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– Call center executives face the constant challenge of simultaneously meeting customer expectations and business cost goals
– Customers are growing ever-more comfortable interacting with virtual agents, and most of them prefer messaging to phone calls for issue resolution
– Virtual agents can retrieve customer data in real-time, across multiple systems, empowering human agents with the right insights to do their jobs better
– This Forrester report outlines the customer service trends that will enable call centers to become smarter and more strategic
Get the Forrester Report
Technology, mobility and the internet are often referred to as “the great equalizers”. It helps smaller, disruptive startup companies to “punch above their weight” and compete with large corporations. It creates agility in large enterprise. It empowers customers to do more by themselves:
- Research and compare companies they are interested in doing business with
- Educate themselves before making a purchase
- Find support information after a purchase
- Complete product purchases with minimal to no sales rep involvement
- Initiate service requests online 24/7, from their preferred device
As empowered customers discover they can do more by themselves, the “watermark” of their customer service expectation rises. If a client needs to seek the help of a contact center representative, they feel they should be able to resolve their concern on their first interaction, without being transferred, and they should have a consistent experience whether they initiate an online text or video chat, a social media conversation, SMS messaging or, if absolutely necessary, a phone call.
The demand for insights, not just answers
Prospective customers have more access to more information than ever before about the quality of customer service at a companies they consider doing business with. Third-party online reviews from sites like Google, Capterra, Yelp and GetApp provide prospects with insights on how customer-centric your business is. Fierce competition means obsession with customer value is mandatory for survival.
All the way through the customer life cycle, companies strive to offer more than just simple answers to questions. Once a customer has browsed through rich online content, they often need direction on what to do next. Through chatbots and intelligent agents, businesses work to enhance client conversation quality, continuously improve omni-channel experiences, and resolve inquiries consistently across all customer touch points. Customers are growing ever-more comfortable with interacting with virtual agents, as long as they can ask questions using the same natural language they would if they were conversing with a live representative.
Customers want personalized service
After progressing from a prospect to a client, customers want to be treated like as people, not an account number. When interacting with an online live agent, searching a knowledge base or requesting pricing information about products and services on the phone, customers are looking for information specific to their unique relationship with a company.
It may be a consumer buying a smartphone for a personal use, or a government procurement officer contracting outsourcing services. Customers want to be recognized for the value of the business they have already completed with a company as well as future business. Whether they make a purchase online, in-store or from a sales representative, they want a consistent experience from purchase to delivery and post-sales support. If these conditions aren’t met, many customers are willing to voice their opinion on social media, to company executives via e-mail, or to register a formal complaint through a call center.
Artificial agents can retrieve customer data in real-time, across multiple systems, whereas human agents will take considerably longer, and may have limited visibility to a client’s account profile information.
Top challenges include lack of new technology and data access
According to Forrester Research studies, five of the leading complaints about contact center phone interactions are:
1. Confusing phone menus or Interactive Voice Response units
2. Hold times while agents research information
3. Being transferred multiple times between agents
4. Having to call multiple times to resolve an issue
5. Needing to repeat information like account numbers and why they called
Companies looking to address these challenges should encourage customer feedback, and have analytics in place to monitor trends. Implementing virtual agents for after hours interaction handling, or for common inquiries can be configured with specific decision paths or workflows. AI customer service applications and artificial agents can assist in identifying coaching opportunities for live agents, or advise reps on how to best resolve customer issues by “shadowing” live calls.
Virtual agents and chatbots can often respond to customer inquiries as fast as (or faster) than a customer can type their inquiry into an online chat. This means minimal or no hold time, consistent transfer (or no transfer) to the best resolution owner and a higher percentage of first-call inquiry resolution. Gathering customer feedback through surveys doesn’t always tell the whole story of customer sentiment. An application like Watson Tone Analyzer can “take the temperature” of customers on social media, emails and text chats.
Companies can save 30% or more on their customer service operations by implementing cognitive technology in their contact center. Our research shows companies can save as much as $1 million for each second they shave of average call handling time, and eliminate between 50% – 60% of failed customer support interactions which go unresolved or get escalated due to lack of agent understanding or poor data accessibility.
Improve customer service across every channel
When companies offer multiple support channels like web chat, phone support and online self-service portals, customers are less likely to call into call centers. Clients with simple issues and digital-savvy millennials can source information quickly from low-cost chat, social media or self-service Q&A. More complex inquiries can be routed to phone or field service representatives for resolution.
Sensors and devices connected to the Internet of Things gather data which can be made available to a customer directly by a customer, or by a customer service rep. Examples of this include HVAC systems, manufacturing machinery and lighting systems. Instead of forcing a customer to make an inquiry themselves, cognitive technology can automate the supply ordering process, or alert a field service technician to see to an outage.
Visual recognition functions of AI can be used to assist in problem diagnosis assets which require service and support. Instead of investing time and travel costs of sending a technician to a client site, problems can be identified and parts can be sourced in advance before sending a field service person to a customer site.
Is your business looking to improve customer satisfaction, accelerate the time it takes to resolve customer inquires and build customer loyalty? To find out how you can leverage Watson for your multi-channel contact center, and enhance customer service, create a IBM Cloud account to access our free trial. You can leverage our services to build a business case for the use of AI in your customer service operations.
Get the Forrester Report on the latest customer service trends
Customers increasingly demand effortless customer service. Call center executives face the constant challenge of simultaneously meeting customer expectations and business cost goals. This report outlines four steps to optimize and innovate customer service operations: 1) Establish the value of customer service; 2) Set the right strategy; 3) Execute the strategy with precision; and 4) Measure and improve operations. Download the Forrester Report “2017 Customer Service Trends: Operations Become Smarter And More Strategic.”
Find out how you can build a call center of the future with this Forrester Report.