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Take Your Customer Support from ‘Talking At’ to ‘Listening To’

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

Once upon a time ‘market’ was a noun, denoting the place where people got together and negotiated public affairs. In some markets, like the Forum Romanum, history was made. Then, ‘market’ also became a verb. Now marketing basically means talking at people, often raising the level of volume, colours, and wordings whilst lowering niveau. 😊

Surely, to say such a thing is utterly unfair to many marketeers. Yet, when it comes to customer service, I uphold the claim that the communication is often rather unidirectional, and in the wrong direction on top of that. Countless the websites where FAQs are not “frequently asked questions” but rather “answers we’d like to give”. Or where obviously someone has created a user journey for me. Frankly, nobody needs to design that. I know pretty well where I want to go, thank you.

What I do want on my journey, is to have road bumps removed, gaps bridged, and connections optimised. If customer service was an airport, I don’t want the lounge refurbished; I want another fast lane and quick boarding.

I am aware that people are different and that the same person has different needs at different times. Therefore, there is not the one journey for all and clearing the path is not easy.

That’s where two-sided conversations, aka dialogues, kick in. Customer service is about listening as well as acknowledging that each experience will be unique. Virtual agents can play a role in that as they come with a free text input field. So even when customers are self-serving, they don’t need to guess the one correct search term or scroll through a list of FAQs someone else has selected.

When it comes to creating this dialogue with customers, there are good and not so good ways to start.Things like expectation management, consistency, focus, and coverage make a big difference. It also requires courage (customers will speak their mind!) and the will to act.

It may be an inconvenient truth, but customer service with a virtual agent (or any other tool for that matter) is not a one-off thing. Good customer service means listening to your customers and improving constantly, be it the NLP (natural language processing), answers in the virtual agent, your processes, your services, or your products. In customer service, the journey to design is your way to become a better and more successful company.

Whether you’re ready to add a virtual agent to your customer service plan for the first time or have realised that your current tool isn’t creating a helpful dialogue with customers, I recommend this whitepaper for tips from conversational AI experts.

Register Now: Expert Insights on Conversational AI and Customer Service

By Scott Tompkins, Vice President of Sales

Just like a puppy isn’t only for the pandemic, customer service insights aren’t only for Customer Service Week. This week of celebrating customer service professionals and successful customer service experiences should just be the beginning of a renewed focus on your own customer service and CX strategies.

To help you keep that Customer Service Week momentum going, destinationCRM is hosting a roundtable webinar next week: Conversational AI: The Future of Customer Service? I’m looking forward to hearing the panel of experts, including Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, discuss the current trends and future possibilities of conversational AI technology.

Drawing from his own experiences and those of Creative Virtual’s global team, Chris will share expert recommendations for how your organization can maximize the benefits of conversational AI technology. He will also be delving into ways you can use back-end integrations to take your digital self-service from basic FAQ tool to a personalized, conversational interaction.

Conversational AI solutions, like chatbots and virtual agents, can have a powerful impact on customer loyalty and retention. When designed, implemented, and maintained correctly, these solutions have been proven to reduce support costs, increase sales revenue, and even reduce employee turnover. The next generation of conversational AI advancements are poised to improve customer service even more.

Register now to join us on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 11:00 am PT/ 2:00 pm ET for the live webinar, Conversational AI: The Future of Customer Service? This destinationCRM roundtable will be recorded, so be sure to sign up even if you can’t join the live event.

Once you’ve registered, I recommend checking out (or re-reading!) all of the posts from the Creative Virtual team that make up this year’s Customer Service Week Blog Celebration. There are lots of great insights on conversational AI use cases, customer expectations, and customer service trends.

Dialogues are Between People

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

Have you ever heard about the H-H-Interface, aka the H2I? Likely not, because I just made it up. But I did so with a reason and here’s why.

When it comes to transactional tools, there is a lot of talk about the Human Machine Interface (or HMI), the look and feel, and other technicalities. That is all fine and important of course, but customer communication, however, is about people talking to people. Even if this communication is automated and asynchronous, it is still Human to Human.

Customers use conversational AI on the web, in apps and other channels. They interact with virtual agents and chatbots in a technical sense, but they certainly do not converse with them. The replies they get are perceived as coming from a person or a group of people (usually called a company 😊).  Having this in mind makes an important shift of focus in the virtual agent design. The focus goes from designing transactions to creating the dialogues you’d like to have with your customers.

