Chris Lord, Global Head of DigiCX, Marketing, Strategy and Growth For those who worry that technology is doing irreparable harm to our day-to-day communication, here’s some good news. The art of conversation is not lost, it’s just evolving. In the customer experience call center world, we’re on the front lines of business to consumer communication disrupters, starting with digital channels like a company website and chat, to SMS-text, social media, advancing natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive learning, automation, and analytics. These tools bring tremendous opportunity to win and retain customers with better CX. According to Gartner, 89% of companies are competing on CX, yet less than 10% of consumers think service from the call center is good. Today’s businesses need to improve service, be easier to do business with and open 24X7, and be consistent across multiple channels and digital devices with personalized interactions, empathy, and insight. Without this optimized service, brands risk becoming irrelevant to today’s customers, who show no loyalty. A Unified Customer Experience Strategy® brings a balance that leverages the latest digital innovation, while also cost-effectively improving service through conversations that make emotional connections with customers. This means understanding these three drivers:
- Customers’ expectations of service competence are higher every day, with world-class companies like Amazon and Apple setting an excellence standard that is leading with self-service and integrating human expertise when it adds value. Households have adopted digital and AI innovation as a way of life. Think “Hello Siri.” Starting your conversation with a bot is rapidly becoming the new norm. According to a recent Google study conducted by Northstar Research, more than half of U.S. teens and 41% of U.S. adults use voice search on a daily basis. A consistent customer experience that bridges channels is extremely important for Generation C—a demographic of connected customers that represents today’s buyer attitude and mindset. Bots, increasingly, provide a strong sense of reliability, consistency, and ease of use, which are critical to meet the demand for a unified customer experience strategy.
- Conversations are driving commerce. “Conversational commerce” is a term coined by Uber’s Chris Messina in reference to the intersection of messaging apps and shopping. With customers interacting through messaging and chat apps, conversational interfaces have become mainstream, enabled increasingly by AI and bots. Today talking to a bot is more and more akin to connecting with a human. Bots employ NLP for more colloquial verbiage and appropriate tone, recognition and understanding, to increasingly replicate a human interaction. Culture and customization can be applied to mimic character and persona of human agents. And, with their ability to process language, chatbots are able to handle tedious tasks like data entry, scheduling, and other basic assistant-like tasks.Bots, however, are exception prone and can’t deliver on all fronts. For example, in Facebook’s recent launch of a bot API for its Messenger IM service only 30% of requests could be resolved entirely without a human stepping in, according to The Information, a Silicon Valley blog. So the seamless integration of brains, or human assistance with bots, is critical to an optimized digital customer experience.
- Bots are assuming more menial service tasks, requiring service agents to evolve to more sophisticated tier 2 ambassador responsibilities. The ideal self-service approach has proven to be an intelligent integration of more empowered and empathetic human agents with the highly efficient bots. Whether front-end bot or bot-assisted agent, the key is to employ automation where it adds value through reduced customer effort (improving CSAT by guiding customers to the right answer fast), cost-containment, or revenue generation. Bot deployment frees up human labor for higher-minded, more emotional and complex decision making. According to a recent report by Horses for Sources, automation is making way for strong growth of highly and medium skilled personnel—with highly skilled positions in the service provider industry increasing by 56%, and medium-skilled by 8%. However, low-skilled, routine jobs drop 30% as many of these roles get phased out over the next 5 years:
Ultimately, today’s CX expectation is the right answer, fast: an authentic connection that’s also the right combination of automated self-service, driven by bot technology via the web and messaging, or via voice, integrated with assisted support from well-trained agents, or DigiAMBASSADORs. With a unified customer engagement strategy, service providers can customize targeted deployment of these solutions—seamlessly bridging any bot-brain gaps and driving real outcomes. The most intelligent business brands know that good customer experience today is as much about smart, personalized conversations as it’s ever been.