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#CXDay: Serving Your Customers a Custom Support Experience

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy CX Day! Today is the annual global celebration of the professionals and companies that make great customer experiences happen. In a world of growing expectations for on-demand service and highly connected, always-on customers, creating and delivering a great customer experience (CX) is no easy task.

A couple of weeks ago I was at an alpaca farm, a stop on my local annual County Farm Tour, with my niece. She was excited to get a chance to feed and pet the alpacas but, having already endured a few hours of attention from random strangers, the animals were not so interested in what the afternoon visitors were offering. I chuckled to myself as I watched the children – and a few adults – follow the alpacas around with outstretched hands offering them a bite to eat as they ran up and down the fenced in area. As we followed some into the barn, my niece noticed that a couple alpacas that had refused to eat from her hand were eating from the feed trough instead. She wondered aloud why, if the alpaca was hungry, it hadn’t just eaten what she offered.

Digital customers, like those alpacas, aren’t always interested in engaging in a one-on-one human interaction – even though companies often feel that is the best way for them to build connections and loyalty. In fact, analyst firm Gartner reports that millennials are four times less likely to pick up the phone to resolve issues than older generations, opting instead to try to self-serve first. When companies don’t offer a way for customers to do that on their website or mobile app, those customers will end up looking, and possibly failing, on non-company channels. Organisations that want to empower customers to self-serve, and ensure they have a positive experience while doing so, need to offer those tools to customers themselves.

While self-service is increasingly imperative to a customer’s experience, that doesn’t mean that the one-on-one human interaction is no longer important. After watching numerous alpacas eat from the feed trough, my niece was ecstatic when one showed interest in the food she was offering and suddenly her hand was empty. The same is true with customers – not every customer wants to self-serve and not every customer issue or question is best resolved with self-service. A successful digital customer experience strategy never leaves out the human touch completely.

Here are a few CX Day tips to help you deliver a custom support experience for your customers:

  • Get to know your customers – It’s great to offer customers options for getting the information and support they need, but make sure they are the right options for your customer base otherwise you’re wasting time and money. For example, Rest knows that nearly 75% of their customer base is under 40 and most start their experience on the company website. In order to improve engagement with their growing customer base of digital natives, they now offer 24/7 support with virtual agent Roger on their website as well as other channels, such as Google Home.
  • Integrate self-service and human-assisted channels – As mentioned, self-service is not always the preferred method or the best way to answer customer questions. Other times customers will want to self-serve but then reach a point where they need or want to escalate to a human. This is why your self-service options can’t be standalone tools. Chatbots and virtual agents should be integrated with human-assisted channels such as live chat or call back to provide customers with a seamless experience. When customers are escalated from virtual agent to human agent, a full history of their conversation should be passed over as well. Internally, if you are using a virtual agent to assist contact centre agents, make sure you have feedback loops in place so your live agents can help keep the virtual agent’s content accurate and up-to-date.
  • Start small with a plan to grow – As with most things in life, trying to tackle a huge digital CX transformation project all at once just won’t work. Start small and then use what you learn from the first stages of your plan to make improvements as you scale your solutions and work through later phases. Transport for NSW started with their chatbot RITA on Facebook Messenger, a popular channel with their customers, and then grew their solution to be deployed across other channels, including their website and Amazon’s Alexa. This step-by-step approach has improved their customer experience and has won them numerous awards.
  • Work with vendors that have both the technology and expertise – Designing and delivering a customised support experience for digital customers requires a significant investment from companies and their employees. Selecting the best technologies for your goals is very important, but it shouldn’t be the only focus of your strategy. The customer support landscape is littered with failed and frustrating solutions, and the best way to avoid becoming one of those statistics is to work with an expert team that can provide consultation experience along with the technology. You want to work with a vendor that will collaborate closely with you and can provide guidance on both general industry and sector-specific best practices. Just as the service you offer customers needs to be a combination of self-service solutions and human support, your digital customer experience strategy needs to bring together the right blend of technology and human expertise.

