Can AI Create a Friction-Free Consumer Experience?
When Apple sold its first computers, they came with a thick, printed manual. Today, Apple’s iPhone comes without any documentation. Because it’s that easy to figure out.
That was our goal when we thought about creating a new mobile phone company. Simply put, we wanted Visible to just work. Our goal was to make it a service that not only reflected, but advanced the notion of how we live today.
And that way is digital, one where increasingly our social interactions, both business and personal, are primarily occurring online. But it’s one thing to create a website where you want a customer to go once to buy a product, and another to develop an e-commerce experience in which you expect that people will return to, again and again.
So that became our challenge: how do we develop a mobile phone service that eliminates the old-school ways of physical stores and endless waits for phone support, and instead creates a value-for-money, friction-free experience that keeps our costs low and allows us to do the same for our customers?
Consumers understand that physical stores can be inconvenient; especially in this age of COVID, no one wants to drive to a store, then wait for 30 minutes to ask a question or buy a plan. So when we eschewed the idea of physical locations and instead worked to create the best online experience possible, we had this “touchless retail” concept at the core of our business.
And it was going to be a major effort, because what it meant was that we would need to provide an exceptional end-to-end digital experience from the moment someone went to our site for the first time, then decided to order our service, port their existing phone number, easily view and understand their bill, have their questions asked before they even knew they had them, and expected to be treated in a way that would constitute the highest level of customer service.
How, we asked ourselves, would we be able to provide the human touch, without having any human-staffed physical stores?
We realized that one of the prime ways we would do that is through the use of AI. Harnessing artificial intelligence in the service of our secure, collected data, would allow us to figure out what a customer needs, often before they even knew they needed it.
And that’s taking another page from the Steve Jobs playbook. When Apple did have printed instruction manuals, they were structured to anticipate the questions most users would have, and then answer them before the questions were even formulated in peoples’ minds. By “heading them off at the pass” as Apple did, we also can keep our users happy and frustration free.
Clearly, we’re on a mission to improve our customer experience. We’ve code named our overall approach our “Blue Glove” service, after our corporate colors. Included in that initiative is to use what I call “Human-powered AI,” to help make sure that our new and existing customers get the answers and service they need before and when they need them.
We strive always to be proactive; we want consumers to have a great experience from the moment they enter our site. As with any cutting-edge startup, there is no playbook here, because no one’s done exactly what we look to do.
We’re looking at how we can make the support process easier and more accurate. There’s little that’s more frustrating than starting an online chat with a customer service agent and then waiting ages for an answer, or receiving a reply that sounds as if the person on the other end of the connection isn’t paying attention. If you’re like me, then you’re familiar with having to type “no, that’s not what I asked. Here’s what I want to know.” And when that happens, you realize that you’re just one step closer to finding another company with which to do business.
Typical chatbots simply pull generalized answers from FAQ pages. That was never going to be good enough for us. So we’re looking at our anonymized chat discussions and, through AI, working to figure out what the most appropriate answers will likely be.
While our current offerings lead the industry in value, we’re building a platform that gives an extra value that’s not directly financial. Through the use of AI, we’re working on creating an awesome personalized experience, one that reflects an individual’s needs based on their general customer demographics as well as on the personal information they feel comfortable telling us about themselves.
While data is key, collecting it and protecting it are paramount, as well as some of our biggest challenges. Customers must be assured that anything they allow us to know about themselves is protected fully against all bad actors. In addition, we need to analyze that data in such a way that no inherent biases are ever introduced into its analysis.
And for those times when a customer may not wish to share personal data, we will analyze cohort data, creating sophisticated algorithms that can make accurate assumptions about an individual based not on their specific preferences, but rather on the behavior of their peers, as well as what unrelated third-party activities might allow us to infer.
It’s no surprise that a service such as Visible will appeal more to the digitally-savvy, younger generations, Gen Zers and Millennials who tend toward social consciousness and a desire to improve the world. And that fits in perfectly with our remit: not simply to create another mobile phone company but one that sees itself as a communications company, allowing people to connect around the world in an easy, cost-effective manner.
Because when we think about how we can constantly improve our company’s service and offerings, we are always measuring our initiatives based not on how we can make more money, but on how our strategies will improve our subscribers’ ability to communicate. Because communications—between us and our customers, and our customers with each other—is one way we will solve problems and improve our society.