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Efficiency and Engagement: Improving the Customer Experience Through Artificial Intelligence

Joe Hinrichs profile picture John Sullivan profile picture

Contributors: Joe Hinrichs, John Sullivan

December 8, 2022


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Waiting in line at the airport to check a bag may be one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of a vacation. As an airline passenger, there's no way to predict how long check-in lines will be when you arrive—especially as of late, when a surge of post-COVID travel is being met by the staffing shortages gripping every industry across the country.

Improving customer satisfaction was a challenge recently presented by a national airline. With a goal of moving passengers through its lines as quickly as possible, the airline craved a solution that would alert station managers if wait times exceeded eight minutes and determine if agent counters were properly staffed during peak hours. But the airline didn't have the data needed to assess these problems and come up with solutions.

			standing in
			line at an airport.

Enter: Realwave, an intelligent video surveillance solutions company and AI partner to Bailiwick. Utilizing cameras installed in the airline's lobby, the airline is able to capture the length of lines, calculate how long customers were waiting in line before reaching a kiosk, and examine how many agents were present to accommodate passengers.

"It doesn't use facial recognition," says Joe Hinrichs, the vice president of IT and product development for Bailiwick, which partners with Realwave to offer intelligent video services to its clients. "What we're doing instead is using other indicators—a hat color, a bag they're carrying, maybe they're wearing a black jacket—and tying those things together to identify an individual. We're not storing information on a particular person; we're creating an identification through a set of characteristics, and then we're assigning them a number."

People standing in
			line at an airport.

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In the airline's case, the data collected by the cameras—and then transmitted to a real-time dashboard—was able to aid the airline in making staffing decisions to keep passenger wait times under the eight-minute goal.

"For a good customer experience, standing in line for a long time is something you want to really limit," says Hinrichs. "You want to be able to move people through quickly—not only for a pleasant experience for the customer, but so that you can get more people through the line, which oftentimes translates to more business."

AI video technology can also be tapped to monitor engagement with customers, potentially leading to an increase in a company's sales. "Engagement is part of the customer experience, but it's also a store gain benefit," says Hinrichs, explaining how brick-and-mortars can leverage this technology.

Through video cameras, retailers can track how long it takes for an employee to make contact with a customer once they arrive, as well as observe whether the salesperson walks through the store with the customer, pulls product from shelves, and shares information about certain items.

For example, "The idea at a shoe store is that the customer doesn't walk out with just a pair of shoes," says Hinrichs. "The salesperson might ask the customer not only about the type of shoe they're looking for, but also what kind of socks they need to wear with the shoe. Basically, a more thorough engagement could result in a much larger basket share."

Of course, despite your best efforts to improve staffing inefficiencies and engage the customer as promptly as possible, there will still be instances when waiting for service is inevitable, whether it's checking a bag with an airline or checking out groceries at the supermarket. Make the "waiting game" as enjoyable as possible by implementing the following strategies.

5 Ways to Entertain Customers While They Wait

  1. Offer free Wi-Fi. It should come as no surprise that most of your customers will kill time while they wait in line by scrolling through social media or news feeds. Make that easier for them by offering a password-free guest network they can connect to.
  2. Upsell with free samples. Promote new products by handing out samples to customers waiting in line. Not only will this strategy keep your guests happy (everybody loves free samples), but it may translate to more sales at the cash register if the guest enjoyed the sample enough to add it to their basket.
  3. Incentivize with QR codes. Increase digital interaction with your business by encouraging customers to scan a QR code while they wait in line. The QR code could lead to an email newsletter sign-up or a social media page to "like" in exchange for a discount on their purchase.
  4. Install screens near the checkout lines. Use digital signage to distract and entertain customers. The content displayed on these screens could include new product offerings, upcoming events at your location, games like trivia, and QR codes.
  5. Implement a virtual queue. Ditch the traditional checkout line altogether in favor of a virtual queue. Collect customers' phone numbers as they arrive and send them a text when it's their turn at the service desk or register. This allows them to relax, grab a coffee, or keep shopping—potentially leading to an increase in sales—while they wait.
A digital kiosk next to a checkout counter in a
			retail store.

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Taylor Hugo profile picture Written By Taylor Hugo
Taylor Hugo is a freelance writer and editor, and owner of Taylor Hugo Creative, a content marketing agency based in Denver, Colorado.

Curiosity and creative problem-solving.

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