Healthcare is a sensitive topic for a lot of Americans. It’s become top of mind for many who have seen loved ones sick. We all want to be healthier and have a better quality of life, but unfortunately customer service in healthcare has one of the worst reputations, and people want to veto the experience all-together.
While doctors, nurses, and all healthcare support staff are busy trying to save lives, it’s no secret they are overworked, and the priority in the patient experience can fall to the bottom of their priorities. It is often a thankless job, but fortunately, there is an opportunity to serve the community in an outstanding way that your competitors are lacking.
Why Customer Service in Healthcare Is Important
Keeping up-to-date with the latest medical advances has always been a priority for the healthcare industry, but this means new technology and the opportunity to improve the administration and patient experience can fall behind. With lives on the line, it’s almost a no-brainer where to invest when trying to allocate limited resources.
However, latest consumer trends and research make the lack of customer experience impossible to ignore. Healthcare is contending with evolving patient demands. People want more out of their experiences. Personalized experiences have become the norm in industries like retail and hospitality. According to research conducted by SalesForce, 69% of consumers say one extraordinary customer experience raises their expectations of other companies, and 57% of Americans say the healthcare industry cares more about their own needs than the patient needs.
Younger generations are prioritizing a better quality of life and they’re not afraid to go elsewhere to get treated the best. In the same Salesforce survey, 83% of millennials wanted a mobile app for health coaching and 79% wanted 24/7 text messaging abilities. Compared with other generations, they are especially accustomed to having their needs met in a personalized way and their customer experience in healthcare has been incredibly jarring.
Common Patient Complaints
Healthcare administration staff might be surprised to know that patients dealing with unfriendly staff is not the number one complaint. Although a rude receptionist can sway their entire experience at the clinic or hospital, the biggest complaints are scheduling difficulties, waiting too long, and confusion with insurance and billing. Unsatisfied patients did rank high in feeling like they weren’t heard and did not think they had enough time with the doctor, but it wasn’t the most outstanding problem.
This provides some good news for those in healthcare. A lot of the problems can be fixed with automation and technology. By hiring additional chat support staff, which tends to be cheaper than hiring in-person personnel, you can also quickly address issues and customer scheduling concerns that can be done outside of the office and in the comfort of the patient’s home.
How to Provide Excellent Customer Service in Healthcare
A patient-centric approach is critical to transforming the overall customer experience. People want a seamless experience and this can be provided to patients by offering various communication touchpoints. You might think good service begins with the people, and you’re not wrong. However, setting up good tools and efficient systems will only make the training process easier and more scalable.
People in the end want to feel like they matter and that their concerns are heard. Doctors have limited time, so this offers an excellent opportunity for customer service staff to thrive. By having the right systems and processes in place, you can collect patient feedback and address it in a timely manner.
Kustomer: The Healthcare Customer Service Solution for You
There are a number of ways Kustomer helps the healthcare industry and their patients. First and foremost is keeping up-to-date with HIPAA compliance so that patient data is safe and secure.
Additionally, through the use of AI, Kustomer automates manual tasks, routes conversations, and answers commonly asked patient questions to help people self-serve before talking to customer service.
Kustomer has developed a handy guide that outlines what consumers expect from the patient experience here. With a survey of over 550 US-based participants, Kustomer uncovered that 79% of individuals say service is extremely important when deciding where to do business. In the guide, you’ll learn how to drive more revenue through prioritizing the patient experience.
If you’re interested in requesting a demo or would like to know more about how Kustomer helps those in the healthcare industry, find more information here.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Darryl Addington from Five9 to learn about integrating cloud support and AI into the CX space. Darryl has been involved with AI for years and is an expert at teaching leaders how to fully integrate these new systems into everyday operations. Tune into the episode to learn more.
Hot Take: How Artificial Intelligence Promotes Human Interaction
What would the world be like if AI were to be completely integrated into business practices? Would the human race be eradicated? Would there be lasting world peace? Or would there simply be streamlined customer journeys? The answer is: most likely the third option. It’s fun to fantasize about an AI-driven world, but that future is probably beyond our reach at this point in time, regardless of the advancements being made in the industry. The AI used in most businesses today is there simply to help the customer and the agent.
You might be wondering how AI drives human connection when artificial intelligence is, well, artificial. The purpose of AI is to support agents in a way that allows them to further personalize customer experiences by supplying them with the right information necessary for success. Even though a person might be dealing with a bot when they first contact the CX team, that bot can collect information from the customer to help the agent learn more about what exactly the customer needs. Interactions like this help the customer to feel listened to. They feel like their needs are being taken care of promptly and accurately when the agent is already aware of their purpose for calling in. Personalization is key to adding in that extra layer of humanity to CX and AI is one sure way to get that.
The Benefits are Endless and Profitable
Some of the most evident benefits of integrating AI to CX are the time and money such software can save a company. For example, customers are habitually upset when they have to constantly repeat their purpose for calling every single time they’re transferred from one department to another. With the help of AI, these situations can be entirely avoided because the software along with cloud systems contains all of the information departments need about their customers to make the journey just that much smoother. Darryl recognizes that as a leader in the contact center world, it can be difficult to fully buy into the idea of AI services when some existing processes are alright as is. Many leaders question why they should even buy into AI when innovation is already happening within their contact centers. As Vikas says, “The cloud has matured significantly. In the early days, people had fear about data security, data privacy, up time, and things of that nature…Those are no longer or less of an issue now with the maturity of the contact center space in the cloud.” With the combination of AI and the cloud in CX, teams are better equipped to serve the customer.
A Future Where Agents and AI Collide
With the endless possibilities facing the world of CX, one can’t help but imagine a time where agents and AI work together to handle customer situations. Darryl believes that this could be the future of contact centers because AI software has the capability to suggest next steps during interactions based on an analysis of what the customer is saying at the moment. It doesn’t just stop there though. AI can analyze tone and situation through a customer’s phone call to suggest potential products that meet their needs as well as suggest articles that answer any questions the consumer may have during the call – further personalizing the experience. Darryl then explains how AI is an awesome investment for the agent side of CX because it shortens after call work and takes notes for the rep, so they can give their undivided attention to the customer. “It’s practical. You can find vendors that are using that technology in ways that are allowing you to solve business problems you have today.” So while leaders anxiously await the development of CX technology to something as grand as in the movies, they would be wise to look into integrating AI. Innovation awaits.
To learn more about artificial intelligence in the workspace, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re actually joining Facebook. Kustomer’s joining Facebook. So if you haven’t heard real exciting news for the Kustomer crew, go check it out on our blog, pending regulatory review. Some real fun synergies that I think will continue to push forward client services, client success, and the overall customer experience. I’m so excited about that news. But today we’re going to be talking about five secrets to practical AI in the contact center. And to do that, we’re going to bring on a couple of special guests. You know Vikas, Head of CX and SVP of Sales over here at Kustomer. Who you probably don’t know is Darryl Addington. He’s the Director of Product Marketing at Five9. So Darryl, thanks for joining and how the heck are ya?
Darryl Addington: (01:14)
I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. It’s super exciting to be here. I love AI. AI in the contact centers, this new technology. So I’m stoked to talk about it today.
Gabe Larsen: (01:23)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s jump in, but before we do, you got to tell us a little bit about yourself and then how do you know Vikas? You guys seem to have something in your history, nothing inappropriate. I want to keep this above the belt please. Above the belt.
Darryl Addington: (01:37)
Yeah. So I’ve been in the contact center industry for most of my career, which is I lose count because it changes every year, but it’s somewhere around 25 years. I started at a company called Edify, which was a self service company. So they had one of the first 4GL development environments. And it’s actually not too dissimilar from some of the stuff that’s out there today. I spent some, I spent quite a bit of time at Genesys and then Vikas and I met when we were at 8×8.
Gabe Larsen: (02:02)
You were at 8×8? They’re still doing well aren’t they? 8×8’s still doing well.
Darryl Addington: (02:08)
Yeah, they are. They do seem to be doing well there. From what I’ve seen, they’re attaching quite a bit of contact center to their UC sale, which is a big part of their businesses is unified communications. Yeah. They had a little bit of news today about a new CEO. That’s going to join the company and take them on to the next part of their journey.
Gabe Larsen: (02:28)
Oh, I didn’t see that. Interesting. And then it was 8×8 to Five9, or was there a step in between that?
Darryl Addington: (02:34)
That was it for me. Yeah. I came over here, I guess getting close to four years ago and that’s been a super, super interesting ride. Five9 has a great cloud contact center. And the market is certainly looking towards the cloud for their contact center technology. And so it’s been great. I mean, it changes every single quarter, as I like to say. What happened? What did we do last year? Well, it doesn’t really matter what we did last year because things are changing so fast, but it’s great to be in a market where people are using the technology and at a company that’s so great like Five9, the people there are really great, and we have really good processes and things, and our customers love us, which is a spectacular position to be in.
Gabe Larsen: (03:11)
Interesting. You want to add anything to that, Vikas? Did you guys actually work together?
Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
We did, we did. Obviously I led an enterprise and mid-market sales at 8×8, and Darryl was in product marketing. And we worked very closely together in terms of a lot of our rollout, particularly around our contact center solution there. And I’m glad to get reacquainted with Darryl, obviously Five9 being a key partner for us here at Kustomer. So excited to have the discussion around AI and what’s going on in the market.
Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
So you guys didn’t have any of the typical sales and marketing fights then, huh? It was all rosy.
Vikas Bhambri: (03:47)
I mean, it was just like you and me, Gabe. There’s never any fights between sales and marketing when it comes to me. I know how heavily dependent I am on both you guys in individual lives for success. So trust me, there’s no fighting here.
Gabe Larsen: (04:02)
That’s fair. It’s been fun to partner with Vikas. And truthfully Darryl, Five9, I got to admit, it sounds like you’ve been there for awhile, it’s just a great story. How many employees are you guys up to? I don’t want to go into anything.
Darryl Addington: (04:13)
Yeah, I believe we’re at around 1300, I think that’s correct. Yeah, when I joined it was seven or eight, something like that. So, yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (04:23)
Yeah. Right. I mean it is a growth story. If you haven’t heard about Five9, the innovation they brought to the contact center, the dialing solutions, I remember we actually used you guys in a couple of places in some, in more of a sales area. Maybe five, I don’t know.
Darryl Addington: (04:41)
Yeah, that’s right. That’s actually been around since 2001 and for the first eight to ten years of its existence, we did quite a bit of outbound, which was who was buying cloud0-based solutions at that time. And then, six years ago, the contact center said, “Okay, I’m ready for the cloud from my inbound contact center.” And that’s most of what we do today.
Gabe Larsen: (05:02)
And that was such a, I don’t know if you call it a pivot but I remember when you guys started to kind of go that direction and it’s obviously turned out really well. So a lot of cool stuff in the contact center. Let’s jump into AI. Maybe just start with a super big picture. I mean, obviously a buzzword. What does that mean to you? What is AI? Give us kind of why people should even care about it, what it is.
Darryl Addington: (05:22)
Yeah. You know, AI is interesting because like a lot of industry trends it’s, people have gotten a hold of a term and they’re using it whether it’s appropriate to use or not. The other thing about AI is because there’ve been so many movies and TV shows about AI, people’s first inclination when they hear it is, “Well, this must be something magical.” And there may be a point where we have some voice in the cloud that we talk to and it knows everything about us and it knows everything about the business that we’re communicating with and can magically solve all of our problems for us. And if that happens in the future, that’ll be interesting. It’ll probably change every aspect of lives, but it’s not something that businesses can invest in today. It doesn’t exist today. And so what they can invest in now is technology using this idea of machine learning, which we can talk a little bit about. They can invest in that to solve the types of problems that they’re suffering from today, which there’s lots of them. And especially if you look in the contact center, tons of room for improvement in customer experience, as we all know, and tons of room for improvement in terms of operations and improving efficiency and things like that.
Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
Interesting. Yeah. I’ve got a nine-year-old boy and I’ve let him do a couple of things with the Avengers, Ironman, and he did ask not long ago, he’s like, “When can we get this Jarvis?” Like, “When does Jarvis come to our house?” And you can just –
Darryl Addington: (06:38)
He walks around, right?
Gabe Larsen: (06:40)
He changes everything, cleans the house, and makes everything great. I’m like, “Well, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.” So when you think about artificial intelligence, I’m really trying to lay the foundation, is there certain things you need to be or have in place to make sure we’re actually set up to implement this in a structured manner?
Darryl Addington: (07:00)
Yeah. There are a few steps that you can take. There’s actually a lot of low-hanging fruit for a lot of the contact centers out there to help them with customer experience and efficiency, and the first one is moving to the cloud and there’s a few reasons to do that. It sounds a little self-serving, but the reality is that all the innovation that’s going on in the contact center in terms of software is happening in the cloud. You might’ve seen a couple of years ago that Gartner ended their MQ for on premises contact center. And they said that the technology had reached its peak point and it wasn’t evolving anymore. So there was no reason to have an MQ. And that’s because all that innovation is now going towards the cloud. So that’s one good reason.
Darryl Addington: (07:39)
The second big reason is that the cloud is where the data’s at. So if you look at what machine learning is, and if I can just jump into that for a second. So machine learning is basically, it’s not magical. It’s basically an algorithm – it’s just math. And what it does is it allows machines, but the really cheap compute power that we have today to be able to go through a whole bunch of data. So in the example of text-to-speech, right, machines being able to have natural sounding voices, Wavenet, which is Google’s text to speech, they sample voices, millions and millions and millions of hours of voices at up to 24,000 samples per second. So if you think of all the data points that you’ve got along that human voice, and then you multiply that times all the needs of hours that the computer has gone through, it has so much data about the way that we articulate, the way that our voices sound. Just what we’ve been, I’ve been talking about this for a minute, right? Like how many samples do you have in there? And what that’s done is it’s generated these really super realistic, like, you can still tell it’s a machine if you’re listening closely, but it sounds so good that it doesn’t get in the way of the communication between a machine and a human anymore. And so that’s just one example of how machine learning is adding to this technology. And anyway, the data is in the cloud, right? And in an on premises world, all those voice conversations are trapped in servers somewhere in an enterprise, and you can’t get to them. And so you can’t really improve the AI with that data.
Gabe Larsen: (09:08)
It seems like Vikas, you’re out there on the front lines a lot with people and the move to cloud has obviously been accelerated with the pandemic. I mean, why is somebody even, no offense if you’re on premise at the moment, but why is someone, are there actually people who are on premise still? And if so, why?
Vikas Bhambri: (09:26)
There are. Obviously the legacy vendors are still in existence and making a lot of money off of the maintenance revenue from people being on-prem. I think the key thing is, look, change is hard, right? And I think it’s A, the fear of uncertainty. Two, it’s the effort to actually go through that migration process. And then there’s a lot of unknowns and hearsay in the market and look, as Darryl said, the cloud has matured significantly. In the early days, people had fear about data security, data, privacy, up time and things of that nature, right? Those are no longer or less of an issue now with the maturity of the contact center space in the cloud. So I think those are some things where businesses have a lot on their plate obviously, and so this becomes a matter of where does this fall on your priority list? The challenge, I think most people don’t see is all the upside that Darryl alluded to by moving to the cloud because that’s where the innovation is. So at some point, yes, you need to bite the bullet, but it’s not just about doing as is, right? And like, “Oh, I can run my contact center on-prem today and I’m going to,”
Darryl Addington: (10:44)
Vikas Bhambri: (10:44)
“What are all the additional things that I can take advantage of once I move to the cloud?” I think that’s what a business should really be thinking about.
Darryl Addington: (10:52)
I completely agree, Vikas, and actually the integration to Kustomer that you guys have created using our SDK is an example of something that’s completely different in the cloud than it is on premises. And anybody that’s been on premises and is connected their CRM or customer information system to their contact center, knows that you own that integration, regardless of who did that work when it breaks, it’s, you’re the one that’s responsible for that breakage. And Gartner calls it fragile infrastructure. It’s this connection between all the different systems in an on-premises world. And basically what it does is horrible for the contact center, but it causes people to not make changes to what they’re doing. So they can’t iterate. They can’t transform. They do changes every three months or six months, or over years sometimes because in the past, they’ve made a change and it’s broken and what the worst thing you can possibly do is roll out a change to all your agents and have it break. Your phone’s going to light up. You might do it twice. You’re not going to do it three times. And all that’s super, super stable on the cloud, like that has gone away because the cloud vendors, like yourselves and ourselves, we own that. We have thousands of customers using these integrations and using the software. So it behooves us to make sure that it works because now our desk is, our phones are lighting up when it doesn’t work, not the person that was responsible for the context of your integration in the first place.
Gabe Larsen: (12:14)
Yeah, that’s so interesting that Gartner and I didn’t realize they’d gotten rid of that on-prem, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that, Darryl. That’s funny. Well, let’s talk about some of the practical uses. You gave kind of the general idea and the foundational, but how did that translate for the agent and the customer? Maybe you can just start at a high level, where do you feel like people are seeing some of those benefits from moving to the cloud, and then the data, the machine learning, and ultimately the artificial intelligence?
Darryl Addington: (12:37)
Yeah, so the net result of machine learning and AI, and there’s a couple of use cases that I think we could talk about here. So one is automation. How can you take some of the things that people are currently doing with agents and automate them? And then the second is agent’s assistance. How can you make the agent’s job easier? And there’s lots of benefits that you get in terms of what the customer experience is like, but also some benefits around agent training and things like that. So if you take that first example, automation, there’s a lot of things that you might try and do in an IVR, but as we all know, using, pushing buttons on the DTMF is not a lot of fun. Most customers won’t do it. Later, we can touch on a customer case study that had a DTMF auto-attendant replaced with an AI-based auto-attendant and saw some awesome results.
Gabe Larsen: (13:25)
Darryl Addington: (13:27)
And then the other element is you might, speech reco exists today, but it’s so expensive and hard to put in and it takes so much energy to maintain over time that it’s only been available to the high end of the market. So if you call Southwest Airlines and you call your bank, and it’s a big bank, you’ve probably interacted with a speech recognition system to automate some of the things you do, transfer funds from checking to savings, et cetera. But those are expensive and so the average business can’t really adopt them, but with this AI stuff, it is actually a lot easier to implement. We put in that auto attendant that I referenced in about two weeks, two weeks of PS, like one person for two weeks, which is crazy different from what the old speech reco was.
Darryl Addington: (14:10)
It was six months to nine months just to get the thing up and running. In some cases for the larger companies, like two years before you could actually put the thing into production. Really, really amazing. Anyway, so automation is like the first one and in any business, and you can kind of break down automation versus assistant, right? So customers know when they need to, when they need some automation versus when they need some assistance from a human being. So for example, if I’m going to go into a business and I’m going to, I want to know, is your store open? Right. Very, super common for COVID right now, is the store open? When is it open? Like, what hours are it open? These are all like things that you know you can just figure out, you should be able to figure it out from our website or from an IVA.
Darryl Addington: (14:51)
What’s the status of my order? I need to change my address. These are all things that you would expect to be able to do without a human being. But, “Hey, I ordered a piano bench 20 weeks ago and for the last 20 weeks, every two weeks, you’ve said it’s coming, but it’s not here yet.” So like, let’s have a conversation because I know I’m not going to get this resolved on self-service. And so that’s sort of, if you think about it from that perspective as a business, you can kind of think about what do I want to automate versus what I want that has something to do with the human experience that you’ve got. It has something to do with the relationship that you have with the business. You want to get to a human being because they’re going to be able to smooth all that over and make it better.
Gabe Larsen: (15:30)
So in a lot of ways, you’ve been able to take that complex voice recognition and be able to simplify it so that you can automate some of those more mundane tasks via phone if they want to. It’s just a [inaudible].
Darryl Addington: (15:42)
Yeah. Speech reco is a good example. And then I guess, let me just talk about IQVIA which is one of our customers. They did the auto attendant. What they found was that their customers weren’t willing to hit the tones. They weren’t willing to hit the buttons on the phone. And what that resulted in was that they got to agents that weren’t necessarily skilled to solve their problem. And then, like they probably had access to a CRM, like the great one that you guys have, but they maybe didn’t know how to navigate through it in order to find what they needed, et cetera. So when they implemented the flat menu, essentially, right, just tell me what it is that you’re calling about, customers were willing to give that a shot. And what they found was after those two weeks that I talked about, 87% on the first utterance, the first time that they just said, “Hey, I’m calling about this issue,” they were able to identify that and transfer that to the right agent and 93% after the second utterance. So if it didn’t get it the first time they were able to get to 93. They reduced their agent transfer down to less than 1% from agent to agent, meaning it got routed correctly to the agent. And then the other big stat for that one that was amazing to me was their average handle time decreased by 15% because the agents were actually trained on the issue of the customer. Yeah. So like really cool stuff. And the fact that a medium size and not these big organizations could implement something like that to me is, that’s like wow, right? Like that’s okay. It’s not quite magic like Jarvis, but it has such a big impact on the business. It’s super compelling and interesting and it solves the problems that the businesses have today.
Gabe Larsen: (17:18)
Interesting. Thoughts on that Vikas?
Vikas Bhambri: (17:21)
No, I think the key thing is that it opened up the opportunity for all types of businesses to deliver that optimal experience. You know what Darryl said, if you look at speech recognition, something that was primarily kind of started by, primary adoption was large financial services institutions. So the flagship banks, and as Darryl said, it took the number of years to roll it out. And frankly, the effectiveness of it, I would still debate, right? So now being able to offer that up to a medium size, small businesses I think is fantastic because as consumers we don’t only want to have a great experience, we used to joke that everybody talks about Apple delivering this amazing experience and everybody said, “Yeah, sure. It’s Apple,” right? Trillion dollar company. Of course they can afford to. So now I think of an opportunity for every business owner or every leader in every business, to think that they have the capabilities within their budget to go deliver an Apple-like experience, which I think is great because as a consumer, I think that’s the ideal that we’re all looking for.
Gabe Larsen: (18:30)
Yeah. It’s interesting. And I assume Darryl, that found that often the touch tone versus the speaking, it’s that big of a difference. We’re that lazy.
Darryl Addington: (18:43)
Yeah. Well, most people don’t understand why they’re doing it. You know there’s actually a website and it’s been around for forever, it’s called Get Human. And it tells you how to bypass the IVR so you can talk to a person, but what the consumer doesn’t realize, generally speaking, is that they’re then going to get to an agent that isn’t skilled to help them and so they’re going to get transferred around after that in order to solve their problem. But whatever. Speech reco is much, much better now with this AI. And even saying they don’t even call it speech reco anymore but it does recognize what you’re saying. Potentially yeah, to just be easy and usable which is great.
Gabe Larsen: (19:19)
I didn’t realize that was such a difference. And then you mentioned a little bit about agent assist-type capabilities. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Or what does that look like?
Darryl Addington: (19:27)
Yeah, so agent assist is now, so now we know the consumer knows and the business knows that an agent needs to be involved. You’ve got something that is relational. So you’re onboarding a customer, for example, you don’t want to do that really in self-service. Some businesses can do it just because of the nature of their business, but a lot of businesses want you human beings involved. Or it’s something that is going to break the relationship. Hey, it’s been, like I said with the piano bench or travel-wise, I called Southwest Airlines recently. I was going to go to Kauai over the break and they closed the island and Southwest canceled my flights. So I wanted to talk to somebody about that. So you know you need a human, okay. So now you get to the agent now, how can you help the agent? And there’s a number of ways that AI can do that really easily today. So one is around call summarization and dispositions. So dispositions is this funny word, right? A disposition is essentially like, what was the call about? It’s a pretty simple thing. And the agent typically in a contact center has got, it’s easy to do. They just click on one, except that the list is usually a hundred items or longe. They have to scroll through the list at the end, right, and figure out what was the call about? And with a hundred items and the fact that most calls, not all calls, but most calls have multiple things that they were about, the agent does something called satisfaction. They just pick the first one that looks pretty good and their management doesn’t want them on after call work. They don’t want them sitting there for 10 minutes optimizing that disposition, right?