Just think about voice mail: When you are greeted nicely and the message makes you smile, will you think “What a friendly machine!”? Or will it be: “What a nice person!”? See? When creating a virtual agent, the same thinking applies.

You need to create a dialogue between yourself and your customers. You need to ask yourself, who are you talking to and what do you want to tell them.  As a result, it is about personal contact and the tools you use are not the deciding factor. Or let me phrase this differently: You need tools that do not get in the way between you and your customers. You need a platform rather than a readymade, which allows you to create conversations with your customers – or with your customer groups, for that matter.

As this year’s Customer Service Week celebrations come to an end, be sure to keep the H2I focus in your digital strategy. And if your conversational AI solution doesn’t provide you with the platform options to create the dialogue you want with customers, then it’s time to make a change.

Analysing Customer Queries to Improve Customer Service

By Maria Ward, Account Manager & Knowledgebase Engineer

I’ve worked in the chatbot field for over 15 years helping companies deliver better customer service, experiencing the technology both as a client and a provider. One of my favourite parts of my job is being able to use all my years of experience to steer my clients through the minefield of options to deliver a conversational AI solution that is both effective and efficient.

One of the reasons Creative Virtual has so many long-term customers is that we really get to know them and their products and services. This approach allows me to collaborate closely with my clients to identify opportunities that will specifically help them improve their chatbot experience.

Earlier this year I was working with one of my clients on expanding their customer-facing chatbot to provide self-service on more topics. One area we agreed would provide significant benefit to customers was addressing error codes they might encounter. However, due to the wide range of different machines and models customers might be using, the list of possible error messages they could see was very, very long!

Given the knowledge I had about their business and my experience with developing chatbot content, I knew right away that attempting to address every single error message would be wasted effort. I quickly steered them away from that pitfall and instead suggested our first step should be to go directly to the source: their own customer queries.

I analysed the previous year’s data collected by their chatbot to look for trends. What were the most common error codes users were asking about during that period? The goal of this analysis was to better understand which error messages customers were actually needing help with and how they were asking about them.

Once I identified the trends, I liaised with the client to select the error messages that should be added to the chatbot first. We looked at which ones customers were most frequently asking the chatbot about and which ones the client knew were likely to be the most common. We also looked at which errors could be explained and resolved best with a self-service approach. The error messages on this list were the ones that would deliver the biggest impact on their customer service.

Once we narrowed down the list of error messages, the next step was to identify whether each needed a new answer added to the chatbot or if there was existing content that was relevant. I also looked at how conversation flows could be used to guide customers to the specific information they needed to deal with their error code.

In the world of customer service, surveys are common tools for getting customer insights. However, you should never underestimate the value in analysing customer queries. The data collected by a self-service tool like a chatbot provides an honest, unfiltered look into your customers’ needs and what they are really asking.

My tip this Customer Service Week for improving your organisation’s customer service is to analyse your customer queries. Whether that’s transcripts from your chatbot, live chat, or contact centre, you can gain priceless insights that allow you to align your customer service updates with the actual needs of your customers.

AI Growth in the Insurance Industry

By Susan Ott, Senior Customer Success Manager

At the outset of the global pandemic in 2020, there was already a great emphasis on the consumer’s desire for artificial intelligence (AI) in day-to-day life.  As we find ourselves making our way, 18 months and counting, in this new normal it is a safe bet that the world of AI-powered self-service isn’t going anywhere.

One industry that has experienced an influx in the need for self-service is Insurance. With technology advancing every day, the need for instant service and issue resolution is becoming more and more expected. The preference of customers to be able to self-serve isn’t waning, but their patience with companies that don’t provide that option certainly is.

AI remains a major trend in the technology sector that will continue to alter how we work and live. Within the customer service space in particular, conversational AI is enabling companies to successfully meet the growing need for instant service.

These new technologies are being used in the multi-faceted Insurance field to automate Claim Processing, get Pricing/Quotes, and improve the overall Customer Service experience for Auto, Home and Life policyholders. Here are some examples:

  • Claim Processing: Companies spend a lot of money on Claims personnel, often times increasing rates to account for the large number of calls coming into their contact centers. Using AI, these companies can reduce their hiring budget by automating many of the routine questions that representatives field on any given day.
  • Pricing/Quotes: This is a huge area in which AI can be beneficial. Using AI, companies can be more competitive in their pricing and allow for personalization tailored to individual policyholders. Knowing some key criteria about a person, such as geographical location, marital status, and likelihood of filing a claim, helps to set premiums.
  • Customer Service: Companies need to look at AI in terms of it acting as a personal Concierge for users coming into the company’s website. It gets them where they need to be to best resolve their questions, allowing for a seamless and smooth experience, while decreasing phone or other live contacts via this digital channel.

