Conversational Services

Why businesses must follow customers to a frictionless future

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If there’s one thing that business leaders should take on board in 2018, it’s this: customers will not wait around for you anymore. The frictionless customer service revolution is here, and companies hoping to improve their customer experiences must change their thinking – and let AI do some of the thinking , too.

In an analog world, people accepted inconvenience. Calling a contact center multiple times about the same issue and having to explain the same thing to a new person each time was the norm. Customers would order products online and try in vain to return them at a local store. A customer calling a bank to change a billing address would find themselves patiently spelling and re-spelling it for a human operator, wasting valuable time in the process.

Today, customers want seamless customer experiences that deliver what they want, how they want it, right now. Businesses must do more to reduce customer effort, and it is a trend that contact center managers cannot ignore.

Counting the cost of poor customer service

Companies that don’t comply risk losing business. A survey of over 3,500 consumers from the US, UK and Australia in 2015 found that poor customer experiences led directly to increased churn rates.

Half of all customers would end their relationship with a current supplier within a day and take it to a competitor that could match their existing criteria.

What customer service behavior will keep customers loyal?

360o customer visibility. Customers want to interact on different channels and expect suppliers to have visibility across them all. A smart supplier will connect what customers are doing on their website with what they’re doing on the phone or on text chat.

Know what they’re thinking. Two thirds (65%) of customers want their supplier to know what they’re thinking, by predicting the problem that they’re trying to resolve.

Make it mobile. Customers want to use mobile services such as messaging when interacting with a vendor. In fact, a Harris Poll revealed that 64% of customers preferred texting to talking.

Getting there with customer experience

To create a smoother customer experience, begin by examining the customer lifecycle, from initial contact through to final sale, and beyond to post-sales support.

Executives should ask themselves: How often do customers touch the company along that path? What problems do they have, and what channels do they use to solve them? How effective is the business at predicting and satisfying customer desires?

Then, the company should understand how it can use technology to help make those interactions smooth and seamless.

To be successful at frictionless customer service, companies must map the customer lifecycle to these new technology platforms. This can be a daunting task; it involves offering a plethora of communication channels supporting an ever-more diverse array of customer transactions. How can contact center agents keep up?

Elevating customer service with AI

Artificial intelligence is helping companies improve customer satisfaction by automating key parts of the customer service process.

Autodesk has implemented a conversational AI solution to improve efficiency in their call center. The company deployed a hybrid chatbot called AVA (Autodesk Virtual Assistant), developed using the Watson Conversation Service. AVA, essentially, is the first stop for any customer interaction in the future. This virtual agent can understand what the customer is asking for and either respond or pass to a live agent if necessary.

The Autodesk story shows how AI can handle more customer queries over time, getting us closer to the ideal: an intelligent autonomous virtual assistant that fields tier-1 customer queries, empowering human agents by enabling them to concentrate on more complex customer interactions.

By using AI and mobile technologies, businesses can cope with rising query volumes while improving customer outcomes. Customers interacting with AI chatbots benefit from a quick and easy entry point for service queries, while still having access to human operators when their queries become too complex for an automated system.

The best part of all is that AI can learn from these interactions over time, creating a cycle of continuous improvement that can enhance customer interactions on an ongoing basis.

Interested in finding out more about what AI can do to enhance your customer experience?

Watson Product Marketing

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