Darryl Addington: (20:50)
They want him to get onto the next phone call. So they just pick whatever. So that just totally ruins the reporting. Like you don’t actually know what that call is about. You know what the agent saw, the first thing the agent saw that looked close is what you know about that call. So AI can help with that because it listens to the whole call, listens to the conversation between the customer and the agent, and then they can pick multiple dispositions based on what that call was actually about. Now, you got this awesome reporting that’s more accurate and can actually tell you and let you fix problems around what your customers are calling about. So that’s number one.
Darryl Addington: (21:20)
Number two is call summaries. A lot of time gets spent by agents trying to capture what’s happening in the call and write down notes. With AI I can just capture all of that. And one of the things that Five9 is doing that’s interesting is that we actually summarize the call based on the dictation. The AI is not perfect, but it gives us enough details that we can then use NLP to summarize what that call was about. And at the end of the call, the agent just goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, let me crack that one real quick. I’ll be cool.” And they hit the button and it automatically gets written into Kustomer, into the CRMso that they don’t have to do all that. So shorten, it does two things. Shortens the after-call work, but then it also allows them to focus more on the customer because they’re not busy trying to capture all the notes during that.
Darryl Addington: (22:05)
Darryl, are you seeing an ability in the voice world to whisper to the agent and obviously prompt them based on the conversation that is taking place on potential solutions? So as you said, the AI is listening to the conversation going back and forth between the consumer and the agent and actually recommending, “Hey, maybe you want to say this. This is the solution to that problem. Like they should reset their cable box,” whatever it is. Do you see, is that something that exists or is that something that is still in flight?
Darryl Addington: (22:42)
Yeah, no, that’s something that you can do today and a great example. So there’s a whole bunch of different things that you can do around, like, so you might have legal statements that you need the agent to say, so you can watch for those. You can actually watch to see if they didn’t say them and then you can prompt them to say it, and then you can see if they actually said it like, so it’s like so awesome using the technology. And then there might be the next best action type of things. Like what should they be doing? So for example, it might be an example of if you’re in a business where the usage is important to the customer using the product, there might be examples, “Oh, have you tried using it like this?” Or it could be cross sell up sell-type opportunities where it’s saying, “Hey, customers that purchase that product that you’re talking about now, 85% of them purchased this product next.”
Darryl Addington: (23:25)
So talk to them about that product. So yeah, lots of examples there. The other thing that is happening is knowledge base. So being able to go on a knowledge base and pull up articles and present those to the agent, and man, talk about it being easier for the agent to your point, Vikas. You’ve got, and now you’ve got an AI that’s right there saying, “Hey, here’s what to do next.” Or, “Here’s an article that you can use to solve this problem.” It helps the agent because they’re not distracted with, and as you know, as you guys both know, one of the big problems with agents is they’ve got stuff everywhere, right? So they spend a lot of time putting the customer on hold and looking for things and with the AI just suggesting –
Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Not if they’re using Kustomer, but that’s a different discussion.
Darryl Addington: (24:07)
No, you’re right. But the you’re replacing environments that are like that with –
Gabe Larsen: (24:12)
Yeah, i’s funny. As I look at that, Darryl, I’m like, how did the agent ever function without these things? Like, what were they doing? They must’ve been, I guess they were –
Vikas Bhambri: (24:22)
Going back to what Gabe’s son was saying about Jarvis, right? We often, when we think about AI, it’s always still today, it’s very much a handoff conversation. It’s like, “Okay. The bot tries to solve the issue if it can. It hands off to human agent.” And yeah. I mean, we suggest things too. Do you envision a world where, especially in the voice world, it’s slightly different in the digital world where we’re talking about chat or social or whatever, where bot and agent are actually solving the problem for the customer together? And what I mean, I’m just thinking out loud, right? So from the perspective of I’ve got a generalist agent or, and maybe we have, but the bot is the expert in mortgages and we’re trying to solve the problem, but for the consumer, it’s seamless. Like a consumer feels like they’re talking to two people, but reality it’s one human agent and a bot who maybe is a specialist bot around mortgages if I was to look at financial services.
Darryl Addington: (25:24)
Yeah. So absolutely. I think the way that that’s manifesting today in the market is that you are able to get agents out on the floor faster. So they’re not a mortgage expert and maybe they don’t have to take the month long training in order to get them out on the floor because the AI is going to support them. They’re going to support them visually, not necessarily communicating directly to the customer while the agent’s communicating with the customer. But one of the things that we’ve focused on since the very beginning and the integration of the customer helps with this, is that context level between the automation, because it always exists, that’s what consumers know like we talked about, right? They know if it’s self service or automation, they’re probably going to start with self service if they can, even if they know they need an agent, they’re going to have to pass through the self service to get to an agent.
Darryl Addington: (26:13)
And during that time we can gather this word’s intentions, right? Like what is the customer trying to do? And the identity of the customer and the intent of the customer and any context about what the customer was doing recently can be passed to the agent and that agent then can make that a seamless bridge. And that’s a super, super, super critical part because in survey, after survey, after survey shows that customers do not like starting over when they switch channels and whether that’s from self service to an agent or from text to voice, whatever the case might be, they don’t like that.
Vikas Bhambri: (26:44)
Yeah. And I think when you live in our world and we’re so used to the technology side of it, we take it for granted. And then I think it’s quite often when I put my consumer hat on and I’m engaging all these different brands that I’m almost in disbelief as to the percentage of brands, that very basic nuance that you talked about there, the handoff, is still fundamentally broken I would say for 90% plus of most businesses.
Darryl Addington: (27:08)
Yeah. Well, and that’s solvable today without AI. I mean, that’s a problem that if you get a good pre-built integration between, to cloud vendors like us, you can solve that today and it’s actually relatively easy. You just implement the solutions, which is great. So I recommend businesses go do that.
Gabe Larsen: (27:24)
You’ve got to find that way. Well, let’s wrap up. But Darryl, I’d like to let you kind of finish and maybe pose this question to you. A lot of people out there trying to start this journey, figure out the best way to kind of optimize each part of the customer journey, where would you kind of leave the audience with, how do you start? Like where do I go to kind of get my feet wet and crawl, walk, run, if you will?
Darryl Addington: (27:48)
Yeah. I mean, so move to the cloud for one, because of all the reasons we’ve talked about, stability, better reporting, better UI, as you can control, and you can iterate on your contact center. That helps a ton. Integrate into your CRM, like with a pre built integration. Prebuilt, it’s important. There are great SDKs. We have one, but if you can get a pre built integration into a CRM like Kustomer, awesome. Like, that’s going to help so much in terms of the experience, the agent training, the environment looks seamless across that whole thing, and they can get all that context we just talked about. Three is enabling the agent. Super important for work from home these days, and that’s agent stats. How am I doing during the day? Am I meeting the customer and the company’s objectives for me? Am I not? Gamification and workforce management or another key one so that you can manage your schedule really effectively. That empowers the agent in a way that they haven’t been empowered previously.
Darryl Addington: (28:39)
So those three steps, and then like, that’s just low hanging fruit. Like you can go do that today and really easily, within three months, depending on the complexity of your contact center, could be a week. It could be really fast, might be a bit longer, three months if you were super big, if you got 30,000 agents or something, but you can go do that today. And so those are the first three steps. And then AI, AI is absolutely there. It’s practical. You can find vendors that are using that technology in ways that are allowing you to solve business problems you have today while we all wait for Jarvis to come around and –
Gabe Larsen: (29:14)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Vikas always appreciate you joining. Darryl, thanks so much for having me. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about Five9, what’s the best way to do that?
Darryl Addington: (29:22)
Well, the website’s a good spot to start. It’s got a lot of good information. There’s numbers that you can call out there, et cetera. And, uh, yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (29:32)
Love it. Alrighty, man. Well hey, appreciate your time, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Darryl Addington: (29:36)
Yeah, you too.
Exit Voice: (29:43)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.
A business could be doing everything right, but at some point they will receive a customer complaint. It can be easy to place blame on the customer. They might be rude or have unrealistic expectations. But businesses should see the unsatisfied customer as a growth opportunity. Very few businesses actually know how to handle customer complaints in a manner that is both respectful to the customer and shows them that you care about their business. Interested in knowing more? In this article, you will uncover three ways customer complaints are actually a blessing.
How to Handle Customer Complaints
If a customer is unhappy with your service or their purchase, they will likely complain. And it’s more critical than ever to address these complaints. According to Ruby Newell-Legner’s Understanding Customers research, it takes roughly 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. The same research reveals that 70% of unhappy customers whose issues were resolved in their favor said they would be willing to come back. Not only is it critical for businesses to solve a customer complaint the first time, it can truly sway a customer’s lifelong experience with that brand.
According to an American Express survey, U.S. consumers were willing to spend more when companies provided exceptional customer service. In fact, they were willing to spend about 13% more. However, in that same study, 42% of shoppers said that companies were helpful but didn’t do anything extra to keep their business while 20% thought companies took their business for granted. Furthermore, 59% of respondents said they would try a new brand just for the better customer service experience.
While there’s always room for improvement, customer service provides a huge opportunity for your business to shine. If you can deliver an exceptional customer experience, your business will be able to steal market share from the competition.
A Personalized Touch Counts
The next step to navigating customer complaints is to train your customer service team to handle customer complaints empathetically, ensuring the customer feels valued and important. Businesses must capture customer feedback and respond to the dissatisfied ones immediately.
When a business ignores an unhappy customer, it makes them feel like their voice and opinion does not matter. Writing any wrong shows that the business cares and wants to continuously improve by addressing customer feedback instantaneously.
Active Communication Is Key
Customers are turned off by being kept in the dark. If you’ve received their complaint, acknowledge it and act quickly. The best way to handle customer complaints is actively communicating with your customer and letting them know you’re working on the problem right away. Your customer is already frustrated that things aren’t going their way. Don’t add to the frustration!
It’s important to apologize and listen carefully to what their needs might be. If the problem looks like it may take a few days to resolve, be sure to list out the next action steps and what a resolution would look like. Customers don’t want to wait four days to see if they’re eligible for something as simple as a refund. If you can answer some of these questions right off the bat, it’s going to make your customer feel better about the situation.
Empower Your Support Team to Go Above and Beyond
Support teams have a tough job and their hands are often tied when it comes to how to handle customer complaints. Additional positive touches can be critical, especially when a customer has complained. Can your support team give the customer a gift without having to escalate to a manager? How can you empower your support team to go above and beyond while they are in active communication with an unhappy customer?
For example, The Ritz-Carlton is known for its high-end customer service. The tourism and hospitality company has been able to create a loyal fan base. One of the many reasons they are known for their impeccable service is because they have empowered every employee to provide additional touches to make their guests’ experience exceptional.
If the bellhop, for example, overhears a complaint, he or she is able to take it into their own hands and offer free dessert, or another positive touch point, to that client. They do not have to go to the manager for permission or to escalate the issue. This gives power to the employee to quickly react to a customer’s complaint, and they are not held back by company processes in order to make a customer feel valued.
Connect With Kustomer:
Interested in knowing more about how you can deliver excellent customer service in the modern era? Feel free to download our free ebook about four key ways to deliver on customer needs. You can also check out our free report, What Consumers Expect From the Customer Experience, so that you and your business can begin implementing a great customer experience that goes beyond what your competitors are able to provide.
The world is rapidly changing and that’s good news for businesses in the e-commerce space. In a study conducted by The Global Consumer, more than one-third of global consumers purchased products online at least once per week. This means it’s more crucial than ever to focus on the e-commerce customer service experience.
