Today, one of the main expectations regarding the customer experience is its level of personalization. However, often personalization in customer service solutions is merely a simulation of personalization, and a poor one at that. Despite the attempt to replicate the personal experiences shoppers used to experience when interacting with “mom and pop” shops, often times large organizations are simply unable to provide the same personal experience we used to receive.
How can businesses utilize the advanced technologies fueling customer service today while really replicating the personal customer experiences of yesterday?
In this age of Omni channel interaction, customers expect companies to be able to communicate with them on their preferred channel, whether in response to a self-service inquiry, an e-mail, a live chat, a social media post or speaking with a live agent on the phone. In fact, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group, companies with an Omni channel strategy – where customers experience a consistent brand experience across channels – retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak Omni channel customer engagement. They also experience an increase in average transaction size. So, a customer service Omni presence, wherever that may be, is essential.
At the same time, a move toward big data analytics can fundamentally change how businesses communicate with customers. Utilizing complex data sets from various sources, companies can gain important insights into customer behavior and preferences, and then use such feedback to provide a more personalized customer service, which drives sales and lasting customer loyalty. Furthermore, by leveraging big data analytics, brands can identify customer pain and passion points more effectively, while even anticipating what customers will ask for in advance to quickly resolve each customer interaction.
The need for Omni channel service and the value of big data analytics has given rise to AI (chatbots) in customer service. In fact, many companies around the globe are beginning to replace customer service representatives with virtual assistants who can provide fast, cost-effective and human-like customer service for all front-end issues. The vast amount of customer data that is collected by companies can be translated into deep machine learning that creates progressively higher and higher levels of intelligence, and providing them with the ability to ‘learn’ the correct answer to any question over time. As customers today expect to receive instant service across all channels at all times, intelligent virtual personal assistants can be easily deployed on almost any interface.
However, at the end of the day, what still matters most in effective customer service is the human touch that only engaged and inspired agents can provide. In fact, a recent study by Accenture found that 83 percent of consumers still prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels when it comes to solving their customer service issues!
Therefore, even while combining Omni channel service with AI, the future of technology in customer service relies directly on supporting, not replacing, contact center agents. While technology is great, brands need to be careful about how they leverage it to deliver a personal world-class brand experience. This is why IDC research predicts that overall customer service agent numbers will rise over the next two to three years, with many firms reporting an expected increase between 10 to 50 percent. Not only will companies need more agents, but they will see a need for more highly-skilled agents who can solve more complex inquiries and provide cross-channel consistency of service.
Today, for brands that understand the increasingly critical nature of the customer experience, AI and data analytics supporting an overall Omni channel strategy are crucial. However, only when combined with the human touch can they thrive both today and into the future.
[About the author] Dylon Mills is the Director of Marketing Content Strategy & Development at Uniphore. As such, Dylon’s main responsibilities are to strategize, create and deliver content for Uniphore’s product portfolio that align with the global Go-To-Market strategy, corporate positioning, and marketing campaigns. Dylon’s prior work experience includes Product Management at one of the top Fortune 500 Technology companies, Symantec Corporation. Outside of work, Dylon enjoys problem-solving and any project that includes building/tinkering with tools. Dylon holds a BS Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia.