Companies like KFC, Volvo, and ASOS, are using artificial intelligence to add value for customers. Steve Van Belleghem explores how.

I’m often asked how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to enhance customer experience. A lot of people seem to still have cold feet about jumping into the AI pool, because it seems like a high level, expensive solution – but it shouldn’t be.

The many little problems that people struggle with can be solved with AI solutions. It’s not always about giant leaps, like brain-computer interfaces or tools that beat the most difficult games in the world, it’s also about making the lives of customers and employees better in small, meaningful steps.

If you want your brand to survive the age of filtering bots and automated buying, that’s definitely an important way to prove your added value.

Here are five examples of companies that use AI to boost customer experience:

1. Macy’s

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want your shopping to be done in a fast, frictionless and efficient manner – yet how often is there no shopping assistant around when you need help?

Department store chain Macy’s is testing cognitive AI technology which helps shoppers within their stores. Their smartphone-based assistant ‘Macy’s On Call’ answers natural language questions with relevant customised responses. Interactions can vary from where specific departments, products or brands are located, to what services and facilities can be found in a certain store.

For me, this is AI-driven customer experience at its best: a simple and convenient solution to a common problem, that allows human shop assistants to focus on the more complex questions, where they can really be of added value. The use of AI for customer experience does not have to be overly complicated - small concrete problems are often a great place to start.


Another simple, convenient example of AI is UK-based clothing retailer ASOS’ use of computer vision. Customers can upload a photo of a film star or influencer wearing something they like, and the computer will scan their huge database of clothes to find something that is similar, and more affordable.

This is an example of how you can keep customers happy, and get them coming back to buy more. Users of ASOS’ visual search view 48% more products than other consumers and are 75% more likely to make a return visit. They even place orders that are worth 9% more.

3. KFC

KFC’s collaboration with ‘China’s Google’ Baidu is a more experimental example of the use of AI in customer experience. Facial recognition is used to predict what a customer might eat, based on the time (breakfast, brunch, lunch…), the estimated age, gender, and mood of the person.

For example, a 20-something male would be offered “a set meal of crispy chicken hamburger, roasted chicken wings and coke”. KFC claims the system will remember what you ate, for the next time you visit.

China is huge on speed, efficiency and personalisation, so it’s not surprising that such an experiment is running there. They are a lot more comfortable with digital ordering and the use of facial recognition – the merger between the offline and online world is what they do best.

4. Volvo

Volvo’s Early Warning System examines over one million events every week to predict which car parts will need to be changed or repaired. No one knows your car better than your car knows itself, right?

Imagine never being in danger of your brakes packing in, and never needing to call a tow truck again. Volvo have also been testing cars with sensors that report on driving conditions, for instance on icy roads, and they even deliver these data to the Swedish highway authorities.

This is something that goes beyond great customer experience. It’s about the safety of the drivers and their family. It’s even about insurance, stretching the longevity of a car and of course, about the learnings that Volvo will receive from permanently monitoring the data of their cars.

5. Boxed

This is a great example because it brings us one step closer towards fully autonomous shipping.

Boxed is an American online and mobile membership-free wholesale retailer. Their AI tool called Smart StockUp predicts when you are running low of the daily products you regularly purchase, like toilet paper, detergent or milk.

Boxed looks at both the shopping history of individuals as well as more general re-stocking patterns to make the recommendations. It asks users a few questions at the start that will help them refine the predictions. After that, users receive recommendations for “Need These Now” and “Need These Soon” products. If Boxed guessed correctly, shoppers can click to add them to their cart. The genius thing is of course that the more you buy at Boxed (instead of a competitor), the smarter the system will become and the better it will get to know your restocking patterns.

This could really be the start of fully-automated buying, and it will be really exciting to see where it goes from here.