Insurance companies should approach AI projects with the goal of creating better experiences for their policyholders, agents, and contact center teams. When used correctly, these technologies provide instant service that is personalized, convenient, and meets the expectations of today’s consumers. Automating processes and top customer service queries with AI also improves efficiency, increases productivity, and helps build customer trust and loyalty. All of this is more important than ever as we continue to make our way through this new normal.

Satisfied Customers and Happy Employees Require a Long-term Mindset

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

Whilst we celebrate customer service with a special week, we should always acknowledge that customer service is not something we can only think about 7 days out of the year! Equally, with the imminent COP26 taking place soon in Glasgow, we shouldn’t only spend a few weeks thinking about sustainability and climate change as a flavour of the month for it to then be tucked away until the next global summit.

We should use these special and timely events to do a deeper dive into what we can do to improve for the rest of the year and ways we can treat these topics with a focus year-round. In fact, I think that Customer Service Week and COP26 have a few overlaps in their objectives.

Part of the many aspects of ESG (environmental, sustainability, governance) objectives includes ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace as well as providing a safe working environment. Having happy and safe workers, who feel valued, increases both productivity and retention levels.

The parallel for how we should approach our customers is strikingly similar: well-treated customers, who feel safe in the care and attention given to them, are likely to be retained as customers. So long as the value we have for them continues and develops with their requirements, we will have happy, long-term customers.

Valued employees are more receptive to learning, listening, and wanting to support the company, which in turn means supporting our important customers – and they are ALL important! – in the best possible way. It is a team effort to create value in a company’s products, services, and support.

This creates a cyclical process which rewards everyone yet is crucial to maintain and takes ongoing attention and nurturing.

A linear customer experience can be defined as: customer asks for product; company gives product, end of story. This works well if you are buying a hot dog, for example.

However, a cyclical customer experience includes having the “lifecycle” of the exchange extended through communication and understanding of requirements and working to see how the customer can be supported. The experience covers everything from design to implementation and after-care. It aims to draw from core company values and expertise to offer best-of-breed advice.

This sounds so simple, but the key is to continue to monitor the cycle and check in on both employees and customers regularly to evaluate motivation, satisfaction, and success. Those are the prime elements for keeping satisfied customers and happy employees and for working towards sustainable ecosystems.

October and November will offer specific opportunities to consider all of the above. We should take advantage of these events with the mindset of carrying their importance with us for a lot more than just the next 12 months. Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, often ends his internal company communications with “Onwards”, and I feel this is a perfect moment for me to do the same.

Onwards and upwards towards never quenching the thirst for keeping both employees and customers happy and for operating within a sustainable working model that maintains the long-term investment ethos.

Conversational AI and the Contact Centre: The perfect customer service pair

By Khushal Hirani, Customer Success Manager

You can’t celebrate Customer Service Week without talking about the contact centre. Onboarding agents in a contact centre can be very time consuming and expensive. From the recruitment process, to training, up until they are on the floor taking calls, it takes a very long time until new agents are self-sufficient.

The job of a fully trained contact centre agent can also be extremely stressful. They must remember how to use several tools and different areas to access certain knowledge. They often must memorise certain scripts and be able to explain detailed processes. This puts a lot of pressure on agents and can result in a poor customer experience, unnecessarily long call times, and low customer satisfaction scores.

For example, contact centre agents tend to keep notepads or workbooks with their own notes at their desks to ensure they remember the processes. This means communication of processes from one agent could be completely different when speaking to clients than from another agent.

Too often contact centre agents are also dealing with many tools and applications to do their job. This means that before they can even start working with customers, they face extensive training to learn them all. Then after completing their training, this makes it hard for contact centre agents to switch between screens while answering customer questions. This increases the time on the call for customers and creates a very disjointed experience.

