To the businesspeople of yesteryear, the business landscape of the 21st century would seem an alien territory. But would it, really? When we scratch beneath the shiny veneer of technology, the heart of business – relationships – pulses as strongly as ever. It’s just that now, as we sail through the era of digital transformation, the nature of these relationships has morphed. And herein lies a paradox of modern enterprise: harnessing technology to recreate the intimacy of old-world business dealings.

Hark back to the age when business was done over a handshake, in a market square, when your customer was your neighbour and not an anonymised data point. Relationships were the lifeblood of business, a harmonious blend of trust, authenticity, and mutual respect. As businesses grew, the delicate balance began to shift. Scale necessitated depersonalisation, and processes and platforms took precedence over people.

In this vast, faceless sea of transactions, Customer Experience (CX) was the raft that enabled businesses to recapture the ethos of personalisation. But how should one design a remarkable CX? Let’s seek answers in the wisdom of an ancient philosopher – Aristotle.

Aristotle penned a framework of persuasion, the quintessential principles of effective communication: Pathos, Ethos, Logos, and Kairos. Unbeknownst to Aristotle, he was authoring a manual for 21st-century digital strategists and those designing digital customer experiences.

Pathos – Designing for Emotion

Pathos – the appeal to emotion, has become the language of modern design. Just take a glance at Apple’s website. Every pixel, every image, every line of copy is imbued with an aura of beauty and elegance that seeps into our psyche. To inspire and delight, and to communicate in a way that creates branded memories is a manifestation of Pathos.

Ethos – Building Credibility

Ethos, the credibility factor, is exemplified by the online retail behemoth, Amazon. Its elaborate review system, detailed product descriptions, and swift customer service have solidified its reputation as a reliable market leader. Credibility as a powerful driver of persuasion is also exemplified by brand building, social proof, shipping policies, customer service reliability and many other ways in which credibility is nurtured and grown.

Logos – Logical and Rational Information

Logos, the appeal to logic, is embodied in Google. Through its phenomenal algorithms, Google serves us precise, relevant information from the infinite abyss of the web, within microseconds. The rise of metadata schema and structured data provides a logical, machine-readable view of companies, products and services. Information in the form of incredibly detailed product descriptions, corporate communications and digital employee experience are Logos come to life.

Kairos – The right information at the right time and the right place

Kairos is where the game gets intriguing. In the context of digital strategy, it translates into the context and means by which people might interact with your digital channels. One such way is via Anticipatory Design – UX that understands and anticipates your needs. Uber is a perfect example of this. Once you open the app at home, it knows you are at home and anticipates that you might wish to go to work. It doesn’t ask you whether you wish to go home, which – absurdly – so many other apps and sites might so. Leaving work at 3pm? It anticipates that you won’t be heading back home but might be visiting the client you visited at the same time last week. It’s almost as if the app is your personal chauffeur, two steps ahead.

All of this turns red tape experiences into red carpet experiences. Unnecessary data entries and confusing menus give way to intuitive, smooth customer journeys. This is the age of digital magic, and AI is the wand that’s casting the spell.

How AI might accelerate customer experience design

Artificial Intelligence is poised to give a turbo boost to Aristotle’s principles. AI-powered Pathos can analyse vast swathes of customer behaviour data to create emotionally resonant content. For instance, Spotify’s AI curates playlists that align with the users’ moods and preferences, establishing an emotional bond.

Ethos, fortified with AI, would entail systems that intelligently sift through reviews, endorsements, and company information to provide personalised credibility scores.

AI can augment Logos by analysing patterns, predicting trends, and serving rational information in a contextual and timely manner. Think of an AI nutritionist that not only tells you the nutritional content of your food but also suggests recipes based on your health goals.

Lastly, AI-powered Kairos could transcend anticipatory design and venture into prescriptive design. Drawing from vast data lakes of behavioural, environmental, and psychographic inputs, the AI could prescribe actions you didn’t even realise you needed. Imagine a digital assistant that schedules your meetings and suggests the best agenda and talking points based on the attendees’ profiles.

In this whirlwind of digital transformation, it is intriguing to see how the age-old principles of Aristotle, the philosopher from antiquity, guide the course of customer experience. The marriage of ancient wisdom and modern technology is scripting a new chapter in business that promises a future of persuasive communications and personalised experiences at scale. It’s almost as if the hands of the clock are turning back, and once again, persuasive sales relationships are everything in business. Technology is merely the vehicle that’s carrying us back to the future.

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