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Automation Shouldn’t Force Customers to do the Work Themselves

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Customer Service Week was celebrated this week along with Customer Experience Day (CX Day) on 2nd October. These annual events got me contemplating on the future of customer service. Whilst I’m all for automation – as you would expect from someone leading a company that develops chatbot technology to automate customer service! – I wonder about removing the human element completely, especially when it involves the customer doing the work themselves.

This is why I’m not keen on supermarket self-checkouts. After a busy day, I want to switch off and walk around the supermarket with my head in the clouds – not have to scan, weigh, search for butternut squash on the supermarket’s database! And then it often goes wrong, and you have to ask for assistance anyway. It’s just such a bad experience for so many customers. The same with self-check-in at airports. Peeling off luggage labels and making sure they’re attached correctly isn’t my idea of fun.

Getting instant answers to questions instead of having to call or email a company is a great example of where technology does make for a better customer experience, as long as the system can quickly and seamlessly escalate to a human when it doesn’t have an answer. Deploying technology to automate tasks needs to be a win-win for the organisation and the customer: reducing customer service costs whilst improving the customer experience at the same time.

I also wonder about what effect removing the human element altogether could have on our society – who will us Brits have to moan to about the weather?! Luckily customer service chatbots can have a personality and engage in small talk – anything from talking about the weather to politely declining a date.

Yet, it’s not uncommon – or unreasonable – for organisations to worry about losing the opportunity to build human connections with customers as more and more of the experience becomes automated. They need to understand their customer journey and be smart about how they implement automation. In some situations, there is no substitute for engaging with a real human.

As Customer Service Week comes to a close, the challenges of delivering positive customer service experiences will stay top of mind for organisations. There’s no doubt that automation has an essential role in meeting those challenges in our digital, always-on society, but it should be in conjunction with the human element.

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out our newest whitepaper, A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre, and my most recent webinar presentation, Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple.

Are We Chatting or are We Serving? – The balance of chat and getting the solution quickly

By Rachel Freeman, Operations Director

In our digitised world, with expectations for immediate access to a variety of informational touch points, is it right to assume that we are losing our ability to have a one-to-one discussion that doesn’t involve a social forum? Are we so “busy” that we’d rather just get an answer than exchange any pleasantries?

I’m not convinced, but I bring it up to make us think about how we interact with our phones, desktops, social media apps and any home assistant device – an important consideration as we celebrate CX Day. On many occasions we use social media to advertise in some way –  it can be a product, photo, achievement or opinion. These channels call out for banter and hoped-for positive communication. Our home devices (Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home) often exist to provide “fluffy” help (turning on lights/heat/oven) but also can act as a personal advisor offering bedtime stories, the weather, a joke or football stats.

Currently I think it is safe to say that our desktops, tablets and phones are often the devices used the most to seek out a deeper level of information and help – whether it be to research a subject, reach out to individuals for a longer email or finally to get help on an account, including learning about the levels of service or complaining about a problem.

People use Twitter and Forums often to advise others of a poor customer service or a really good one, but email or help areas with FAQs and chat services are where most of us go to find out how we can be served more in-depth with our specific issue. Consequently, when things get more specific, a “pre-chat” of some sort usually occurs.

In the pre-internet days, people either picked up the stationary telephone or had to go into a shop or bank during office hours to clarify any concerns or support issues. There was a level of formality to the process, but now the protocol is more about ensuring voices are not raised on a live chat handover or indeed that profanity and insults are avoided at the risk of being cut-off from the session. All of these scenarios involve a chat of some kind in order to ease off the customer’s anger and for the agent to familiarise him/herself with the issue.

Personalisation (virtual or in-person) is an expectation and if a user logs on to a smart system, the system can be programmed to already know that Joe has a birthday on Sept 22nd and that his mobile phone package includes unlimited WIFI. Smalltalk can be easily factored into a smart agent or a chatbot, but the main objective is to get an answer and/or a resolution to the problem so that the customer has received (and the company has succeeded in providing) a smooth, positive and effective service transaction. A synthesis of a bit of familiarity with a positive result is the aim of great customer service – and this is when chat and help are done without the customer really caring if it is via a human or a machine.

With fewer face-to-face encounters, do we want a chat or do we just want an answer with no smalltalk included? Does it matter if the system you are logged into doesn’t appreciate the nuance of the fact that you are celebrating your 35th birthday on the day your broadband is due to be upgraded thus resulting in a massive downtime of service?

At Creative Virtual our systems are designed to offer personalised, effective and smart tools to create the chat/service balance, yet also “know” what the right triggers are for handing over to a real person when it’s time. An integrated handover allows the human agent to see the customer issue, based on the transcript, and then can add that extra element – the human touch – which may be a perfect ending to finding the solution. The chat and the serving of the solution with both a smart agent and a human all completed in one session – genius and still with time to exchange a “Happy Birthday” to the customer.

Learn more by watching our recent webinar, Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple, on-demand or request your own live demo to see our smart tools in action. Happy Customer Experience (CX) Day!

#CXDay: Listening to Voice of Employee to Drive Better Customer Experiences

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy CX Day! Today marks the annual global celebration of the companies and professionals that create great experiences for their customers. The impact customer experience has on building and retaining your customer base can’t be ignored, especially in today’s world of digitally-savvy, technology-empowered consumers.