These new statistics mean there’s a lot of room for growth in the e-commerce sector. If you’re a retailer, one of the most important points of contact for new customers is your customer service team, which means it’s imperative that they’re trained and up-to-date with the latest knowledge and know how to go above and beyond for your customers.
What Is E-Commerce Customer Service?
E-commerce customer service is the act of assisting new or existing online customers when they encounter questions or challenges they may have throughout the customer journey. It is the goal for an e-commerce customer service team to provide a pain-free, digital shopping experience for consumers.
An e-commerce business should look at all the ways a customer would interact with their brand and provide assistance for them throughout the digital customer journey. This could mean answering their questions directly on the brand’s website, via social media, or by telephone calls and emails.
The ideal e-commerce customer service experience means customers are never left hanging — no matter what. If you’d like to improve your customers’ experience throughout the buyer journey, here are four important elements you should be incorporating in your e-commerce customer service strategy.
1. Reduce Redundancies and Customer Friction
According to HubSpot Research, the most frustrating thing about interacting with an e-commerce brand is having to repeat their problem to more than one customer service representative. You can prevent this from happening by incorporating an omnichannel communication strategy that allows a customer service agent to see all the ways a customer has connected and interacted with your brand. Don’t take their problem for granted. If a customer doesn’t feel like you’re able to accurately, and consistently solve their problem, they will look elsewhere for a brand that does.
2. Provide Self-Service Options
Customers often dread having to reach out to a customer service agent. They prefer to find the solution to their problem on their own before having to interact with someone. Some of the cheapest ways to improve the customer experience is by providing more self-help and FAQ documentation for that customer.
If you’re noticing a pattern within your e-commerce customer service channels where customers are asking the same questions over and over, you might benefit from creating additional documentation on the website to help customers get what they need quickly without having to ask for help.
3. Replace the Sales Rep with E-Commerce Customer Service Agents
Customer service agents are wearing a lot of hats in today’s market. They’re not only expected to solve tough customer problems, but they’re also an extension of the brand’s image. They need to know how to best service their customers’ unique needs and personal tastes.
Today’s consumers are turned off by pushy sales reps, but they do love someone who is in their corner and recommending products that are relevant to them. However, it’s a fine balance to juggle these two worlds. It’s important to provide training for your customer service team so they can understand the difference, and learn how to recommend the best products in a way that’s authentic to the brand. Consumers want a personalized experience and you can deliver by having your support team lead them down a path that’s unique and relevant without being seen as salesy.
4. Take Customer Reviews Seriously
Many customers feel like they’re shouting into a void when it comes to delivering feedback to a brand. They’ve taken their time to answer a customer satisfaction survey and, if their feedback was especially negative, often don’t see changes in how the company handles the shopping experience. This is an area where you can really stand out from your competitors.
If you notice a customer has had a bad experience, don’t let their feedback go unnoticed. Reach out to them, offer to make it right, and let them know you value their opinion no matter what. Some of your harshest critics can turn into your biggest supporters if they see first-hand that you value their business and will do anything to make sure they’re satisfied.
Connect With Kustomer:
It can be hard to stand out from the crowd and grab a bigger piece of the pie in the e-commerce market. However, Kustomer is here to help! If you’d like to know more about how to differentiate yourself in the market and improve the agent experience for the customer, you can watch our ondemand webinar here. Delivering exceptional customer service requires companies to empower their team with the tools they need to succeed. Feel free to request a free demo right here and start creating stellar customer experiences today.
To facilitate more meaningful, long-term customer relationships, companies must focus on implementing solutions that offer both valuable and seamless support. With customers relying on agents to support their entire pre- and post-purchasing journey, there is a clear opportunity to optimize the customer experience by leveraging critical insight and assistive technology.
By equipping agents to support complex interactions and promote more proactive communication, companies can secure loyal customers that drive bottom-line results and prompt consistent growth in revenue.
Focus on Omnichannel Support
To operate in the digital era, companies must be equipped to support an omnichannel experience. With customers spending more of their personal time validating their purchases with pre-transaction support, they require access to agents who can effectively understand their entire contextual journey. By focusing on an omnichannel approach, companies can work to better understand their customers intentions and adapt support as needed.
According to Gabe Larsen, VP of Marketing at Kustomer, “Omnichannel support can often seem intimidating to businesses because they think they need separate teams to manage these separate channels through separate systems. Your customer data is powerful, but it often lives in other disparate systems making it a challenge to provide a complete picture of your customers. You need to implement a support solution that unifies that data and makes it easily available and actionable for your support team. And since your omnichannel strategy connects all your channels, data on customer interactions travels with the customer and moves as easily between channels as they do.”
As customers continue to utilize different channels, switching between self-service options, live chat, and traditional phone service, it becomes necessary to gain a line of sight into every aspect of the overall journey.
Additionally, when customers increase touch points by requesting support pre-transaction, companies must work to identify these moments to piece together a 360-degree view of the customer later on.
To achieve a more seamless approach, companies must implement Al solutions that ensure flawless escalation and increased efficiency. With modern Al technology, customers using a chatbot service can be swiftly routed to the most qualified agent to receive individual support. By pinpointing the exact moment of frustration or inefficiency, Al works to seamlessly adapt to the customers’ momentary needs, while providing the agent with the necessary contextual information to adequately handle the case.
Once agents gain access to this in-depth customer insight they can more effectively handle the unique influx of questions and services they are currently expected to provide. Companies can then work to provide a simplified experience as customers effortlessly switch between channels without ever having to repeat their inquiries.
Says Ryan Patchitt, Customer Experience Manager at Waldo, “Having that 360-degree customer view, it allows the agents in one click to have an understanding of, from the beginning, from that first order that the customers had with us, has there been any pros or cons throughout their journey? When looking at that, it allows the agents to say, ‘you’ve been with us for X amount of time, we can see that you needed your contact lenses now, a month ago, you seem to be running out at this time of the month, why don’t we change your plan to this?’ and it really helps the agents get a more personalized experience for our customers and it also saves a lot of time which is great for us.”
Once agents can effectively handle a more seamless flow of interactions, they can work to provide the more personalized and empathetic version of support customers are currently seeking.
We know customers do not want to be treated like a ticket number; they want agents to consistently recognize them on every platform and actually understand their intentions and goals. Identifying the customer is one thing, but providing meaningful and personalized support at every touchpoint takes a more comprehensive approach.
This level of support requires access to detailed customer data to go beyond simple recognition and support complex, meaningful interactions. Additionally, it demands streamlined back-end processes to allow agents to direct their focus on the most substantial cases.
“There’s no need to waste the customer’s or agent’s time by asking for repeat information Instead, that information is available at the click of a button, allowing the agent to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship,” says Gabe Larsen, VP of Marketing at Kustomer.
To leverage comprehensive customer data, empower agents with Al tools like customizable insight cards that curate the context and tools needed to facilitate an interaction. With this technology, agents can process returns, issue credits, or rebook reservations all in a single platform. This keeps the most critical information in one place, allowing agents to focus on each interaction by avoiding distracting searches and inefficiencies. Additionally, it allows agents to more effectively act in an advisory role, recommending new products and services that may align with their value-driven mentality — increasing potential revenue opportunities.
To learn more about how to transform your contact center into a profit center, download our latest report produced in conjunction with CCW, right here.
At this point it goes without saying, but the world shifted online rapidly in 2020. According to our recent research of over 500 US consumers, 71% reported shopping online more frequently during the past year. But what is more insightful, is how many of those respondents will continue to shop online more frequently once the world goes back to business-as-usual. Of those who report an increase in online shopping, a whopping 85% plan to continue shopping online more often in the future.
Along with this shift comes a shift in consumer attitudes. Customers no longer see relationships with retailers as transactional — they see brands as an extension of their identity. That’s why delivering an exceptional customer experience, and building relationships with consumers, is imperative for business success.
The Online Retail Opportunity
The past year’s rapid shift to digital opens up a massive opportunity for online businesses, but they must be prepared to deliver an exceptional online experience to match their in-store one. And unfortunately, right now, they are not delivering. Eighty-two percent of consumers have had a bad customer service experience with at least two retailers in the past year, and 93% of consumers think contacting retail customer service should be more convenient. This is up from 78% in 2019, meaning that consumers think customer service has been moving in the wrong direction.
The Need for Speed
The pandemic caused an uptick in inquiries for many businesses, even if their sales were down. Consumers had more questions while they could not shop in-store, and many retailers were running into hiccups when it came to shipping and fulfillment. Because of this, 42% of consumers think their time is not valued by retailers, with that number growing to 52% for consumers 65+. These individuals may not have shopped online previously, and needed more assistance than younger consumers, leading to their frustration with inevitable wait times.
On average, most consumers get annoyed after waiting just four minutes for a response from customer service, and 64% of consumers would never shop with a retailer again if they abandoned a customer service conversation before being helped. It is imperative, then, for customer service organizations to improve efficiency without impacting effectiveness.
Support teams are bogged down with manual, routine tasks that consume agents’ time and effort, and result in long response and resolution times that frustrate customers. Currently 50% of customer service agents’ time is spent searching for information and performing repetitive, manual tasks. This is no longer sustainable. Retailers should tap into the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate the menial, repetitive, and time consuming tasks with intelligent automations that can detect intent, collect relevant information, automate agent interactions, and route conversations based on customer data or request type. Intelligent chatbots are now able to deliver contextual and personalized information that feels human, and can seamlessly hand off to agents when necessary. With the right technology agents can focus on building relationships with customers and fixing complex issues in a timely manner.
Great customer experiences depend on great agent experiences. Giving agents the right tools and knowledge is critical to empowering agents and facilitating customer-centric, empathetic support. And as studies have shown, good customer experiences have a direct impact on topline revenue, driving retention, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
However, according to Forrester, agents on average spend 35% of their time searching for information, and another 15% performing repetitive, manual tasks. They struggle with a complex toolset that gets in the way, rather than supports them in their moment of need.
That’s why I’m excited to introduce Agent Suggestions, predictive intelligence that supercharges agents. Available with Kustomer IQ for Agents, Agent Suggestions leverages the power of AI to streamline the agent experience, surfacing the answers they need right at their fingertips. By reducing friction and minimizing the effort agents put forth to find the right information, Agent Suggestions frees up agents’ time to do their most important work: engaging with the customer and delivering a best-in-class customer experience.
What is Agent Suggestions?
Self-learning AI models that predict agent responses based on historical conversation data
Use historical data mixed with Natural Language Processing techniques and smart filtering to suggest the three most recommended shortcuts to be used.
Learn from your organization’s usage. Based on how shortcuts are being applied, recommendations will change over time, without any manual training needed.
Show only the shortcuts that each agent has access to. Don’t worry, agents will only see suggested shortcuts that they either publicly or privately have access to.
Allow agents to choose how the preview will look. If an agent wants to check all the details in a brand new modal, or just use the existing preview, it’s up to each individual. We made the new modal skippable, just in case it’s not the right fit for everyone.
Are easy to activate. With just one click, the admin will be able to enable this functionality for all agents.
Here’s how it works.
STEP ONE: An admin will enable the Agent Suggestions toggle.
STEP TWO: An agent opens a message. Note: the message must come from the email channel and be the first inbound interaction.
STEP THREE: The agent sees the suggestions. On hover, they’ll see the details of the shortcut.
STEP FOUR: The first time an agent clicks on any of the suggestions, they’ll see a brand new modal with all the details and actions included in the shortcut. This new modal is skippable, so if you don’t need to see a detailed view and choose to skip this step, all you have to do is check a box. The next time you see a suggestion, just hover it to see the shortcut information or click to apply it.
STEP FIVE: The agent clicks to apply the shortcut.
How will Agent Suggestions evolve?