Fortunately for contact centre agents and customers, conversational AI tools can help eliminate some of these issues and stresses. Here are some benefits of using conversational AI in your contact centre:

  • Training time is reduced – When contact centre agents are onboarded, the training time is reduced as the agents don’t need to learn complicated tools or multiple applications. This means less time to get agents to the floor and more of a focus on training agents on the human side of providing empathetic customer service.
  • Single source of truth – Knowledge and processes are in a single location where everything is accessible to all contact centre agents, giving everyone the same level of knowledge regardless of their experience level. Conversational AI tools like virtual agents can also be set up to provide support through public-facing solutions from the same knowledgebase with answers customised for both agents and self-serving customers.
  • New knowledge identified with agent feedback – Every contact centre agent can identify any knowledge gaps as well as contribute towards creating new processes or updating content with a built-in feedback loop. This keeps the customer experience accurate and consistent by ensuring the most up-to-date information is going out to all the end-users through multiple channels.
  • Integration with back-end systems – Integrations into different applications make it easier for the agents to use conversational AI because they have one tool that lets them find what they need. A customised agent dashboard can bring everything together in one place, including real-time alerts and step-by-step process flows.
  • Reports and metrics tracking – Reporting that is accurate and easy to understand gives important insights into what conversations the agents are having with customers and what knowledge gaps have been identified. This helps you track important metrics and see opportunities to further improve your support experience.

Contact centres are a big investment for companies and important for customer support. When used in the contact centre, conversational AI gives agents easy access to all the knowledge and processes they need to provide a better customer service experience. It makes their jobs easier and lets them focus on the human side of serving customers. Conversational AI and contact centre agents become the perfect customer service pair.

A Customer Service Mantra: Treat your customers like a young baby!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The first week of October is when the world celebrates Customer Service Week every year. I became a new dad on 29th June and recently have been realising the parallels between being a parent to a young baby and serving customers. Anticipating his every need. Learning the signs and acting proactively before reaching the escalation stage (the crying!). Reading between the lines when the real need or issue isn’t immediately clear. Providing care when and where he needs it, 24/7/365. I could go on, but I’m guessing you get the picture! I’m not sure the tagline ‘treat your customers like a young baby’ is one that will catch on, but it’s the ethos that matters.

I’m always studying how other companies treat their customers, and there’s no better way than being a customer yourself. We live at a time where customer experience (CX) is the key competitive differentiator, and that’s why I’m really surprised when I experience particularly bad customer service. I had such an experience recently.

The issue was the lift in the housing block where my mum lives being out of service for well over a month. I was chasing up the estate management company for a status update. I sent over ten emails. I eventually got through on the phone to the person responsible, who said that she had been off sick and as I had sent so many emails it had meant she hadn’t seen any of them yet because the new emails kept pushing the email thread to the top of her inbox and she works from the bottom up.

I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this from a customer service person at a large property management company. There was no apology and no empathy whatsoever. In fact, she was quite annoyed and advised me that in future I shouldn’t chase up if I don’t hear anything as this just delays things. What an incredulous way to treat a customer! It was certainly in stark contrast to my ‘treat your customers like a young baby’ approach!

Shortly afterwards I had to send another email asking about a different issue. I received no reply and so have no idea if she’s dealing with it, and if I chase up I’m sure I’ll be met with the same annoyance. How can companies like this survive today? Monopolies and pseudo-monopolies like this property management company survive because of the lack of competition, resulting in the lack of customer choice. Unlike my mobile network provider, it’s not easy to change the property management company.

Intrigued to see if this lack of customer empathy was a one-off, I looked up their website. I looked at their `About Us’ page and the management team profiles, and the only reference to the ‘customer’ I could find was on the Sales Director’s profile that has a bullet point: “Driving exceptional customer service standards across the sales division”. I guess that says it all: the customer is only important for sales!

I may be being a bit unfair. The person I’m mentioning here may have been having a bad day., She had only just returned from being off sick, and I’m sure had many emails to deal with. But then again, where was the organisational backup for her? Perhaps a simple out-of-office email with contact details for somebody who was covering, or somebody monitoring her emails. Simple things that would have made all the difference. Exceptional customer service must start with excellent communication.

Just like the baby analogy, always being available to your customers is the most important thing. Of course, technology plays a big part in this today, especially when you need to scale-up the customer service to thousands, or even millions, of customers. From simple ‘out-of-office’ automation to fully fledged virtual agents that can hold consistent, personalised conversations with millions of customers at the same time.

Creating consistency is also key. This means consistency in the information provided as well as in the tone and demeaner of the interaction. A virtual agent is never in a bad mood and can seamlessly hand over to a human when needed. This leaves customer service agents only having to deal with the more complex enquiries, meaning much less volume and hopefully a more satisfying job.  Who wants to answer the same question 50 times a day, especially if it puts you in a bad mood?!

