Now more than ever, customers expect more from the businesses they buy from. Research from Forrester reveals that consumers want experiences that offer personalized attention and seamlessly integrate with technology, paired with interactions that are instantaneous and entertaining.
These lofty expectations are causing customer care and service professionals to be put under pressure to digitize services, using the latest tech to drive KPI performance, increase automation and meet the same standards set by ‘digital leaders’.
To help achieve this, the application of AI technologies is demanding attention across all industries and verticals: from investors to the media. It’s predicted that by 2020, the value of the AI market will globally reach $1.2 trillion as it drives the automation agenda. Put simply, AI is a core technology in helping to make customer service the differentiator it can be.
At Customer Contact Week, we co-hosted an Interactive Discussion Group with John Pompei, Head of Player Experience Operations at Electronic Arts, named ‘AI-Assistance: Delivering a Personalized Service Strategy’. After connecting with customer care professionals from multiple industries, I wanted to share some of the key discussion and feedback points:
How to take your first steps with AI?
As the discussions kicked off, it was clear to see the interest in AI from every industry. There were customer care professionals from every type of B2C facing industry, from airlines and retailers, to one of the US’s largest gas and electricity conglomerates.
At first, we wanted to gauge the maturity of each of the delegates organizations with deploying AI services. While some had already started to experiment, the majority are just at the point of dipping their toe into the AI pool, looking to implement a service within the next 6 months.
Those delegates taking their first steps were keen to ask those from organizations that already had live AI services for advice on how to first explore the use of the technology. There seems to be a feeling of apprehension particularly towards deploying customer-facing services, due to an unfamiliarity with the technology, how it should be used and the risk of delivering a negative experience. They had all heard stories of ‘rogue’ AI interactions and the damage it can cause to a brand.
John Pompei, Head of Customer Care Operations at Electronic Arts, shared a great learning from his own experience. He recommends deploying bots on the agent side first to increase productivity, before deploying customer-facing bots. This is a much lower risk approach, giving organizations the chance to gain some bot experience and work out some of the kinks before using AI to automate customer interactions.
With AI-driven experiences and services becoming more mainstream, there is a clear need for customer care teams to fill a talent gap, introducing positions that focus on managing AI implementation.
Multi-channel automation and the human connection
Recognizing the shift in how customers want to communicate with a business, many of the delegates wanted to discuss the conversational approach to AI implementation. With channels like Facebook Messenger, RCS and WhatsApp becoming increasingly important for customer interaction, the delegates wanted to explore how to combine the channel capabilities, like rich media, with NLP powered chatbots to automate a number of customer service enquires.
There was an eagerness to jump into how to personalize the experience, using different tones of voice and language depending on customer ages and other variables. However, we and those delegates who are already using AI to automate interactions like password resets advised that the AI experience doesn’t need to be this complex to benefit the customer and the business. We talked them through how a banking client of ours achieved a 50% uplift in customer responses using a simple NLP powered bot instead of a cold call to set up customer appointments for private wealth management services.
Everyone across the different sessions agreed that they don’t really have the choice when choosing the channels to provide customer service over, but rather they need to adapt and serve customers on the channels they want to use. But no matter the channel, we stressed that what’s crucial to customer satisfaction is delivering a consistent experience - 9 out of 10 customers expect to receive a consistent customer experience over multiple channels.
All recognized the potential for error and the importance of having a seamless agent handover process. Knowing that customers can instantly connect to an agent via the same channel, delegates admitted that this would help them to have confidence when starting to use AI.
Siloes and technology the biggest barriers
When talking about barriers within their business, there was frustration towards the speed at which they could innovate. All claimed that siloes were still one of the overarching challenges holding back not just AI, but their entire digital transformation strategy.
Data is the cornerstone to enabling AI, from providing simple customer account FAQ resolution to using real-time location data to contextualize interactions. While delegates had access to the most basic data sets, such as account details and customer relationship, and talked about the progress they had made creating centralized databases to get a single view of the customer, many admitted that there is still huge progress needs to be made. Exacerbating the challenge is the ever-expanding number of customer touchpoints, which now include voice, email, web, telco and social messaging.
Looking for a solution, many had invested in a data warehouse to centralize data, but found that this wasn’t enough create a single customer view. Although they have somewhere for storage, they still didn’t have the capability to orchestrate the real-time management of data across the business. There is a general need for an omnichannel customer service system that can centralize the history of service interactions, connect into different systems via API and then manage the flow of data.
Every year, Customer Contact Week delivers on educating attendees on the latest trends, presenting innovations in customer care and generating discussion about different approaches to customer service. I look forward to seeing you there next year. If we didn’t get a chance to meet at the event and would like to chat about how IMImobile are helping businesses to build back-end connected bots with our IMIbot.ai platform, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on LinkedIn.