Customer service teams are constantly trying to be as effective and productive as they can, and Agent Suggestions can help organizations achieve that mission. A good first step for this feature is shortcut suggestions, because shortcuts are already a great productivity tool that allows agents to do multiple actions with a simple click.
However, our plans go beyond shortcut suggestions. In the future we plan to expand the functionality with knowledge base article suggestions, similar/related conversations, or even custom actions such as returns, refunds or discounts that could be initiated from the suggestions view.
All these capabilities, tailored to each of the agents and leveraging our self-learning models and smart filtering techniques, will become an essential tool for agents, helping them be more efficient and effective.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steven Maskell, Vice President of Customer Experience at Zones, to discuss how to create a personalized, data-driven customer experience. Learn how Steven does so by listening to the podcast below.
Creating a Data-Driven Customer Experience
Steven Maskell has successfully led service teams for nearly 30 years. Throughout his time in the CX industry, he has figured out how to integrate data into providing the most excellent customer service possible. He says, “I see the people have a very high expectation and a short fuse. And so what that means is that they will give you the data or they accept that you’re going to take the data, but by golly, you had better make it worthwhile.” In discussing tips in which data can be attained, Steven mentions knowing your customer, who they are, what they’re doing, and how they interact with the brand have all proven to be greatly effective when building brand loyalty and curating to the customer persona.
Data can also be used as a helpful tool when advertising to the customer. Customer data shows shopping interests and purchases. Based on this, the company can decide how to advertise to the customer in the most effective way. Rather than advertising the product a customer has already purchased, a brand could advertise a warranty on that product, ideas for how to use that product, etc. Proactively using data to shape the customer experience can ultimately lead to brand loyalty.
Starting Small Makes a Big Impact
The next step to personalizing the customer experience after finding the data is figuring out an infrastructure to store that data and to organize it to be more useful. Steven knows that it can be overwhelming and difficult for companies to change their current methodologies to becoming more data driven. He mentions, “I wouldn’t say start an Excel spreadsheet, but start somewhere small where you can just get the literal basics structured. There’s great relational databases out there. There are some really good tools out there. As I mentioned, there’s off the shelf sort of relationship management products that are out there.” The easiest way to implement this change is to start small and to invest into the basic essentials of data storage and framework. Starting small to get the basics structured into a system is highly recommended by Steven to allow for more structural growth as new data is added. Once the company figures out what they really want to gain from each customer interaction, they will be better able to configure their databases to become more data driven for a more personalized experience.
Integration of AI into CX Operations
Artificial intelligence has become somewhat of a controversial topic in the CX realm. Becoming more normalized, AI can be found in a lot of customer service organizations as an implemented aspect of daily customer interaction. On this topic, Steven notes:
You’ve got to be very flexible in my opinion about how you react to the data and what you have and really what you’re trying to achieve. So… have very realistic expectations. Please don’t think you’re going to double the company’s revenue because you’ve done AI implementations or some nonsense like that. But please know that you can have a significant impact on it.
AI, while certainly helpful, is not without flaws. At its current state of development, AI is not a perfect system, nor is it a valid replacement for human intelligence. AI can be helpful in guiding customers to finding answers to their simple questions, similarly to questions answered on FAQ pages. However, nothing can replace the genuine human connection between a customer and a CX agent. It’s this connection that ultimately builds a sense of trust between the customer and the brand.
Steven urges CX leaders to take an honest look at themselves and to reevaluate how they amplify their brand and its products. He believes that in doing so, leaders will produce better CX outcomes.
To learn more about the secrets to personalizing the customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Using Data to Personalize the Customer Experience | Steven Maskell
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about how you can take the customer experience, personalize it, all using data to do that. And got a special guest, Steven Maskell. He’s joining us as the Vice President Customer Experience from Zone. Steven, thanks for joining. How the heck are ya?
Steven Maskell: (00:32)
Absolutely wonderful to be here. Happy days to everyone so it’s a joy to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
We just got Steven before he’s going on vacation so I appreciate him jumping on and doing it quick before he jumps on the week long vacation. Before we jump in Steven, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, maybe your background? Give us that quick overview.
Steven Maskell: (00:53)
Background is that I’ve been in the customer experience space for about 25 to 30 years and have spent a lot of time both on the research side, on the consulting side, and now on the implementation side. So I’ve spent my career both learning what customers want and then helping other organizations better understand how to deliver on that. Then actually being a consultant and helping organizations implement that. And now as the Vice President of Customer Experience, I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Designing, building, implementing and measuring against KPIs.
Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
Yeah, such a fun background. I think it’ll be a fun talk track today. So let’s dive in, big picture as you think about this. Personalization is obviously an important word that people are using a lot more. Data is something that I think people want to use more. AI is a buzz word that people haven’t figured out. How do you start this journey? How do you start to think about using data to personalize? Because I think we all want it, but we don’t know how to do it.
Steven Maskell: (01:54)
Yeah. It’s a great place to actually start this conversation. Here’s the thing about personalization and about customer experiences as a data-driven methodology or practice, you have to, first of all, have the data. You have to know who that person is. You have to be capturing the data. You need to be in a place that they want to give you their data because there’s value in giving it to them, by giving it to you. So, where do you all start with it is what do you know about your customer? Are you able to actually see how they are interacting with you or is it anonymized? Are they sharing with you information that’s important that you can use? We can talk a lot about that in a little bit, but all of us are doing our level best to understand how to really drive a customer experience and make their lives a whole lot easier. And customers are doing their level best to say, “I don’t want you to know too much about me.” So it’s balancing that and making sure that they understand what they’re giving up and what they’re getting, but then you also have to have a robust set of data so that you don’t recommend the completely wrong product service, a path to someone just because you’re trying to put them in a persona that doesn’t make any sense.
Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
But this collision, right? Where do you typically stand? Do you feel like people are more open to give you more data nowadays, or you feel like you’re seeing kind of this tightening up where people are saying, “I don’t even care if you give me value, I don’t want to get the data to you?” What’s the trend you’re kind of seeing there?
Steven Maskell: (03:25)
I see the people have a very high expectation and a short fuse. And so what that means is that they will give you the data or they accept that you’re going to take the data, but by golly, you had better make it worthwhile.
Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
I love that.
Steven Maskell: (03:42)
If you go on a website, you do something and then you start seeing an advertisement for the item that you were looking for. Yeah, I kind of expect that. But then you show that to me six months later, no. I’ve moved on. You look really, really ridiculous. Or the next step on that will be, let’s say there’s a product that you purchased and really, stop advertising it. Start telling me what a warranty is or how to use it, or really taking it to the next step. You’re using my data, make it worthwhile. Inspire me. I bought something, now give me a recipe to make with this unusual ingredient that I might’ve purchased off of an obscure website. So people have a short fuse and then if you don’t do it right once, they can be bothered with you. You’ve lost credibility pretty quickly.
Gabe Larsen: (04:33)
Isn’t that true? I can’t argue that point. And maybe I’m acting the same way. I just, short view’s a good way to say it. It’s like people don’t, we just don’t tolerate. It’s that effort word? I just don’t deal with high effort anymore. You’ve got one chance and if it was hard, I’ll go to somewhere else. I don’t care if you’re a big brand name like Nike, I’ll go somewhere else to get my shoes. When you look at the different data sources and trying to create a customer experience that does matter, are there certain things you feel like they’re either the basics or they’re the must haves? It’s kind of like, look, if you’re going to start to take advantage of that one opportunity, that short fuse, it’s this or that type of data to really start to build that personalized experience.
Steven Maskell: (05:21)
Yeah. There’s a lot that goes into it and they fall into, I would start with two large buckets. Bucket number one is who is the person? And bucket number two is what are they doing? What’s the intersectionality of those two things? So is this person a procurement person? Are they a legal professional? Where do they sit within their profession? Where do they, who are they overall? We’re not talking about highly granular, but if you have a procurement person they’re looking for X. Generally, they’re looking to get the best deal and the best whatever. If they might be a lawyer, they might have something specific, a highly unique need that they want. So now you have an understanding of who they are a little bit about what their drivers are. The second would be then, what are they actually doing? How are they actually purchasing things? How are they actually interacting with your brand? Are they looking at your advertising? Are they responding to your blog posts? Are they actually making purchases? Are they open to conversations? What are their actual behaviors so that you can start building a good understanding of who they are? So you also want to keep testing your hypothesis. This person is A, and so this is what’s important. Their data suggests that that’s what they’re going down. That then would drive you as a deliverer of consumer or customer experience to follow that path. But the second you start seeing them doing something different, now’s the time that you have to pivot. You have to understand what’s going on. And so the two areas where I would say the best understanding is, is frame it around, who are they? And then what are they doing? And then how are they influencing each other?
Gabe Larsen: (07:01)
Yeah, I think those are great big buckets that you can kind of build around. I think as soon as you start talking about data though, the word technology kind of comes into play and you start to think about, “Okay, that makes sense.” Behavior, who they are. I don’t know how to store that stuff. I don’t know where to store it, or it’s stored in so many disparate systems that I don’t think I can bring it together to make a difference. I don’t necessarily want you to be, sell some technology with this question but, quick thoughts on building that infrastructure to actually do something with it or capture it from a technology standpoint? Because it seems like once you know what data to get then you’re going to say, “Well, how do I get it? Where do I store it?”
Steven Maskell: (07:48)
Let’s just take a deep breath on that one, because there’s so much that happens. There’s some great off the shelf products. There are bespoke products. There’s custom work that people do. The thing that is most intimidating is there’s just so much data. And it comes down to a point of taking a deep breath, in my opinion, and saying, “What do I really want to drive with this? There’s so much that I can and so many interactions.” Well, there’s these silly things like, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You boil it, you can’t boil there. So we all have these things. The exact same thing applies. You know, I wouldn’t say start an Excel spreadsheet, but start somewhere small where you can just get the literal basics structured. There’s great relational databases out there. There are some really good tools out there. As I mentioned, there’s off the shelf sort of relationship management products that are out there. But once you start actually figuring out what it is that you want to learn about, someone build that and feed it and keep it going. Then something will come along where you want to add a new entity or a new attribute, or something that’s a little bit different that’s associated about that person. Grow with them and only them, don’t try and build this behemoth of, “I want to know everything about everyone and everything.” You’re never going to succeed. Rather, just get the basics. Who are my top customers? Why are they my top customers? What do my top customers look like? What do my top customers buy? What do my top customers not buy? That’s enough. That really is enough because now you can start saying, “Okay, these seem to be my large product central services. Now I can look at my other customers that look like my top customers, maybe from two years ago, are these the same things that I should be sending to them? Should I be nurturing them in the exact same way?” Let me tell you something, that’s more than enough.
Gabe Larsen: (09:38)
Yeah. Yeah. I really appreciate the crawl, walk, run strategy. I’ve often referred to it as it does get overwhelming fast and narrow it down to some of those key points and to start to manually capture. I’ve always found if I can build it and get it in an Excel spreadsheet first, or you’d mentioned that, that’s just, I got it. I’ve kind of felt it. I’ve tasted it. I’ve touched it and may only be three data points then it’s like, “Okay, how do we automate this?” And then pretty soon I’m moving on to kind of phase two. I think that’s really important. So you kind of frame that, but I’m curious as people go down this journey, what are some of the other gotchas? We know it intuitively the data, we need it. Personalization, do it. We’re not, a lot of us aren’t doing it very successfully. Is there a couple of gotchas that, and maybe one of them is, it’s that crawl, walk, run, you don’t try to boil the ocean to start with the day. Anything else you’re seeing where people are kind of stumbling on this journey?
