AI Can Boost Service for Vulnerable Customers

By neub9
3 Min Read

Businesses can utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and support consumers who require additional assistance.

AI has evolved into a versatile tool for businesses, offering benefits such as increased sales, streamlined operations, and enhanced customer interactions. A new study from Texas McCombs, however, highlights an additional application for AI in business: promoting social good.

One way AI can contribute to the social good is by helping businesses cater to vulnerable consumers — individuals who experience limitations in accessing and controlling resources in the marketplace.

“AI is widely recognized for its operational and financial benefits, but it also holds promise for harnessing social good and helping businesses adopt socially responsible practices,” says co-author Gizem Yalcin Williams, assistant professor of marketing at Texas McCombs.

Together with researchers from ESCP Business School in Berlin and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Williams developed an AI framework that businesses can use to identify vulnerable consumers, address their specific needs, and mitigate potential discrimination and inequality.

By making customer service more accessible, interactive, and dynamic, AI can help vulnerable consumers improve their understanding of specific information to make better decisions for themselves. For example, AI tools can analyze consumer voice and reactions, provide real-time feedback to customer service representatives, and offer tips to enhance interaction. Key concepts of the framework include:

We’re All Vulnerable (Sometimes). Vulnerability is not always a persistent condition; it can be a dynamic state that comes and goes. Cognitive and physical limitations, as well as emotional distress, can compromise an individual’s judgment. According to Williams, “Vulnerability can differ in duration and intensity, but literally every consumer can be vulnerable.” She also emphasizes that AI technologies are uniquely positioned to identify and empower vulnerable consumers.

Rating Risk. AI can analyze consumer chat responses in real-time and develop a risk score for agents to better interact with vulnerable consumers.

Targeting Extra Support. When AI detects vulnerability, it can offer tips to agents and suggest special measures to support consumers in processing information and making informed decisions.

Positive Ripple Effects. While integrating AI into customer service requires investment, businesses can expect financial and reputational benefits by helping vulnerable consumers through challenging times. Williams notes that “When effectively implemented, businesses utilizing AI to empower their vulnerable customers can expect a positive spillover, fostering increased loyalty, improved customer satisfaction, and boosted profits.”

“Deploying Artificial Intelligence in Services to AID Vulnerable Consumers” is published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

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