Developing and implementing Voice of Customer (VoC) initiatives has helped many organisations improve their customer experience over the years by capturing valuable feedback and actionable insights. More recently though, smart companies are coming to realise that Voice of Employee (VoE) can also have a powerful impact on their customer experience strategy. In fact, Gartner predicts:

“By 2022, 35% of organisations with more than 5,000 employees will augment their annual employee engagement surveys with pulse, indirect and inferred feedback to build a more complete view of the employee experience.”

Organisations are struggling to respond to the rapid pace of both external and internal changes and the ways these changes are affecting their employees. This includes tackling constantly evolving customer experience needs. While it seems like a no-brainer to get input from customers to drive CX decisions, organisations can’t afford to overlook the importance of employee feedback as well. Employees play a key role in the overall experience consumers have with your company and brand. They can provide valuable insights into their interactions with customers as well as internal tools and processes.

While implementing a robust VoE initiative isn’t something that will happen overnight, a great place to start when it comes to customer experience is getting feedback from contact centre agents. Organisations are putting a great deal of focus and energy into digital transformation programmes in order to improve CX, and contact centres should be instrumental in driving that progress. Your agents are the ones providing support to customers – whether that be by phone, email, live chat or social channels – and the ones who deal with internal tools and processes day in and day out. They know what customers are repeatedly identifying as pain points and what their own pain points are when trying to deliver a quality support experience.

One way to empower contact centre agents to share their voice is to set up a feedback loop that allows them to provide real-time suggestions and comments on content. Agents can then easily flag information that is inaccurate or out-of-date and identify content that is incomplete or simply not helpful when they are engaging with customers. They can also submit comments that can help identify or explain issues with other parts of your customer experience. For example, if agents are repeatedly answering the same question over and over they can help pinpoint the issue based on their interactions with customers. Perhaps customers can’t find the information they need on the website or a feature in the mobile app isn’t working as intended – agents can share this valuable insight quickly so the appropriate steps can be actioned to correct and improve the customer experience. Agent feedback can also be used to enhance the employee experience for your agents, which in turn creates happier, more engaged agents providing better support for your customers.

You can learn more about implementing an industry-defining feedback loop in this recent Innovation Showcase webinar. Listening to the voices of your employees can go a long way in taking your CX from good to great.

#CXDay: Bridging the Gap for Great Customer Experiences

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy CX Day! Today marks the 4th annual CX Day, a global celebration of great customer experience and the professionals who make it happen. There’s no escaping the fact that customer experience has become a key factor in customer purchasing decisions, often even outweighing price. And to say that delivering a positive experience can be challenging is certainly an understatement!

I was recently reading a blog post from Gartner about improving the customer experience by creating bridges between silos of engagement (more on that later), and it brought to mind a story about Waldameer Park, a small, family-run amusement park along the shores of Lake Erie in the US. In the 1990s, park owner Paul Nelson began the quest to build a new roller coaster, the Ravine Flyer II, to replace the original Ravine Flyer which closed in 1938. He was adamant that, like the original coaster, the new one cross over Peninsula Drive to give riders a unique, thrilling experience. Bridging the 4-lane highway, which is the only access road to popular Presque Isle State Park, became one of the main obstacles Paul would face in gaining approval to construct the new coaster.

Waldameer Park bridgeIn 2008, after nearly 20 years of planning, legal battles and long delays, the Ravine Flyer II opened – featuring a 165-foot-long arched bridge that takes riders over traffic on Peninsula Drive and back during their minute and a half long ride. Paul’s dedication to his vision paid off. The Ravine Flyer II won the prestigious ‘Golden Ticket Award’ as the best new ride in the world for 2008 by Amusement Today and park attendance jumped by 20% that season. The park has continued to maintain those increased levels of attendance in the years since the coaster opened, and the Ravine Flyer II is consistently ranked as one of the Best Wooden Roller Coasters in the world, reaching 5th place in 2016. Riders continue to rave about the experience of the Ravine Flyer II, many returning year-after-year to enjoy the coaster.

Just like bridging the 4 lanes of traffic was an obstacle for the construction of the coaster, so is the bridging of engagement silos for the improvement of the customer experience. According to Gartner analyst Gene Phifer:

“Delivering customer engagement in silos can significantly damage the customer experience. We predict that through 2020, silos of customer engagement will be one of the top three leading causes of customer dissatisfaction for enterprises across all industry segments.”

Even though silos may be the natural result of how your organisation is structured, your customers don’t care. They just want a smooth, seamless journey that enables them to remain oblivious to the fact that they may have transitioned from one internal silo to another. Mr Phifer continued:

“Bridging the silos of customer engagement leads to a seamless transition across channels and devices. Moving from a disconnected, siloed customer experience to a truly unified customer experience is an important step in maintaining and improving the customer experience. This may be nothing new, but the difference now is that it is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It has become a necessity for survival.”

That’s certainly some good food for thought as we celebrate CX Day and great customer experiences around the world. Organisations that want to be truly competitive need to take a step back and evaluate whether or not they are providing their customers with seamless, end-to-end engagement – even if their journeys feel like a roller coaster ride as they switch between channels and devices!

Whether or not you’re a roller coaster enthusiast, I’m sure you can appreciate that it was Mr Nelson’s unwavering commitment to his customer experience vision that made all the difference. While I’ve not met him personally, I’ve been told by someone who has that his passion for Waldameer Park and the experience of his park visitors is very obvious in every business decision he makes. Today we recognise him and all the customer experience professionals who are dedicated to bridging the gaps in order to deliver great experiences that make customers want to come back for more. Thank you for the hard work you do all year long!

 Photos courtesy of Mekis Construction.