Steven Maskell: (10:36)
That’s like a two year podcast to have conversations around that. And I’ll just hold –
Gabe Larsen: (10:43)
Of course you’re going on a vacation tomorrow, so we don’t have to –
Steven Maskell: (10:47)
Yeah. Look, there’s so much that the people botch. I think some of the things are expectations and it’s having very realistic expectations. We hear a lot of mumbo-jumbo around machine learning and AI and all these sorts of things. And it took IBM a really long time to build Watson and Watson still screws up. And what I would say is this, don’t expect that it’s going to solve everything. Really what it’s going to do is it’s going to help you understand a little bit better, a little bit better. That’s what you’re trying to do each and every time. There’s also going to be some gotchas especially in a B2B sort of environment where the user or the person you’re trying to interact with is anonymized. And so you then have to switch your mindset around, “Okay. I was trying to do a one-on-one between me and you, Mary the buyer, or Jane the seller, but now it’s just a buyer. And how do I understand that?” That’s a bit of like, “Oh wow, I can’t succeed.” Actually, you really can. You’ve got to understand that someone’s making a purchase, and you have to switch your mindset. You’ve got to be very flexible in my opinion about how you react to the data and what you have and really what you’re trying to achieve. So the gotchas would be, have very realistic expectations. Please don’t think you’re going to double the company’s revenue because you’ve done AI implementations or some nonsense like that. But please know that you can have a significant impact on it. Two is also making sure that you have a lot of people on board with you on this data amalgamation and centralization and then pushing out of insights and, or next steps is fantastic. Yay. But really what it comes down to is you’ve got to have everybody understanding how to use that. How are you actual sellers? What is your salesforce using this information for? The wisdom for them, you’re going to make more money by knowing more about your customer, which means you have to get more so that I can help you and all that sort of thing, would be some of the other things to really consider in the entire equation. And it is an equation where one plus one plus one, there’s a lot that goes into the chain versus, “Okay, pull a lever and then suddenly something will happen,” but that’s human interaction. And my data also may suggest something, but then I’m having a bad day and I completely throw a fly net on them. So I would just keep the realistic expectations. Know that you’re not always going to get the data and that you also need to make sure that everyone’s, there are a lot of people are on board with the entire process of getting it. And please don’t think that AI is going to be the solution. Please don’t think that machine learning is going to be the solution. We’re a ways off on that. There’s some great stuff that’s being done, but it’s not perfect. And it’s never going to get rid of, never’s a strong word. It’s never going to get rid of people actually understanding someone else.
Gabe Larsen: (13:45)
Yeah. I mean, I’m guilty. I actually was one of those people who was like, “Oh, I’ll just deploy a chat bot and it’ll run itself.” And it didn’t require a full-time person to program and integrate. So I’m smiling you bring up kind of like the AI thing. So I’m guilty on that one. You’ve talked about it a lot. We hit a bunch of different topics on the data front. If you had to kind of simple it down and just mentioned starting on this journey, where or how would you recommend a CX or CX leader start?
Steven Maskell: (14:25)
When would I start? When would I recommend the CX leaders start? I would recommend that a steep CX leader needs to have a good, honest assessment of where they’re at. The function that I had the delight of being in is the result of that assessment. Where there was a goal, there was a big, hairy, audacious goal. And the bottom line is the infrastructure, the platform, the knowledge, it just wasn’t there. And that’s okay. And you know, so the first thing is the CX leader is what’s there, is there a CRM solution in place? Is there a, is there some way that it’s being fed? Is there a mechanism to better understand, are we engaging with customers? Do we have a way of solutioning and being standardized and how we try and solve for things? It’s looking at your landscape and wondering like, “Okay, what do I know about my customers?” And if it’s sitting on the backs of napkins at the end of the long night of drinking, then it’s not going to do a whole lot of good. But if it’s codified and solidified, and if I use the right nomenclature and no matter how many times I say a certain word, everyone understands exactly what that word means, now that we’re heading in the right direction. And so those would be the things that that would happen. I would also argue that you have to understand that a business, the CX leader is in a place to amplify what a business is doing well. So businesses are the results of delivering of services, goods, and products and they do that really well. So please don’t think that customer experience is going to change your product. You have to remember what your product is and you’re there to amplify it. So, I’m not going to change how airlines fly. I am going to make the whole process of engaging with, in this case an airline, as delightful as possible. I’m going to leave the wings and all that to them. And so that would be the other thing as a CX leader is I am responsible for amplifying what my business does and understanding you also have to be able to really, this is one of the hard things, you got to be able to suck it up when someone says you suck. And understand that they’re right.
Gabe Larsen: (16:37)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Sometimes those are hard words to swallow. Sometimes those are hard words to swallow, but well said. Well Steven, appreciate you taking the time. I know you got fun stuff coming up ahead over the next couple of days. If someone wants to get in touch with you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?
Steven Maskell: (16:56)
Find me on LinkedIn. Steven Maskell. Happy to have a conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (17:01)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, Steven, really appreciate the time. Fun talk track on thinking through how to use data to personalize that customer experience. So thank you again and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (17:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In 2020, the whole world went digital at a rapid pace. While it is inevitable that commerce and customer service will partially shift back to brick and mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. Many organizations are tapping into the power of technology to deliver on this digital shift, and scale without sacrificing their quality of support.
Artificial intelligence still sparks some suspicion or nervousness that robots will take all of our jobs. But instead, AI in customer service can truly enable businesses to be more efficient and productive by eliminating menial work. International delivery company Glovo knows this first hand. After implementing Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence tools embedded throughout the Kustomer platform, Glovo was able to instantly solve 84% of their inquiries through pure self-service and chatbots, versus contacting an agent.
Beyond AI-driven efficiency tools, leveraging a true customer service CRM, where all information is unified and actionable, is the only way to deliver a modern experience. Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers. Many digital disruptors, who put the customer at the center of their business models, realized this early on and put a CX CRM in place to deliver a seamless, customer-first experience. Says Lauren Panken, Senior Systems Manager at UNTUCKit, “For us, the CRM is the place that we get a full view of our customer in regards to customer service. It’s honestly just been such a great addition to the way that our team functions… and has improved the way that we’ve been serving our customers.”
More “old school” organizations are also quickly realizing that in order to service their customers effectively, they need to move into the twenty-first century, with modern technology. Ernest Chrappah, Director of the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, chose to work with Kustomer to ensure they were putting their best foot forward. “It was simply about finding a way to respond to our customers by elevating the services that we provide to meet the needs of customers in the digital age,” said Chrappah.
Before switching to Kustomer, Ritual was using a system that didn’t allow them to scale. Instead of logging into half a dozen different systems in order to solve a single ticket, Ritual found a modern CRM that would allow them to be both efficient and effective. “Having everything under one roof was really the driving factor,” said Andrew Rickards, Director of Customer Experience at Ritual.
A modern CRM like Kustomer can not only allow businesses to scale by unifying all data and making it actionable in a single screen, but it can also surface data points that can make your business better. By understanding data-driven trends, shortcomings, issues and wins, and putting technology solutions in place to better your operations, a true customer service CRM can transform a business from a cost center into a profit center, says Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com:
Want to learn more about how switching to Kustomer can power both efficient and exceptional experiences? Explore how we stack up to Zendesk here.
Customer experience (CX) is a determining factor in whether customers are loyal to a brand or not. Over 80% of companies who prioritize customer experience report an increase in revenue. So, how can businesses ensure their CX is up to scratch?
Brands must stay on top of CX trends in 2021.
2020 brought huge changes to the business world and impacted customer service and operations across the board. Next year will undoubtedly bring even more fascinating developments. Below are five emerging trends that we predict will shape customer experience in 2021.
Remember, you heard it here first.
1. Personalized Customer Service With AI
The words “artificial intelligence” (AI) conjure images of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his iconic Terminator role, or epic Hollywood showdowns between man and antagonistic machine. But don’t worry, 2021 isn’t going to feature any giant robots wielding machine guns. At least, we hope it won’t.
It’s no secret that AI is transforming the way businesses interact with their customers. Microsoft predicts that by 2025 as many as 95% of customer interactions will be through AI.
Sales and CX teams are using business VoiP services equipped with AI to quickly address customer queries and improve their communication. The transportation industry is waiting in anticipation as automated cars threaten disruption. In finance, financial services companies leverage AI to recommend personalized products and services to individuals. It’s moving fast, and businesses need to keep up with AI developments to stay on top of their game.
AI re-imagines customer experiences and end-to-end customer journeys. The result? Improved customer experience that’s both integrated and personalized..
With AI, brands can be available to their customers at every stage of their journeys, instantaneously. Leveraging AI can help businesses better understand customers and deliver better CX, resulting in higher conversions and decreased cart abandonment.
One of the biggest customer experience trends happening right now are the challenges customer service teams are having in handling an increase in customer support calls, emails, and social media inquiries. Customer service teams can employ AI to handle low-level support issues in real time, and gather initial information for live agents before intervention is needed. This results in lower wait times and fewer frustrated customers.
In a world where a good customer experience strategy can make or break a business, AI is a great tool to ensure customers feel their time is valued and stay loyal to a business. Here are some examples of how businesses use AI to streamline CX initiatives:
Intelligently routing to the most appropriate agent
Augmented messaging that allows chatbots and human agents to work in tandem. The bots handle simple queries, and the agents can take over when it gets too complicated.
Enhanced support through call monitoring and real time suggestions for representatives.
The two major growing customer experience trends in 2021 within the AI customer service software industry are chatbots and virtual assistants. Here’s a closer look at how both technologies can automate business functions and boost CX initiatives:
Businesses in various sectors have already employed chatbots to better deliver on customer needs and improve the speed at which business can help consumers.
The chatbot market size is projected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024. We’ll see businesses using chatbots to cut operational costs and streamline customer service processes. They can’t completely replace humans, but chatbots can:
Provide instant answers to simple customer queries, 24/7
Collect customer data and analyze it to gain insight into customer behavior
Reduce pressure on customer service staff by automating low level support, allowing them to deal with more difficult inquiries
Increase customer engagement and conversions
Virtual assistants allow users to interact with spoken language (Hey Alexa! Hey Google!) and help to relieve pressure on support staff by enabling interactive in-app support for users. AI virtual assistants are rising to new challenges and playing a vital role in automating customer service interactions.
As a top CX trend in 2021 and beyond, virtual assistants are set to become more customizable, contextual, and conversational.
Contrary to popular belief, virtual assistants aren’t being used to replace humans completely (Blade Runner, anyone?), but to streamline CX while freeing up human agents for important tasks.
2. The Future is an Omnichannel Approach is
A good customer experience strategy is becoming complex, with 51% of businesses using at least eight channels for CX alone.
In 2020, many businesses closed up shop and transferred themselves completely online. Many are still adapting to new strategies of providing digital customer service, as well as enhancing their CX initiatives to cater to customer expectations in a virtual space.
As CX organizations implement important customer experience trends for 2021, they need to focus on providing seamless, omnichannel CX to foster brand equity and drive sales.
Consumers demand consistent and highly personalized experiences as they interact with brands on various digital devices. For example, they might start interacting with a brand on Twitter and continue the conversation through e-mail. They’ll expect a seamless and integrated experience, no matter the platform.
A successful omnichannel CX seamlessly integrates online and offline communication channels to form a unified and unforgettable experience from the first to last point of contact.
If a customer base is interacting with a brand through phone, e-mail, live chat, social media, and SMS, as well as offline, a unified customer experience is a must.
In 2021 and beyond we’ll see more businesses further their digital transformation using instant communication to remove friction throughout the customer journey, and we’ll also see businesses tapping into customer data to personalize CX. As businesses plan their 2021 customer experience strategy, we’re likely to see big changes as brands acclimatize to an omnichannel customer service approach with increased virtual support.
3. Connecting Data to the Customer Experience in 2021
Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the power of customer data in driving business outcomes and ROI. With customers expecting personalized, in-the-moment online experiences, the value of real-time data insights is paramount.
At present, predictive analytics helps retailers increase their margins by up to 60%. This number is set to grow as AI reaches greater capabilities.
Brands collect transactional, behavioral, and sensor data to form a customer ID that informs business goals as they move forward. This customer data is crucial to understanding what their CX does and does not get right.
