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The core question here is a balancing act: How can AI streamline your customer interactions without risking the entire customer relationship?
David Markey, Engagement Manager

Generative artificial intelligence (generative AI) is transforming customer-businesses interactions. Here's how companies can adapt to secure customers in a generative AI-driven landscape.


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In this video series, energy and natural resources experts share their take on how businesses can harness risk, turn climate intent into action, and lead in the age of acceleration.  

A common misconception is that winning the generative AI revolution is all about automation. It’s a bit more complex. The companies that will come out on top are the ones that understand generative AI is changing how customers interact with businesses and – importantly – adapt to this new reality.

My name is David Markey – I help companies think about how to best use new technologies. I started my career working on AI smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home because I wanted to solve hard problems on the cutting edge of technology. When I eventually sold my smart speaker business, I took what I learned and applied that to Energy and Natural Resources clients that we work with at Oliver Wyman – optimizing operations, forecasting supply outages, and so on.

But the problems of today are not the same as they were when I was working on AI smart speakers. At that time, my clients were asking, “Can I reach customers through AI?” Generative AI has answered that question. The answer’s yes. In fact, your customers might even reach you through AI.

Today, the question is, “Can I trust AI with my customers?” AI isn’t new to the Energy and Natural Resources sectors – my clients have often asked me how they can use computer vision and predictive models to best serve their customers, but it’s typically been just that: Companies using AI to serve customers. Generative AI has flipped the script: Customers now use AI to get to companies. Most likely, your customers are increasingly learning about and interacting with your business through generative AI chatbots as opposed to traditional internet search. That’s a double-edged sword: On one hand, generative AI has the potential to seamlessly guide your customers through their product experience. On the other hand, these tools can take the customer experience out of your control, creating suboptimal and unmonitored product experiences for your customer. 

This leaves leaders with a decision: In what areas do you embrace AI as an intermediary with your customers and where do you encourage direct relationships? I'll give you two areas to consider your business strategy around AI intermediation: Customer Acquisition and Customer Interaction.

Generative AI brings new uncertainty to your business’ marketing approach. That’s not just my opinion – Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, declared a Code Red over the threat that large language models (LLMs), like ChatGPT, pose to search. If you rely on search to win new customers, you should be asking how you’ll acquire new customers in a generative AI world. One option that I’ll put out there is through the new direct marketing opportunities that these LLMs create. Generative AI can tailor content to individual customers. And the opportunity is no small potatoes: Our North American team helped a client double click-through rates on its marketing emails. We did this using generative AI to tailor each email’s content to an individual customer.

Now, let’s turn to customer interaction. Companies are already integrating with ChatGPT to facilitate customer interactions. Expedia, OpenTable, Klarna, Indeed – these companies have made their products available through ChatGPT. Instacart even lets ChatGPT populate users’ shopping carts with a single click. These early adopters exemplify the opportunity here – generative AI can remove friction from your product and purchase experience. But that opportunity isn’t without a cost: You give up control of your customer experience. The core question here is a balancing act: How can AI streamline your customer interactions without risking the entire customer relationship?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by these questions. The most important action you can take is to get started before you’re too far behind to catch up. I’d suggest four ways you can start addressing AI intermediation: 

  1. First, consider historical parallels. Who were the recent winners and losers of recent intermediation shifts?
  2. Second, understand what AI’s saying about you today and how that impacts where you’d like to market to customers in the future.
  3. Third, evaluate how AI chatbots could improve your customer interactions. What are the companies integrating with AI today doing?
  4. Finally, take baby steps. In general, new technology benefits from a test-and-iterate approach. 

Generative AI is reshaping the way customers reach businesses. Tomorrow's winners will be those companies that recognize and adapt their customer strategy to the new generative AI reality. AI is here and your customers are using it. What are you going to do?

My name is David Markey, and this is my take on generative AI.

This transcript has been edited for clarity