Frost & Sullivan predict that the year 2020 will be the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. Are you serving your customers a custom support experience that makes your company stand out?

Digital CX Challenge: Humanising Your Self-Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

For as long as virtual agents and chatbots have been used by companies to provide customer self-service, they have been criticised for removing the human touch from interactions and taking away the opportunity to build an emotional connection with customers. While some organisations have used that as a reason for not providing automated tools for customer service, they are now facing the reality that more and more customers want – and expect – self-service solutions. This is putting more pressure on organisations than ever before as they try to figure out how to bring together self-service with the human element.

On 3rd October, a new event is coming to London that is focused specifically on this challenge. The Humanising Digital & Self-Serve Conference is a one-day event being held at the Museum of London Docklands. Creative Virtual is proud to be an event sponsor, and Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel will present a session titled ‘Conversational AI & the Human Touch’. As someone with many years of experience working with enterprise executives and industry experts, Chris understands the challenges companies face when implementing self-service as part of their digital customer experience strategies:

“This conference is addressing an important aspect of today’s customer experience – keeping the human element even as organisations transition to more digital and self-service solutions. Offering intelligent chatbot and virtual agent tools should never mean a removal of humans from your customer service and support strategy.”

During his presentation, Chris will share industry research and live demonstrations as he explores best practices for combining conversational AI and self-service with the human touch for a seamless, omnichannel customer experience. He’ll help attendees gain a better understanding of:

  • Current challenges companies face when implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat
  • Reasons why conversational AI and self-service solutions need a combination of self-learning and human input
  • Tips for selecting, deploying and maintaining successful digital self-service tools

More information and a full copy of the event programme can be found on the Humanising Digital & Self-Serve Conference website. As an event sponsor, Creative Virtual is able to offer our blog readers a discount on tickets – use code Partner150 when booking your pass online.

If you’re unable to attend the event or just want to learn more about how you can bring together humans, AI and self-service in a way that creates reliability and consistency for your organisation and your customers, request a live demo with a member of our expert team.

Digital Growth Around the World

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

It seems like everyone is talking about ‘digital’ these days – digital assistants, digital data, digital marketing, digital art, digital footprint. We’re increasingly reliant on digital devices – smartphone addiction, anyone? – and the need to be constantly connected. On a flight recently, there was a passenger a few seats away from me having a mini-meltdown because the onboard WiFi wouldn’t be available for the entire flight.

According to the Global Digital 2019 reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite, the digital world shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the number of internet users around the world is growing by an average of more than one million new users every day! The research, published earlier this year, reports a 9.1% increase from last year, bringing the number of internet users to 4.388 billion. In areas like Northern Europe and North America, 95% of the population are online.

2019 internet users

It’s likely no surprise that of those internet users, 84% searched online for a product or service to buy, 91% visited an online retail store on the web and 75% purchased a product or service online. The growing number of mobile users (up 100 million from last year) is reflected in the fact that 55% of internet users had made an online purchase via a mobile device while only 42% had done so from a laptop or desktop computer.

With so many consumers researching and purchasing goods and services online, it’s important for companies to provide the right service and support online as well. According to Frost & Sullivan, US companies are losing more than $83 billion annually due to poor customer experiences. On the flip side, they also found that 74% of customers have spent more with a business due to a history of good service.

Organisations everywhere are taking on digital transformation projects and searching for the best way to join up digital channels with more traditional customer contact channels. Implementing and executing successful digital customer experience (CX) initiatives is crucial for companies, particularly those in regions where a majority of the population are internet users. Offering a seamless and efficient CX that delivers consistent and reliable information to consumers regardless of whether they self-serve or talk to a contact centre agent has a direct impact on a business’ bottom line. Companies must also consider the popularity of other touchpoints, such as messenger apps and smart speakers, with their target customers as they evolve their digital strategies. Some organisations like Rest, one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, are using a virtual agent across multiple channels – including Google Home – to successfully engage a customer base of digital natives.