Businesses are gaining deeper customer insights by collecting transactional customer data, analyzing customer behavior, segmenting personas, and more. Once all this data is collected and stored, predictive analytics can help businesses to understand how they’re succeeding or falling short of their objectives.
Businesses are using all this data about their customers to enhance the customer experience. How? By providing feedback in real-time, predicting customer needs, and identifying which customers they might lose. As a result, CX agents can satisfy their customers and prevent problems from arising.
As brands continue collecting meaningful data to build an omni-touch, real-time experience that allows customers to feel heard and understood, this will be one of the CX trends in 2021 that will continue for years to come.
4. Customer Service Goes Remote
With the recent advancements in technology, customer service and support have been able to optimize operations online. This has changed not only best practices and strategies, but also what customers expect from businesses.
This trend has a huge impact on businesses, employees, and, inadvertently, customers.
Remote working has plenty of benefits for all parties. Businesses can save significant costs on rent and technology, and hire from a more diverse talent pool. On the flip side, employees can work from anywhere (including their beds) and reduce commute time. No wonder most people who have tried remote work never want to go back!
Adapting to this shift can prove challenging. Remote working teams need to learn new methods of providing effective customer service from their homes or co-working spaces. It’s also essential that they find tactical ways to streamline project collaboration and to share information and customer data.
They’ll need to adapt to communicating in a virtual space, employ automated software to streamline operations, and find methods of staying motivated and on top of tasks.
As customer service goes remote, customer service teams will continue to face challenges when it comes to delivering an impeccable CX without setting foot in the office, but with the right technology, that allows for remote collaboration and oversight, it’s possible.
5. A Personalized Customer Experience Strategy Is Key to Success
As a top customer experience trends in 2021, we can expect businesses to customize their CX and meet customer expectations.
Today’s consumers expect personalized experiences to be tailored to their needs. Businesses need to focus on providing customers with relevant and valuable information. Customers demand proactive, valuable, and relevant outreach from CX teams, without having to share their personal information.What’s more, over 60% of consumers expect that companies send personalized offers or discounts based on items they’ve purchased.
The customer needs to feel valued and listened to throughout their journey with a business.
Nowadays, customer service teams can communicate with customers in their own digital spaces, through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram. Companies will likely increase efforts to contact customers through online platforms to provide order updates, offer support, or send promotions.
There are many ways businesses can continue to offer meaningful customer experience in 2021 and beyond. Make sure you know your customers’ communication preferences, and personalize the conversations and outreach you conduct. Personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates, so stop treating your customers like strangers!
There you have it, five customer experience trends to watch out for in 2021. These trends have been driven by rapid advancements in AI and data collection, the advantages of an omni-channel approach, and the global shift towards remote work. In the future, we’re likely to see continuous developments in these areas which will continue to develop and shape CX.
Don’t get too comfortable, though. We expect that by the end of 2021 these predictions will look completely different! Let’s see what the future of CX holds, shall we?
Guest blog post written by John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and customer engagement strategies provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Vault and RTInsights.
So, you think you’re ready to invest in conversational automation, but you want to avoid the hype and nonsense? Great, then we are here to help! Keep these seven points top-of-mind as you build out your chatbot program, and you’re sure to see value in no time.
1. Understand Your Metrics
“Containment rate” (the percentage of total conversations fully handled by the bot), or its alternative name, “deflection rate”, is a key metric to track when trying to figure out how well your bot is performing. Customer satisfaction is also important. Keep in mind how the introduction of a digital assistant could alter existing performance indicators. For example, will average handle time increase now that agents are only handling more complex inquiries? Ultimately, a well-defined bot program will be able to communicate increased agent efficiency and customer satisfaction, which equals a reduction in the cost of care.
2. Start With Hello
Your first bot does not need to be elaborate. In fact, we recommend against it. When you are first getting started, pick one or two simple, but useful, use cases to automate. Then, you can learn and iterate as you discover how your customers prefer to interact with a chatbot. No one gets it totally right out of the gate, so avoid wasting time by trying to build something “perfect”.
3. Leverage the Agent
We have seen countless chatbot programs fail to engage the existing front-line customer service team when designing an automated conversational experience. It’s great to learn from data and prevailing user experience research, but your agents are the ones who know how your customers are interacting with the bot. Treat the bot like another agent: when you need performance feedback, use its peers.
4. Templates, Rules, and Machine Learning
Not all chatbots are “conversational AI”, because not all use cases require machine learning. Very effective bots can leverage rules and simple conditional logic, it all depends on the use case. Similarly, natural language processing is great when you have a bot with many different skills and a large corpus of knowledge — why make your customers trudge through structured flows when all they should do is ask the question directly? In both cases, we recommend leveraging buttons, quick replies, and other conversational templates that help the user move through the conversation quickly and efficiently.
5. Know When to Handover
A chatbot is not a replacement for a human agent. Often you need to give the user a way to bail out of tough conversations and difficult questions, and that’s alright. Chatbots are excellent at fully resolving low level queries. However, just because an issue is complicated does not mean a chatbot cannot be helpful. Consider how you can use the bot for information gathering and light triage before routing to the right agent. In these cases, the chatbot helps reduce handle time and expedites the customer’s support request.
6. Automation Happens Elsewhere, Too
Chatbots get a lot of attention when it comes to automation. Often it’s the mental model in our heads for intelligent customer service. Consider other ways you can streamline the customer support experience with a bot, and leverage additional intelligent services: automatic tagging, routing, and prioritization for the agent, just to name a few.
7. Be Customer-Centric
At the end of the day, the success of your chatbot comes down to how well it fits into the support journey and cadence strategy you have outlined for your customers. Consider different segments of customers that might prefer automation to that “direct human” connection. Perhaps automation can be more helpful at the end of an interaction than at the beginning. Take a good look at your customers, and we’ll help you find out the right size that fits.
Want to learn how to get started with intelligent chatbots? Find out more here.
Since the dawn of the computer age, engineers and designers have had to consider how humans can, and should, interact with new technology. They designed and implemented interfaces that altered our mental models for exchanging information and we had to learn novel symbols, workflows and behaviors in order to interact with these new platforms. Basically, we conformed to the computer, not the other way around. Yet over the last few years, a new service has emerged that represents a departure from this norm: the chatbot, a digital experience that replicates and automates the medium of human conversation.
What Are Chatbots?
If you’ve interacted with an online chat popup, there is a high probability you messaged with a chatbot first, and conversed with a human second. Conversational chatbots are not as complex as you might think. These digital customer service assistants can tap into customer data and knowledge bases stored in their database to help answer common user questions based on the user’s needs or inquiries.
For example, if a customer wants to know what the store operating hours are, they can reap some of the customer service chatbot benefits by getting an automated response with your store’s intelligent chatbot and human customer service agents are now free to focus on more high-level or specific inquiries, conducted through live chat, that might be a bit too complex or nuanced for the chatbot to answer.
The Three Customer Service Chatbot Benefits You Need to Know
Text-based support and conversations are the new interface, but it can get repetitive and it’s difficult to scale a one-to-one communication operation. This is where conversational chatbots come into the picture. Smart businesses use automation to help support more customers who prefer digital communication.
As automated interactions, conversational AI chatbots can essentially exist wherever human-to-human dialogue is used to change information and accomplish an assignment. The best way to experience the benefits of this kind of automation is to focus on the conversations that you are already having with your customers. Here is where you’ll see an immediate impact:
Faster Response Times: Chat and messaging work best when someone can immediately respond, not when customers are waiting in a queue because agents are tied up. With a chatbot, each message is seen and responded to, and your most common questions are quickly addressed. Further, by allowing chatbots to handle initial information gathering, agents are able to join and resolve conversations faster if escalation is needed.
Better Agent Utilization: No one wants to answer the same question over and over again. Chatbots remove basic, low-level questions from the workload. By reducing the number of messages your agents receive, you will increase the efficiency of your support operations and be able to focus on the more complicated questions and tasks.
Data on What Customers Need: Chatbots automatically collect and analyze your customers’ questions and issues. Instead of manually reviewing conversations or asking agents for anecdotal insights, you can review organized and aggregated intent data.
Implementing a Chatbot for Superior Customer Service
Five to Ten One-Touch FAQ Answers: Focus on supporting your most common questions that can be addressed with one response. You can direct customers to an FAQ article, or deliver a conversational answer directly.
One Common Workflow: Similar to the above, there are certainly interactions that require authentication or simple lookups from another data source; these aren’t hard to tackle, just usually require manual attention. Verify, authenticate, and pull in data to automate simple workflows. If you’re an e-commerce business, “Where is My Order” or “Return Status” are great, universal examples.
Easy Agent Takeover with Routing: Once a chatbot cannot answer a question or resolve an issue, make the handover process to human support quick and painless. Better yet, ask a few questions just prior to the handover to give agents context for the conversation and route to specialized teams.
Natural Language Processing: Natural language processing and machine learning — the “AI” of conversational AI — make it possible for your bot to understand and respond to customer intent, not specific keywords. This allows the bot to keep up with the way each customer thinks, communicates, and switches topics, ultimately leading to higher understanding and better resolution rates across all conversations.
Want to learn more about how chatbots can transform your customer experience? Check out how Kustomer powers intelligent self-service here.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by two CX leaders, Michael Miller and Vikas Bhambri, to discuss managing customer expectations during a global pandemic. Both Michael and Vikas have had to adapt their teams to the new CX issues spawning from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how these leaders have successfully managed customer delivery expectations during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.
Simple Tricks to Earn Customer Loyalty
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has greatly impacted businesses across the globe. As a result of these uncertain times, a new customer has risen, the highly anxious user. In response to this, companies have had to diversify their CX tactics to keep up in the new, highly anxious user arena. To help businesses keep up, Chief Product and Strategy Manager at Convey, Michael Miller dives into three simple ways to earn lasting customer loyalty that will continue after the pandemic. The first is setting expectations for product arrival. Second, frequently providing status updates to the customer so they have an up-to-date understanding of product handling and delivery time. Lastly, the typical customer wants flexible delivery options. Various businesses have opted for curbside pick up and home delivery instead of in-store shopping. Michael concludes, “So being early, setting expectations, communicating frequently, those are the things that we are seeing not only customers expect, but the companies that do well are going to earn loyalty that’s going to carry on well beyond this period.” Businesses would do well to implement these three simple tricks to retain customers long after the pandemic is over.
SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, Vikas Bhambri sets the standard high for other CX teams. Vikas understands that customers are happier when they feel their needs are being handled in an effective manner. He says this is accomplished through setting delivery expectations with honesty and by being available to solve customer’s issues promptly. He adds that the concept of too much communication between the agent and the user simply doesn’t exist in the realm of CX. Proactive communication happens when product and order updates are sent at each relevant step. If this is too much communication, Vikas explains, “Give them the option to opt out. But otherwise at every juncture that’s relevant, I would make sure that I was proactive with my communication.” By showing up and being openly available, agents are better able to get to the root of the customer’s issues in a timely fashion. The more openly a business communicates right now, the better.
The Role of AI in CX
Recently a controversial concept, AI, has come to the forefront of the CX discussion. While not completely replacing the importance of human-to-human interaction, AI has infiltrated the service industry through easing the roles of CX agents by better filtering user issues. With the new COVID-19 business-scape, highly anxious customers have been on the rise and the burden of customer care agents has been significantly increased to the point where they are overwhelmed. Companies are integrating AI into their CX to get a better handle on customer care. Michael has deployed an AI program at his company to help catch carrier delivery problems before they happen. This AI is helping meet the new customer expectations previously mentioned and helps their business have proactive communication. To further explain his AI integration, Michael emphasizes:
When you can reach out to the customer, you can reassure them, you can appease them, you can reset expectations, you can talk to the carrier about the issues. So it’s really for us all about identifying stuff that the carriers aren’t telling you and that you can’t otherwise as explicitly see in the network so that you can get out in front of these issues and create better customer experiences. That’s the biggest place where we’re deploying it.
