MIT Study Reveals How 'Iconic' Firms Use AI

The word “iconic” has been applied to everything from pop stars to buildings. Now it is being used for firms that provide a pleasing customer journey through all channels, judging by a report in MIT Technology Review: “Getting to Iconic.”

Of the firms that qualify, 90% say they are good at “managing customer experience from an omnichannel perspective,” the study states. Presumably, that task includes effective use of email marketing and the analytics that drive it.

Overall, of the 550 firms surveyed in 40 countries, 75% believe they have reached that omnichannel level.  

But most iconic firms have “not yet fully deployed artificial intelligence,” although 80% use AI in some capacity and have “made investments in AI-related R&D,” the study states.  

What’s holding them back? Perhaps the fact that over a third of the iconic firms are likely to resist “sharing analytics and other customer insights across their ecosystem,” compared with just over a fifth of the poor-performing firms.

Still, AI use is growing among the leaders. Take Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce firm. At least one division began using AI three years ago on customer experience applications.

“At that time, we could hardly distinguish what was uniquely 'AI' from any other advanced technology,” said Felix Liu, head of Alibaba’s customer experience business group.

"Since then, Liu reckons, the capabilities of Alibaba’s AI-enabled customer agents have been transformative, in two distinct ways," the study continues.

The first benefit is in "a step-change increase in efficiency: by gathering customer data (a time-consuming process) and identifying key issues with one or two structured questions, AI currently ‘helps 100% of our customers with inquiries, and resolves 50% of them completely'," it adds.

What is not so clear from this study is how AI can help front-end marketing applications and triggered emails. But here are some other findings:

  • Iconic firms put high value on combining analytics with tools that heighten visibility across channels.
  • 87% report “leading-edge adoption of customer analytics, and 77% have deployed similarly advanced technologies.”
  • Iconic firms are more than twice as likely to use “leading-edge technology solutionsfor omnichannel customer experience areas such as next-generation self-service, loyalty program management, and “voice of the customer” survey analytics.
  • Corporate social responsibility is a differentiator for 75% of the iconic firms. 
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