Of course, there are occasions when the customer’s issue can’t be immediately or simply solved, and that’s where communication and empathy play such an important part. Humans certainly have an advantage over virtual agents, at least today, when it comes to empathy. The companies greatest at customer service are the ones who deploy technology and humans to work in perfect harmony, combining the best attributes of each.

As we raise awareness of the importance of great customer service this week, let’s both reflect on the worst examples and celebrate the great ones. Take a look at your organisation’s attitude towards customers. Are you nurturing them with the same attention as you would a baby? Are you working to build a life-long relationship based on consistently positive experiences? Keep in mind that unlike babies, your customers can easily choose new ‘parents’ if they’re not happy.

It may not work as an official tagline, but you should be following this customer service mantra: treat your customers like a young baby.

A Stamp of Approval for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy Customer Service Week! It’s the first full week of October, and that means it is time once again for the annual week-long global celebration of the importance of customer service, the people who deliver that service, and the impact it has on business success. Since last year’s celebration, businesses have been forced to continue to find ways to overcome challenges the pandemic has raised around the world. Getting that coveted stamp of approval from customers and employees that comes from a successful customer service strategy has been harder than ever.

This is my sixth year creating a blog post roundup to kick off Creative Virtual’s celebration of Customer Service Week. It’s a post I look forward to writing every year even though it’s always difficult to narrow down a year’s worth of informative blog posts into just a couple handfuls to include. As a member of the Creative Virtual team for over 13 years now, I find compiling this roundup makes me contemplate how much has changed in the world of customer service over that time – evolving customer expectations, new contact channels, technological advancements.

But it also reminds me that some things haven’t changed. At the end of the day, customer service is all about people helping people – whether that’s designing self-service tools or answering calls in the contact centre.

And so, without further ado, here are some of the key blog posts on customer service we’ve shared on the Creative Virtual Blog over the past year:

  • Selecting the Right Conversational AI Vendor Makes All the Difference – Chatbots and virtual agents are at the forefront of many digital customer service strategies and selecting the vendor that’s a good fit for you is important for success. To help with that selection process, analyst group ISG evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors based on the depth of their service offerings and market presence.
  • Is Your Inexperienced Approach to Self-Service Driving Customers Away? – Trial-and-error is important in life but taking that approach to customer support can have a devastating effect on your business. When it comes to creating positive service experiences with chatbots, there is no substitute for having hands-on experience with building, integrating, installing, maintaining, and expanding these self-service tools.
  • Conversational AI and the Future of APAC Contact Centres – The companies that have the most success with their CX strategies take an approach that combines digital channels and the contact centre. They build a team that brings them together, which helps with creating and implementing a channel agnostic conversational AI strategy.
  • Combining Chatbots and Voice for Omnichannel Experiences – The tight integration of chatbots and voice creates a seamless journey as customers switch between channels, helping you deliver a connected experience. This post outlines three important tips for companies looking to get started with their own voicebot project.
  • On the Hunt for Better Customer Service – Companies are always on the hunt for ways to meet customer expectations, build brand loyalty, and deliver a better customer experience. Smart companies know the present and future of better customer service lie in the combination of humans and machines, people and technology, live agents and virtual agents.
  • It’s Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Enterprise Conversational AI Pricing – Enterprise software pricing is often shrouded in mystery and the subject of intense negotiations between the supplier and customer. Creative Virtual is removing that shroud of mystery with a guide to conversational AI pricing designed to help organisations properly budget and evaluate costs of these customer service solutions.
  • Past the Point of No Return: Customer and Employee Experience Post-Pandemic – While each of us has had an individual experience and been impacted in our own unique way by the pandemic, it has also been a global event that is leaving lasting effects on communities and companies everywhere. We have experienced too much uncertainty, overcome too many unexpected challenges, developed too many new digital skills, and created too many new expectations to be the same customers and employees as we were prior to the pandemic.
  • Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence – Part 1Part 2Part 3 – Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, and Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, joined Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, for a three-part discussion on conversational AI. Watch the recording to hear their conversation about current industry trends, the impact of the pandemic, and setting conversational AI project goals.
  • A Seamless Support Experience is Music to Your Customers’ Ears – Creating your overall customer service strategy is similar to writing a musical score – you have to pay attention not only to the performance of each individual component but also how they interact with each other over the course of the journey. You must ensure each element is utilised to emphasis its strengths but do so in a way that creates a joined-up, seamless experience.
  • Conversational AI Doesn’t Have to Be a Risky Investment – Step 1Step 2Step 3 – It’s a common misconception that conversational AI is always a high-risk investment for organisations, but one that shouldn’t keep you from implementing your own chatbot or virtual agent to improve customer service. This three-part blog series takes you through important steps for minimising risk and maximising benefits when embarking on a conversational AI project.

