10 Things Your Company Can Learn from Apple’s “Proactive” Siri

June 30, 2015

Smartphones have long been striving to live up to their name, but Apple is now upping the AI ante. In a push to rival Google Now, Apple has unveiled new upgrades to its popular “intelligent assistant,” Siri, with clear hopes of returning her to the head of the mobile class. The enhancements center around improving the iOS customer experience by anticipating user needs through close observation of their habitual behaviors and preferences. As Craig Federighi observed from the WWDC conference stage in June, “Siri is a great assistant, but the best assistants are proactive.”


With the newly proactive Siri—which pays attention to such things as your usage patterns, the time of day, your location, favorite apps, etc.—your iPhone can anticipate your next move and offer helpful suggestions or information before you even have to ask.


Siri’s transition from reactive support to proactive engagement provides a timely example for customer-focused organizations everywhere. While you may not live in your customers’ pockets like Siri does, there are plenty of things you can learn from Apple’s new focus on giving customers an anticipatory experience


1. Anticipate Competition
First, a meta lesson: No one is too surprised by Siri going proactive because, ironically, it’s an obvious reaction to Google Now (available since 2012) and its ability to read, analyze, and anticipate user behavior. It was only a matter of time before Apple caught up with its chief rival. While it may seem obvious, the moral of this story is that you need to know what your competitors are doing and why it resonates with customers if you have any hope of leading the way proactively.


2. Know Where Your Customers Are
As for your actual CX, many customer needs tend to be correlated to their location and customer journey, just as Siri can detect when you’re in the gym and start playing upbeat music while you’re there. Leveraging customer data as common as billing or shipping addresses becomes transformative when you begin to use geo-targeting to your CX advantage. Clothing retailer Anthropologie, for example, sent an email referencing triple-digit heat this summer and tied it to a promotion for their linen line, ideally targeting customers experiencing the warmest weather.


3. Partner with Companies that Complement Your Business
Apple has updated its digital assistant in a way that allows third-party developers to hook their apps into Siri, making the user experience even more efficient by anticipating not only popular Apple functions but also the features of other apps that are frequently used. It’s a win-win solution for Apple and the external apps it hosts, with iPhone or iPad users positioned right at the center of such mutually beneficial software partnerships.


4. Study What Your Customers Use Most—and Enhance It
Proactive Siri is all about enhancing—and thereby transforming—existing customer behaviors. “She” learns which apps and contacts users access the most and suggests them automatically, intuiting users’ next steps. The CX takeaway: Understand customer preferences; study their habits and favorite features of your business, and be present in their key customer journeys to create a more seamless experience.


5. KISS: Keep It Simple, Siri
In our complex world, adding CX features or customer support channels only helps if they’re easy for users to access. Apple makes it incredibly simple to access Siri with a single finger swipe. Follow in her digital footsteps by ensuring that any enhancements to your products and services are easy to find and use. To help, consider introducing video self-help aids to the support section of your website, for example, or offering agent-chat pop-up invitations to assist visitors who may have questions.


6. Solicit Customer Feedback
Apple gains media coverage almost effortlessly, and its customers are quite vocal about their feelings regarding the brand and its products, including Siri. But it’s important for any organization to find out what customers think of the efforts they put into CX. If you’ve added online chat support recently, be sure to solicit feedback about the experience. AT&T and Time Warner both have short, simple surveys that pop up when you finish a chat with a representative.


7. Measure the Impact of Your Changes in CX
Naturally, gathering customer feedback doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything with it. Assess what’s working and what isn’t. Use it to make investment decisions on where your CX can be improved. Apple says Siri’s voice-recognition accuracy has increased by 40%. You can be certain they received feedback on Siri’s previous capabilities to help them decide to focus on making changes to that particular feature.


8. Assure Customers Their Privacy Is Valued
Given how extensively Siri’s proactive features are based on monitoring user behavior, it may be no coincidence that Apple has simultaneously announced increased security measures. As collecting customer data becomes increasingly useful, reconsider existing privacy policies and go out of your way to inform customers about any changes. For example, consider moving from a generic fine-print privacy notice to a clear privacy declaration that is genuinely reassuring, especially if you begin to track and leverage customer locations.


9. Allow Opt-Outs
Siri’s new features are strictly voluntary: Apple customers still have full control over whether to allow Siri to “help” at all. In general, customers love the freedom to be in control of their experience, so be sure to continue to allow your customers to easily unsubscribe from text alerts and push notifications, to disable functions that track their location, and to complete online transactions without providing non-essential responses (e.g., invite—but don’t require—personal information like birth dates).


10. Be Sure You Can Deliver
As mentioned above, Apple has promised that Siri will recognize voices better with the release of iOS 9 this fall, yet many still recall that Siri’s initial debut was accompanied by advertisements of impressive product capabilities that Siri couldn’t perform in actual practice. Let’s hope that Siri’s voice comprehension really does improve when iOS 9 comes out. But if your company ever promises something to its customers, first make sure that you repeatedly test your ability to deliver.


Impressive CX means constantly evolving CX. Apple has already established itself as a leader in offering technologically advanced, intuitive, and multimodal-enabled customer support. Now its products are actively providing users with information they want before they request it, becoming an even more present fixture in our daily lives. While your organization may not be able to use Google Now and Siri in your own business practices, becoming a master of proactive CX is something that any organization that intends to win—and keep—today’s customer needs to learn.

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