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#CXDay: You Gotta Understand Expectations if You Wanna Meet Them

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Last week my neighbor sent me the image below with the caption: How to ruin Trick-or-Treat!

trick or treat

Is there anyone who has gone Trick-or-Treating who doesn’t remember that house that always gave a crappy “treat”? For me, it’s the woman who ran a little hair salon in her basement and always handed out combs – and insisted on chatting with each kid forrrr-ever, slowing you down from getting to all the houses with the good treats!

So, what’s wrong with handing out combs or mini salad bags on Halloween? Why do those kinds of treats get a bad rep? The problem is that they don’t meet the expectations of Trick-or-Treaters. If you are going house to house in your costume, you are expecting a sugary piece of candy, a salty snack, or a fun little toy or gadget. When the Trick-or-Treat experience doesn’t match with your expectation, you are left disappointed.

Today the world is celebrating CX Day, as we do on the first Tuesday of October every year. This celebration is an opportunity to recognize the professionals who create and deliver great customer experiences and to share insights into how to make our CX strategies better. It also happens to be the second day of Customer Service Week, which is fitting since customer service is an important piece of a customer’s experience.

Creating and successfully implementing a CX strategy that delivers consistently positive experiences is hard. It requires a team effort across the entire company. It requires the right processes and procedures. It requires properly integrated technologies. But most importantly, it requires a true understanding of your customers’ expectations.

Understanding the expectations of your customers has to be at the core of your CX strategy or you’re doomed to fail. Implementing the latest technologies, conducting training workshops for your employees, or launching cool new product updates can be great for your customer experience, but only when they are approached with your customers in mind. Defining customer expectations – of your digital tools, of your staff members, of your products – must always come first.

For most companies, the digital experience they provide has now become central to their overall CX. It can be tempting to think that throwing a new technology at a digital issue or pain point will provide a quick fix. Unfortunately, this approach often fails to resolve the underlying problem or creates an unnatural, frustrating, and disjointed interaction. The reality is that unless that technology is strategically selected and deployed, it can actually make the experience worse for customers.

Before you implement a CX technology, be sure you can:

  • Define how it will meet the expectations of your specific customer base.
  • Explain the ways it will improve the experience for customers and employees.
  • Identify your own internal expectations and goals for the solution, both short-term and long-term.

When it comes to CX, there’s no shortcut to success. You gotta understand your customers’ expectations if you wanna meet them.

That is why I always aim to give the Trick-or-Treaters who come through my neighborhood what they expect – and that means no mini salad bags at my house! In fact, this year my costumed visitors will be greeted by a big basket of fun rubber duckies, back by popular demand after overwhelming positive reviews last Halloween from kids of all ages.

This CX Day, ask yourself: Does my business really understand our customers’ expectations?

What Goes Around Comes Around: A look at customer sentiment and intent

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

I’m delighted that one of the main reasons why I started working in this industry 18 years ago (eegad!) has re-surfaced as a credible and viable objective to move ahead with conversational flows that also provide a profitable punch: customer sentiment.

During the first wave of all things cool and nifty on the web – when website stickiness and brand promotion online was first and foremost – a virtual assistant was often deployed to assist a marketing campaign and answer “silly” questions about random topics that might have little to do with the brand. So long as the virtual assistant (always with an avatar) was presented in a branded UI, then the key was to keep a customer on the page and enable the engagement to be about whatever the user wanted.

Of course, the problem with that approach at its most extreme was that it lost its financial credibility since, without promotion or discussion about the products/ services, there was little to no ROI on the tool. The virtual assistant was demoted as a bit of expensive frivolity that was often axed once the first tech bubble burst and focus moved from bling to bottom line.

That was when I lost my job creating such novelties as VC money was running out and there was little to no appetite to fund such projects and focus on user sentiment and fun smalltalk, like whether the virtual assistant enjoyed pizza on a Saturday night or playing chess with fellow 24/7 assistants.

Creative Virtual evolved after that burst as it saw an opportunity at that time to take this technology and move it away from sentiment and emotions and casual smalltalk to focus on the business proposition of enabling a client’s customers to find and self-serve answers to relevant FAQs.

The company was built by actively addressing the public’s requirements. These requirements have changed over the years from quick and efficient delivery of answers, limited smalltalk and some avatars to moving away from avatars and focusing on back-end integration with APIs ranging from currency trackers to train delays. Then there was a major focus on user journey and intent – what does the customer need and what is the quickest and smoothest way to get him/ her there? Organisations were keen to link their virtual assistants to live chat and use decision trees or conversation flows. We saw the removal of the avatar in many situations and flat web designs for simplicity.

Now in 2018, we’re in the age of AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and conversations – sometimes even via voice. User intent is assumed based on channels and the context of when the customer starts a conversation. Now it is time to get back to assessing if the user is happy or frustrated and work out which channel and journey the user needs to take to feel special (personalisation) and guided (customer service) after a fulfilled mission of getting what was required (positive user experience). True conversations need to happen and no longer just a session with Q&A pairs. The “silly” questions and random topics have a place if it helps hand hold the user to an endpoint – and the circle the virtual assistant industry (myself included!) started to draw in 2000 can now be closed!

The whole aspect of AI and NLP (natural language processing) combined with human curation requires more blog posts – but suffice to say that for the purposes of this post –  the “science of conversation” is truly back on the map for self-service tools. And we at Creative Virtual will be leading the pack as we were (a number of us working at other companies first) at the beginning when sentiment was more important than intent. Now we know how to join them both up in the same conversation – and the future of the industry is looking bright!

Want to learn more? The best way to understand The science of conversation™ is to see our technology in action with a personalised demo.