57% of the world’s population are now online, and the number of internet users is growing every day. Is your organisation positioned to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world?

2019 digital world

Resisting Change Can Spell CX Disaster

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Over the summer, one of my Netflix obsessions was ‘Call the Midwife’, a TV drama that follows a group of midwives working in London’s East End during the 1950s and 60s. There often seemed to be a conflict between the traditional customs or ways of thinking and modern ideas that drove the storyline of the episodes. For example, patients resisting new medical practices such as giving birth in a maternity home instead of at home or the older generation of midwives dismissing the younger nurses’ ideas on topics like allowing husbands to be present for the birth. Often the arguments came in the form of “If it was good enough for my mum, it’s good enough for me!” or “We’ve always done it that way!”

Humans – and companies – are creatures of habit and often resistant to change. While the ‘but it’s always been done that way’ reasoning makes for a relatable and compelling TV show, it can spell disaster for organisations when they resist recognising changes in customer behaviours and preferences. Blockbuster has become a posterchild for missed opportunity, passing on the chance to purchase Netflix and then trying to get into the streaming trend too late, which ultimately led to the company’s demise.

When it comes to customer experience, organisations can’t afford to ignore the impact technology is having on the way we communicate with each other and with brands. Today’s highly connected digital customers are looking for 24/7 access to information and support across multiple channels and devices. They want a seamless experience that is personalised, consistent and easy. Companies like Amazon are often applauded for their superior customer experience, and customers are now expecting that same level of service from all the organisations they engage with, regardless of industry.

As consumers increasingly turn to self-service and digital channels, organisations need to analyse the changing preferences of their customer base and look to incorporate new channels and technologies into their customer support strategy. The change to self-service needs to happen in conjunction with an evolution of the contact centre. Current capabilities of AI-powered chatbots and virtual agents put these solutions in the perfect position to be complementary with the contact centre and live agents.

While some sceptics talk about chatbots and virtual agents in the customer service space as a passing fad, the reality is that they are a tried and tested tool for providing digital self-service and are helping to define the future of customer engagement. Since the days of the early chatbots, these tools have improved greatly in their conversational abilities thanks to advances in natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). The evolution of customer expectations has also driven massive amounts of innovation in the technology to allow for flexible back-end integration, easier maintenance and a reliable hybrid approach to self-learning.

Take the first step toward meeting the expectations of digital customers with chatbots by requesting a demo to see this technology in action. Change can be hard, but smart organisations (and midwives!) know it is the way forward.

Nobody Puts the Customer in the Corner

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy Customer Service Week! Each year the first full week of October brings the week-long international celebration of the importance of customer service and the people who operate by the motto ‘Nobody puts the customer in the corner’ by providing great customer service every day of the year. From those who provide face-to-face service to those working in contact centres to those responsible for supporting self-service channels, delivering quality customer service is a team effort, and we salute you all.

As we shine the spotlight on customer service professionals this week, let’s take a look back at some of the trends, tips and statistics we’ve shared on customer support and the contact centre over the past year with our annual blog post roundup:

  • The Future of the Contact Centre – Technology is altering the way customers engage with brands and increasing their demands for instant 24/7 customer service. The traditional model for call centres and contact centres is no longer providing the experience customers have begun to demand. As organisations look to meet the expectations of digitally-savvy customers, changes in the contact centre and the job descriptions of customer service agents are going to be key to digital transitions.
  • Live Chat vs. Virtual Agents: A Story of Overcoming the Divide to Work Together in Perfect Harmony – In the not too distant past it wasn’t uncommon to come across organisations struggling to decide between live chat or a virtual agent on their website for customer support. However, now the either-or debate is changing into a discussion of how to bring these two technologies together to work in perfect harmony. Organisations that continue to view them as stand-alone tools instead of complementary solutions are going to struggle to provide quality digital support experiences for their customers.
  • CX in 2017: A Tale of Empowered Customers, AI and Self-Service – According to Forrester, companies are under attack from their customers with technology-empowered customers deciding the winners and losers. The analysts at Gartner have also been following these technology-driven changes in customer preferences and predict that by 2020 the use of virtual customer assistants (also called virtual agents or chatbots) for providing better customer service will increase by 1,000%. Knowing you need to offer digital self-service and successfully implementing these tools as part of your overall customer service plan are two very different things, though. The best way to start is by educating yourself about digital engagement solutions and customer expectations.
  • Conversational Commerce for Demanding APAC Customers – The Asia Pacific region had been seeing the change to self-service happening separately from the contact centre which then created new challenges for companies. Now contact centre professionals are coming to understand that virtual agents and chatbots can work together with contact centre agents and are seeing the benefits of including these conversational systems as part of their overall customer service plans.
  • Is the Contact Centre Part of Your Digital Transformation Programme? – Every organisation is in the midst of digital transformation programmes and the contact centre needs to be a key part of that, although that’s not always the case today. In the future, the contact centre will be the centre of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels and organisations need to put the necessary tools in place to facilitate that change.
  • Infographic: Are Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence Threats to Your Contact Centre? – Some academics and experts are warning about the dangers of AI, predicting everything from a huge loss of jobs to the end of the human race. At the same time, industry analysts are predicting significant increases in chatbots and virtual agents in the customer service space. This infographic gives a realistic overview of the impact of AI, chatbots and virtual agents are having on the contact centre.

 

Is the Contact Centre Part of Your Digital Transformation Programme?

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I say this every year, but the Technology Innovation Showcase webinar Creative Virtual does with CRMXchange is one of my favourite webinars to present. This was the fifth year running that we’ve participated in the webcast series, and it was our most popular one yet with a record-breaking number of registrations. I love this webinar because it gives me a chance to share more live demonstrations than slides, and I know the best way to understand how our technology works and what it can do for customers and organisations is to see it in action.

For this year’s Showcase, I focused on the theme of ‘Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Your Contact Centre’. There’s so much buzz and hype, as well as unrealistic expectations and disappointments, around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots that it can be difficult to know how best to deliver, implement and support these types of solutions. My goal during the webinar was to showcase best practices in deploying chatbots in conjunction with human assistance for customer support and sales. I selected my demonstrations specifically to show how the virtual and real can work in perfect harmony to meet business objectives.

A few key takeaways from my presentation:

  • Artificial intelligence on its own is not the answer for customer support. Companies like Microsoft and IBM have been responsible for setting false expectations in regards to how AI can be deployed for customer service. Chatbots and virtual agents should blend human curation of content with machine learning. This hybrid approach enables the system to continually improve while also allowing control over the reliability of responses.
  • Every organisation is in the midst of digital transformation programmes and the contact centre needs to be a key part of that, although that’s not always the case today. In the future, the contact centre will be the centre of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels and organisations need to put the necessary tools in place to facilitate that change. By including the contact centre as part of this transformation instead of allowing it to become a siloed and outdated entity, it benefits from lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.
  • Customers are starting to specifically demand chatbots for digital self-service, with research showing that many would choose to interact with a chatbot before a human to get instant answers. To meet the demands of customers, organisations need more than just chatbots and virtual agents that are available 24/7 though. Over the past several years providing an effortless way to interact with your company has become more and more important. Instead of offering a wide range of support options for customers to choose from, you need to offer one place for customers to ask a question and for that system to be the intent matcher. Then, once you understand the intent, immediately provide the most appropriate method for assistance. You also need to provide a seamless experience that’s available on any device, can easily switch between languages and provides personalised responses.

I invite you to watch the recording of the webinar on-demand to understand more about these three points and to see the live demonstrations of chatbots, virtual agents and live chat solutions that are currently being used by some of our customers around the world.

My thanks to Sheri Greenhaus and CRMXchange for organising and hosting another successful Technology Innovation Showcase for us. I’m already looking forward to presenting again next year.