Powered by machine learning, these are powerful tools that improve with use. The latest AI tech can even connect companies to platforms to allow them to reach their customers anytime, anywhere. 

Companies that embrace this new technology are poised to thrive in this digital-first era. Those that don’t may find that their customers have simply outgrown them.

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