As we have for the past several years, the Creative Virtual team is joining the festivities this week with our Customer Service Week Blog Celebration – a series of posts written by expert members of our team on the present and future of customer service. Subscribe to our Blog to get them all delivered right in your Inbox and find them listed here as each is published.

On the Hunt for Better Customer Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The world always seems to be on the hunt for the next thing that will be bigger and better – the newest tech gadget, the latest fashion trend, the hottest social media challenge, the next break-out Netflix show. As customers, we want the best deal, the most innovative products and the greatest experience possible. This means that companies are always on the hunt for ways to meet those expectations, build brand loyalty and deliver a better customer experience.

Last week we celebrated Customer Service Week and CX Day, two annual events that place a spotlight on the importance of customer service and your overall customer experience as well as the people involved in supporting your customers. At Creative Virtual, we recognised these global celebrations with a special series of blog posts written by members of our expert team and published throughout the week. Each contributor selected their own topic independently, and the result was a well-rounded look at how humans and machines can help companies on that hunt for better customer service.

On Tuesday, we published a post by Rachel Freeman in which she explores the struggles contact centres have been facing during the pandemic. Long wait times have been fuelled by a sharp rise in calls combined with the unpredictability of available agents due to office closures and quarantines. She advocates for letting self-help tools, such as virtual agents and chatbots, share the burden being felt by contact centres.

“Let’s give the machines space to help, freedom to work” Rachel writes. This combination of humans and machines can create a seamless experience and more efficient customer service interactions. At the same time, using this approach helps companies prioritise the health and well-being of both their customers and employees.

This provided the perfect set-up for Laura Ludmany’s Customer Service Week Musings on how a machine knows if it’s wrong which we published on Wednesday. In her post, she takes a closer look at the different approaches that can be used to ‘teach’ chatbots and virtual agents. Her conclusion? When it comes to using these AI tools to provide customer service, they can only be trained appropriately with real-life user inputs.

Laura uses her experience working with self-service virtual agents to describe this hybrid approach and the different ways data can be collected from users and applied by the tool to learn about what is right and wrong. “As long as AI tools serve customer queries,” she explains, “they will always face unknown questions, hence they will never stop learning and rewriting their existing set of rules.”

She ends her post by recognising the important role humans, both customers and the virtual agent experts, have in helping these self-service tools deliver a continuously improving experience. This theme of the importance of the human touch was then picked up in Thursday’s post by Björn Gülsdorff.

Björn starts by recalling the presentation he gave in March at the CCW 2020 conference in Berlin which was all about the human touch in AI. The human touch was a hot topic at the event, being seen as the latest trend in Bot Building, and one that Creative Virtual has been doing for years. In his session, Björn talked about putting your customer in the centre of the project, keeping the human experts involved and giving the virtual agent’s responses a personal touch to improve the customer experience.

Now, seven months on from that conference, Björn acknowledges, “The human touch has a different meaning in a world where hugs are considered a danger.” He advocates for the use of technology to bridge the gaps created by the physical distancing needed to control the spread of COVID-19 but stresses the importance of remembering that these are just tools being used to connect people. Keeping the human touch in customer service by keeping humans in the loop is more important than ever.

So, what does this all mean for companies on the hunt for a better customer service experience? Having the right technology in place to enable customers to self-serve is imperative. The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital customer service. Customers who may have turned to digital channels and self-service options out of necessity this year, are now familiar with their convenience and are more likely to make them a part of their new customer service expectations. Contact centres also benefit from this technology with a better agent experience and improved customer interactions.

However, having the technology does not automatically ensure success. It needs to be combined with the right human expertise and support in order to be developed, implemented and maintained correctly for your organisation, customers and agents. That type of knowledge doesn’t happen overnight or come from reading a few blog posts (even great ones like these!). It takes a deep understanding of the technology, how the tools work and the ways users interact with implementations. That expertise only comes from years of actual experience in developing, implementing and maintaining self-service solutions.

Customer Service Week may be over for this year, but the never-ending hunt for better customer service – by companies and customers – goes on. 2020 has forced changes on all of us and accelerated the push for digital transformation. Smart companies know the present and future of better customer service lies in the combination of humans and machines, people and technology, live agents and virtual agents.