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Attention Marketers: You Could Learn Something from Your Customer Support Colleagues

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

“The data is clear: B2B buyers prefer do-it-yourself options for researching products and services prior to purchase. By a factor of three to one, B2B buyers want to self-educate rather than talk to sales representatives to learn about your offerings. The vast majority of B2B buyers will eventually connect with sales when necessary – they just want to be left alone while they do their research.” *

It’s certainly no secret that today’s customers are increasingly turning to low-friction, low-effort self-service options for information and support. But what about B2B buyers? In their recent report How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing, Forrester Research points out that the self-service behaviours we’ve learned as digital consumers are translating over to the approach B2B buyers are taking to make their purchasing decisions. When surveyed, 59% of B2B buyers agreed that they prefer their primary source of information to be their own online research rather than interacting with a sales representative.

For marketers who have been religiously creating and sharing educational content for marketing and advertising campaigns, this may not entirely come as a surprise. Yet simply having published this content doesn’t necessarily mean B2B buyers can find the information they need to move them towards a purchasing decision. This is where Forrester suggests that marketers can learn something from their customer support colleagues. As they point out in this report, customer support professionals have been ‘enabling self-service for years and are committed to facilitating knowledge transfer by removing every source of friction from the customer journey.’ B2B marketers must do the same for their buyers.

Forrester highlights three categories of self-service customer support tools that can be directly applied to B2B self-service research: organic search, contextual help/FAQs and virtual assistants. When implemented properly, these self-service solutions can benefit B2B marketers by helping them to retain more prospects, create self-qualified leads and gain a meaningful advantage over their competitors.

As a virtual assistant and contextual help/FAQs vendor mentioned in this report, we at Creative Virtual see huge potential for smart self-service solutions in both B2B and B2C marketing. Virtual agents not only help buyers find the relevant content and information they seek, but also engage them in a natural language conversation and can guide them through their research step-by-step. Our V-Person™ virtual agent solution is designed to be complementary to the systems and processes already in place, sit on top of existing infrastructure and integrate with other software and tools such as databases, site search and live chat. This means B2B marketers can quickly deploy a self-service research solution without lengthy or expensive development projects.

Forrester’s How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing is available to download from Creative Virtual for a limited time, so be sure to request your copy of the full report.

After reading the report, be sure to check out our educational resources and chat with Creative Virtual’s virtual assistant, Quark.

 

* How Self-Service Research Changes B2B Marketing, Forrester Research, Inc., 13 May 2016

Virtual Agents and Human Agents Join Forces for Customer Service in 2016

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

The New Year is here, and with it the much anticipated 2016 predictions, outlooks and trends for just about every industry and field, including customer service. With customer service a key part of the overall customer experience, every organisation should be keeping an eye on developments in the space and evaluating which can help improve support for their existing and potential customers.

Analyst Kate Leggett shared five of her top trends to watch this year in her blog post Forrester’s Top Trends for Customer Service in 2016. Trend number one should come as no surprise: Companies will make self-service easier. Kate reports that in 2015, web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded those over live-assist channels. Conversations with live agents were more frequently initiated as escalations when customers were unable to successfully self-serve, rather than as the initial channel of contact. In 2016, organisations will strive to make self-service easier for customers by looking at their knowledge management strategies and exploring virtual agent solutions.

The themes of self-service and human assistance – and the combination of those channels – also featured prominently when Call Centre Helper turned to their readers and contact centre experts with the question: What Will Happen to the Contact Centre in 2016 and Beyond? One contributor predicted that artificial intelligence will ‘take care of everything’ with only complaints being escalated to a human agent. Another reader looked to self-care options to handle transactional queries but not be able to replace the desire of customers to speak with a human. A third reader declared that as soon as virtual agents pass the Turing Test, ‘it will be Artificial Intelligence all the way!’

While it’s not likely that contact centres will turn to artificial intelligence ‘all the way’ in 2016, it’s important to recognise the impact that advances in natural language virtual agents are having in the customer service space today. Once stand-alone tools only able to answer basic questions, they are now sophisticated Smart Help solutions proven to improve customer satisfaction while also reducing support costs for organisations. Virtual agents are great at handling transactional queries, including personalised, account-specific questions and tasks, thanks to advanced integration options. When backed by the right knowledge management platform, virtual agents can easily be deployed across customer channels, including web, mobile and social, to make consistent, accurate self-service easier for both companies and their customers.

The virtual agents of 2016 are also designed to be complementary to live chat and other human-assisted support channels, with seamless escalation from self-service to a human agent. They are being successfully deployed within contact centres to support live agents and assure consistent communication from all agents and across contact channels. Through real-time and Voice of the Customer reporting, virtual agents are also giving organisations incredible insight into customer questions and behaviours that help improve their customer service strategies.

With customer preferences shifting towards easy self-service, there’s no better time than 2016 for organisations to explore the combination of virtual and human agents to create a seamless, personalised and convenient customer service experience.