Machine Customers Are Revolutionizing Digital Business

Machine Customers Are Revolutionizing Digital Business

Knock knock, this is your Machine Customer here, can anyone hear me? People have always seized the opportunity to use their time more efficiently. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers an easy way to have our own little helpers do business for us. Machine customers will redistribute market shares. This Boardman Grow member blog, written by Sirte Pihlaja and Ristomatti Partanen, delves deeper into what machine customers are, how they can be served and how you should head towards the era of machine customers.

Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, and several other industry players are increasingly emphasizing Agentic AI when talking about artificial intelligence. It represents the next big step in AI development now that generative AI has already become commonplace. Agentic AI enables the use of artificial intelligence in our everyday lives as machine customers, our personal digital assistants.

In April 2024, the authors of this blog, Ristomatti Partanen and Sirte Pihlaja, conducted a study on the level of service received by machine customers with customer service representatives and salespeople of large companies in their chat and email channels. This blog has been written based on the study.

Creating your own digital assistant does not require programming skills: today, anyone can create an assistant that makes recommendations and purchases online by using natural language.

The number of machine customers will explode when some easy-to-use application offered to consumers enters the market, if not even before. Who doesn’t want to have boring purchases put out to tender and get the best deal, without lifting a finger? People don’t have the energy to put 30 companies out to tender, but this is no problem for a machine.

What is a machine customer and why should you be interested in them?

Gartner estimates that next year, there will be 15 billion machines online that can act as customers and 18 billion by 2030. The share of customer contacts raised by machine customers will increase to a fifth in a couple of years, and by 2030, their transactions may represent an equally large share of companies’ turnover. Over the next ten years, machine customers will contribute a total of 30 trillion USD to purchases.

When we refer to machine customers, we mean AI-based agents and personal digital assistants, the number of which can be many times larger than the connected device base – different digital assistants specialize in their own tasks.

Agents use large language models (LLMs) and are able to plan their tasks, act and make decisions and choices independently. They can use different tools and connect with businesses through open application interfaces (APIs).

A machine customer does not care about marketing aesthetics or sales psychology; It is a logical and tireless negotiator who faithfully remembers to complete orders.

Agents use large language models (LLMs) and are able to plan their tasks, act and make decisions and choices independently. They can use different tools and connect with businesses through open application interfaces (APIs).

Study on digital assistants’ experience

In April 2024, we conducted a study on the service received by machine customers in chat and email whilst dealing with large company customer service representatives and salespeople. We narrowed the definition of a machine customer to an AI-based digital assistant communicating with humans in natural language.

Based on the research results, many companies do not recognise the potential of digital assistants or know how to serve them yet. Open APIs for machine customers’ self-directed transactions are not generally available. Maybe machine customers are already knocking on your door but run into one of those “Are you a robot” tests?

Our results show the urgency of developing strategies to improve the service delivered to machine customers. These strategies could include training your staff to understand artificial intelligence, updating technology and customer service processes to consider machine customers, and developing new services and channels to interact with them.

Companies need to improve the service experience for machine customers to increase customer satisfaction and create new business opportunities.

Price negotiation can be a key task for future machine customers if the solution or product and the required quantity are already known. A digital assistant can put several companies out to tender in parallel. The winners will be those who are able to serve and meet its needs at the cheapest rate and react the quickest.

When the respondent is an AI, the negotiations are completed within minutes. If the company responds slowly, others have already negotiated their bids and contracts. The digital assistant also takes into account their owners’ preferences, such as responsibility, customer satisfaction and reviews. Finding this information quickly can determine whether a machine customer even contacts you and considers doing business with your company.

Companies should be ready or even influence the future of machine customers.

Strategies to improve digital assistants’ experiences

Companies should be ready or even influence the future of machine customers. The most important challenge may be to prevent being excluded from the machine customer ecosystem. AI assistants may be able to work on some service provider’s platform and share a vision of good and bad businesses.

Your organisation’s management must plan what the future holds for machine customers:

  • Which businesses’ and consumer groups’ representatives could become your first machine customers?
  • Are they digital assistants for consumers who map the supply and select the best deals for their humans to choose from?
  • Are they mass tenderers of products, materials or services or devices that buy to resupply or get maintenance for themselves?
  • Which products or services are the most likely targets for machine customers’ purchases?
  • What aspects of your sales process do not apply to machine customers?
  • Which of your channels could the machine customers use when doing business with you? Or will you create a dedicated channel for them?
  • How do they find your business?
  • Who serves them?

The future is about re-distributing market shares: some will lose market, and others will win it. It is the time now to ensure that Finnish companies are on the receiving side of this equation in the future market situation.

We used to say, “You don’t exist if you can’t be found on Google.” We believe that this will continue to be the case: ” You won’t exist if you don’t know how to serve machine customers.”

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Authors

Sirte Pihlaja (CEO, CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional), Trained LEGO® Serious Play® Facilitator, Shirute & CXPA Finland) is one of Europe’s first CCXP-certified CX professionals and a recognized global influencer in the field. She has nearly 30 years of international experience in customer and employee experience development and service design. Sirte has written three global best-sellers about customer experience, the most recent of which deals with artificial intelligence and machine customers. She is passionate about using creative methods like LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to build unforgettable experiences and develop business. Sirte is a member of Boardman Grow and has participated in our Singapore and Silicon Valley Experiences.

Ristomatti Partanen (Senior Service Designer, Generative AI Solutions, IT Business at Elisa) has over 30 years of diverse career as a designer and consultant of IT solutions for various industries. He has strong solution-oriented service design expertise combined with a comprehensive understanding of business needs and the opportunities offered by technology.