AI, Chatbots, Customer Service Transformation

4 Ways to Transform Customer Service Experience in a Digital World

By 5 Minute Read

Customer Service is Ripe for Digital Transformation. Don’t Miss out!

Customer service often evokes a passionate response in people as they immediately reflect upon a recent terrible experience they’ve had or perhaps an ongoing issue they’re still battling with.

Think of a healthcare provider, insurance company, cable or utility company or even a recent travel experience, and most of us can point to something obvious that we feel has not changed on the service front in the last 20 years. Very often we hear complaints about the customer service experience getting continuously worse and how “in the old days” it used to be better. For instance, it used to be easier to contact companies – today, try finding a phone number to contact a provider on their website or on the Internet, and more often than not it will take you 5-10 minutes to find it (if you’re lucky). So, how important is it for companies to transform customer service experience? Some would say those that don’t will ultimately fail.

It’s interesting that with talk of digital transformation all around us, customer service still struggles to keep up and offer us the kind of service experiences that we get in other aspects of our consumer lives (dare I say Amazon!). Evidence would suggest that service has not kept pace in terms of technology advances that drive improvement and increased customer loyalty. Research shows a number of trends and changes in consumer behavior and expectations that make the customer service experience an area ripe for true digital transformation.

Below I’ll detail some of the trends that have come together to drive this opportunity for business and how you should think about them as it relates to a chatbot strategy that can greatly enhance the customer service experience.

1. Create a consistent service experience across multiple digital channels.  Your customers are all there!

Messaging has become the medium of choice for consumers in their day-to-day communications (especially that way too-oft mentioned segment, millennials.) The market has seen a steady rise in messaging apps to the point where they are the preferred communication channel. Even in the workplace, a slew of collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business offers employees a messaging alternative to the typical email channel, which is in decline. This trend can be seen particularly when looking at millennials, as research points to the younger generation’s overwhelmingly preferring messaging when they engage with each other and with businesses.

“The average customer uses a whopping 10 different channels to communicate with companies, and expects a consistent, contextualized experience across all of them.”

Salesforce Research: State of Service 2019

Not only are consumers interacting via messaging channels, but the number of channels we now use has expanded. A recent Salesforce research survey points to an average of 10 very different channels that we use as consumers. These include the traditional phone and email channels but greater attention is now being paid to other channels like SMS, messaging apps, mobile apps, web chat, and even voice assistants. But despite the market shift to users adopting multiple digital and messaging channels, contact center infrastructure is often optimized for voice-based services, with email as a secondary option. Offering support across a range of digital channels is critical to serving the needs of today’s consumers. But it isn’t just about offering a plethora of different channel options, customer service also needs to provide consistent experiences across these channels. Some refer to this as omnichannel engagement.

2. Move towards a more agile business culture. It’s required for survival of the fittest.

We often hear about Netflix as an example of a brand that successfully disrupted traditional TV networks and broadcasters. Similarly, Uber and Airbnb are often praised for transforming the taxi and hotel space by recognizing and solving unmet needs. Just look around – you’ll find there is a significant move towards more agile business processes and strategy, with technology being leveraged as the key enabler of this change.

Customer service organizations should not be exempt from this movement towards agile and will need to evolve promptly if they wish to keep up with changing consumer preferences, rapidly evolving products and services, increasingly complex customer queries, and new channels of communication such as voice-activated assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s new HomePod. The emergence of the Smart Home means consumers (and devices themselves) will have new and varied ways of communicating, and thus new options for connecting with the companies from which they require service. McKinsey and Company wrote, “a smart home is where the bot is.”

3. Move towards cloud-based SaaS services for greater agility and cost control.

Cloud services come at a fraction of the cost of traditional on-premise software and can be set-up almost instantly, and without much assistance. The digital transformation taking place around us has been made possible due to this fundamental shift in technology as the data center moves to the cloud and the cost and speed of delivering new software applications plummet. Best practice companies leverage technology that hones competitive advantage, and they buy other supporting SaaS services when and where they need it. They recognize that nimble companies can innovate faster and cheaper in non-core areas and this has led to a significant reduction in the cost of software. Often, the business case for replacing legacy software can come purely from eliminating expensive annual maintenance and support fees associated with legacy software – and the simple calculation coming from the realization of new modern SaaS services can often be delivered for less than the ongoing maintenance costs of older systems.

4. Put Chatbots at the heart of your customer service experience strategy.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see evidence of the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the availability of open source software from companies like Google and Facebook. Over the last few years, the rise of AI technologies in our everyday life has been spectacular – your smartphone is a veritable trove of AI applications, ranging from natural language applications like Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, Cortana, to image recognition apps like Facebook and various other social, shopping, travel and music apps that make custom recommendations and predictions based on machine-learning algorithms.

Although AI has been around for about the last 60 years, it is only recently that it’s developed the processing power to handle the software algorithms (which have been open sourced by companies like Google and Facebook), the data volume (machine learning needs lots of data to “train” the algorithms) and the network bandwidth necessary to transport the data (to and from mobile devices) in order to make AI applications available to everyone.

Machine learning, chatbots, or other AI technologies are fast becoming a feature of the software we use and transforming entire business models. And if there is one thing customer service offers, it’s lots of user feedback and data that can be used to help to make products and services better.

Chatbots, with the power to engage with customers using natural language, are offering game-changing opportunities for customer service organizations to engage more conveniently and seamlessly with customers, offering consistent experiences across multiple channels. Yet, only one in four service organizations are currently using chatbots.

23% of service organizations are using AI chatbots today.

A further 32% plan to use them over the next 18 months.

Source: Salesforce Research Report: State of Service 2019

Supporting consistent service experiences across multiple engagement channels, moving toward more agile business practices, using lower-cost SaaS services, and adopting AI and chatbot technology, will go a long way to position today’s contact center for successful digital transformation.

To learn more about the use cases for chatbots, download our eBook: 10 Chatbots to Transform Customer Experience

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