Companies can reach out to their users with AI and filter their needs so their CX agents have a better handle on incoming customer situations, resulting in happier and more loyal customers.
To learn more about how to manage customer delivery expectations and how to create lasting customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast. Today we’re going to be talking about a couple interesting topics, but specifically, how to manage customer delivery expectations during all of these challenging times. And to do that, we brought on Michael Miller, who’s currently the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Convey, and then Vikas Bhambri the SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer. Guys, thanks for joining. How are you?
Vikas Bhambri: (00:37)
Thanks for having us.
Michael Miller: (00:39)
Doing well. Thank you.
Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
Yeah, why don’t we just take a minute and have you guys tell us a little bit about what you do and the companies that you work for. Mike, let’s start with you.
Michael Miller: (00:49)
Sure. Hi, I’m the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Convey. We are a delivery experience management platform, and what that means is we help some of the largest retailers in the world with a set of tools all across the buyer’s journey, all geared towards creating a better customer experience and better delivery outcomes.
Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
Love it. Vikas, just take a second.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:10)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer and we are a customer service CRM platform that enables brands to engage their customers regardless of channel, with an optimal agent experience. So really excited to have this conversation today.
Gabe Larsen: (01:31)
Yeah guys, this is such a fitting conversation. Let’s start big picture, and then let’s dive into detail. Vikas maybe let’s start with you. As we see the current environment changing, what are some of the trends, challenges that customer service organizations are facing?
Vikas Bhambri: (01:47)
Well, look. We just went to something that’s never been seen before. In fact, Mike and I were talking earlier in the week and I think one thing that really resonated was Mike telling me that we are at e-commerce projections of 2022 level here in 2020 because of the accelerant called COVID-19. Right? Because all parts of the country and really across the globe, we have moved to a pure delivery model, right? If I just think about my own experience, I haven’t been to a grocery store now in five weeks here in New York, we are getting literally everything delivered. Flowers for my wife for our anniversary, cakes, grocery items, prescriptions. So we’ve fundamentally transformed the way we shop and interact with brands, in the last 30 to 45 days. What that does for the brand is it’s created an unprecedented opportunity and some simply can’t handle it, right? Because they were not built. I was talking to a CEO of a food delivery company the other day who said that his business has grown 10,000%. 10,000% through COVID-19, which if you told any CEO of a company, “Your business is going to grow 10,000%,” he would probably, he or she would probably jump for joy. Not if you’re not set up –
Gabe Larsen: (03:24)
Yeah, that’s right.
Vikas Bhambri: (03:27)
– overnight. So what’s happening for a lot of these people, if you go to their websites, they are taking, either some of them have gone to full transparency. “We can’t take any more orders.” Which I think is commendable, believe it or not. Right? Be honest with your customers. Some, unfortunately, are taking orders and then on the back end, they’re saying we can’t fulfill them after the fact, or after you submitted your order. Now you realize orders are out seven, ten days. And then the other thing that’s happening is, there’s a heightened level of tension in the consumer base. So when I order something, I used to order something from Amazon and just sit back. It was up the next day, two days later, whatever it is. Now I’m hitting refresh because I’m worried about feeding my family. Like, “Where’s my order, where’s my order?” and so that’s the new norm, right? Both on the brand side with their experience, as well as consumer expectations, is people have a heightened level of anxiety and are really expecting brands to live up to that brand promise, which it’s hard to do when your business can grow ten thousand percent.
Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
Yeah. I love that. I mean, the refresh on the Amazon order, I didn’t mean to laugh, but I know the feeling. Mike, what would you add to that?
Michael Miller: (04:49)
I think that’s all 100% accurate and we’re seeing it really all the way through the supply chain, which is under enormous strain. So with this spike and shift to e-com, just some data that we’ve seen across our network, on-time delivery percentage at an aggregate level has slipped from about 90% to 70% over the last two months. We’ve also seen a spike in exceptions, meaning delivery problems of almost 200% over the last month. So the issues that are happening all the way through the network that is under strain and how that manifests and sort of miss customer expectations, it’s pretty dramatic.
Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
Wow. Wow. So basically, from a data perspective, if you had to pin it, are companies actually meeting expectations when it comes to delivery during COVID? It sounds like there’s struggles; that the supply chain is having problems.
Michael Miller: (05:46)
Vikas Bhambri: (05:50)
Mike, you’ve probably seen this because I noticed something I’d seen for the first time, the other day. As I was mentioning, I bought a cake online, first time ever, cakes being delivered. And when I went to see the tracking, basically it was a tracking link to UPS and they had said that due to things beyond their control, orders were being delayed and I actually got my cake a day later than what was intended. What are you seeing from that side? Because it’s interesting. I think the delivery functions are also having their own issues, which impacts the brand doesn’t necessarily control that.
Michael Miller: (06:32)
Yeah, absolutely. So the carriers in general, and we have relationships with pretty much every carrier in North America, and they are absolutely straining to keep up with the overall surge of demand. And you see that again and slippage and on-time delivery percentage. The bigger carriers like FedEx, UPS have actually started tracking COVID related exceptions specifically, and reporting on those and those are through the roof. Week over week as you might imagine. And all of that manifests in if a retailer made their delivery promise, that the carriers are having a hard time adhering to that, that is a missed expectation and that’s where it starts to hit your world with the, “Where is my order?” calls and those kinds of experiences.
Gabe Larsen: (07:20)
Wow. Do you feel like there are certain, as you’ve looked at the data and you see different companies, are there places or industries that are excelling at this? Actually doing it right? And if so, what are some of the things, do you feel like they’re doing well to combat this?
Michael Miller: (07:40)
Yeah. I’ll jump in. We actually do a lot of customer surveying and we’ve actually ratcheted it up during this period. And, we hear pretty consistently that customers at least, are looking for three things and the first is setting an expectation around when something is going to arrive. That is harder to do today than it has been historically, but that is absolutely expectation. They want frequent updates as early as possible as to when that’s going to change, if it is going to change. And then lastly, they’re looking for flexibility about delivery options. So, this surge in people who may not want to go into a retail environment grocery or otherwise, and so the rise in curbside delivery we actually saw early on during the quarantine periods a spike in return to senders because people were trying to deliver things to offices in locations that were no longer open. So being early, setting expectations, communicating frequently, those are the things that we are seeing not only customers expect, but the companies that do well are going to earn loyalty that’s going to carry on well beyond this period.
Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I love it. So frequency, communication, flexibility is some of the key themes you’re finding different companies are doing in order to be successful.
Michael Miller: (09:00)
Gabe Larsen: (09:00)
Vikas, on your side, and then I want to come back to Mike on something. But that’s on the delivery side, but if I’m a CX Lead, I’m a customer service leader. How do I keep up with these changing expectations, especially as it relates to delivery?
Vikas Bhambri: (09:17)
Sure. I can’t even imagine the stress they’re under. I think number one is the more information you can give to customers. It goes back to the transparency I said, right? Which is, ideally you’d like, your brand to kind of take the step, the extreme step of maybe saying, “Look, I can’t take on any more orders,” but I know that’s difficult, right? At the end of the day, this is also an opportunity for a lot of brands to acquire customers and acquire customers away from Amazon because people are looking for new options. So I can’t expect anybody to take the stance of, “I’m not going to take on any new customers,” but if you are going to do that, right, who am I to ask? Unless it’s me. But if you are going to take on those new customers, right, and then they are going to submit orders, then I think really kind of owning up to the transparency. So when they come to your website or they engage in your portal or whatever it is, being able to see real time status updates on where their order is in the process. Is it still being packed, right? If it’s out, is it out for delivery? And if it’s out for delivery, where is it? So I think that piece of it, then look, you’re still going to have this heightened level of tension in your consumer base. They are going to reach out to you. Be available across channel. Right? Don’t make it so like, “I gotta go email you,” because nobody really trusts that you’re going to get back to them in a timely fashion. Be available in real time channels, like chat, the voice channel. Right? And if they’re going to go to social media and rip on you because you’re not giving them information, be there to answer their call there. Now when your agents then are engaged with them, let’s make sure they have the data because that’s the worst thing that can happen for a poor agent is, “Now I’m dealing with this very frustrated customer who’s asking about the flowers, the food, the cake,” whatever it is that they’ve ordered from you, and you don’t have the answers. And so you’re sitting there going, “I wish I could help you, but I don’t know where your order is.” Right? But here’s where the brands that are going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack are the ones who are proactive. The ones that reach out to you to keep you abreast of where your order is. So you don’t have to come to me. I’m sending you text alerts, I’m sending you emails, right? I’m letting you know where your order is. And then if there is any change in that, I’m also letting you know, to let you know that you can make a change. Let me give you a really quick story. Went out and ordered a ton of groceries from a delivery provider and at noon that day, I got an alert that your shopping cart is being packed. I’m like, awesome. Right? Food’s coming. I’m super excited. Five hours later, still no delivery. I go into a panic. We were running pretty low on some supplies. I went to another provider and bought groceries. At 10 o’clock at night, that original grocer delivered. Now I’m sitting there with two X because the other person also fulfilled their order. So I went from being really worried about food supply to now I’m sitting on so much food that I’m kind of worried that I’m taking away from the overall supply chain and I’ve got stuff that’s going to spoil. And so if you had just kept me posted as to where my stuff was, day one with that original order, I never would have gone out and doubled my spend unnecessarily so –
Gabe Larsen: (13:09)
You went to a competitor, right? Or went to another person, right? When it comes to your experience and your value. Do you feel like, you guys, that there is best practice when it comes to communication? What is too little right now and what’s too much? I mean, it sounds like Vikas, you experienced too little. Is it more [inaudible] does it pick up during and then once it’s delivering? Any tactical recommendations there?
Vikas Bhambri: (13:35)
Sure. I’ll start and I’ll let Mike chime in. But from my standpoint, especially in a situation like this, you can not take the position that you are over-communicating. In fact, let the consumer tell you, “You know, what, I’m going to unsubscribe or stop sending me alerts.” I’d be shocked in this event, during this event, if that would be the case, but give them the option to opt out. But otherwise at every juncture that’s relevant, I would make sure that I was proactive with my communication.
Gabe Larsen: (14:10)
I like that. Mike, anything you’d add?
Michael Miller: (14:12)
I mentioned our consumer surveys. We’ve got a data point that says 68% of consumers explicitly want more frequent updates than they did pre quarantine. So, I think absolutely the point is right. Early and often should be the bias and I think that’s what customers are looking for right now.
Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
Yeah. I’m just amazed at some of the changes companies have had to make in order to facilitate some of this. I’ve got a friend who, I think you highlighted it Mike, he closed down obviously his retail shop, and now they do tons of business curbside, but I love that flexibility. I like that frequent communication. Times have changed. We got to change it. One other thing I wanted to kind of dive into is obviously artificial intelligence is a topic of conversation and has been for a while, but boy does it feel like it kind of moved into fourth gear, fifth gear here as companies are looking for more ways to do things with less. As you think about the supply chain, as you think about the customer experience, how can AI start to infiltrate and make things better for us? Vikas, let’s start with you.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:20)
We just rolled out the biggest stress test to any customer service operation that I’ve witnessed in 20 plus years, right? Like I said, the level of anxiety, the level of expectation of volume of inquiries, right? So for every one order now people are seeing four to five inquiries coming in or tickets, or however you want to designate it. But basically customers reaching out, right? Four to five X, what is the traditional inquiry rate per order. So that’s significant and your customer’s care operation is not set up to handle that volume. And guess what? It’s really hard right now to go out and hire more agents because it’s hard to hire them. It’s hard to recruit them. It’s hard to train them. So you’re kind of making it, exacerbating the challenge. So this is where artificial intelligence can be a really powerful solution in this time. So what we’ve done at Kustomer, we kind of rolled out our Customer IQ Suite, and this allows a number of key things. One, that initial self service that I was talking about before for customers to be able to self serve and answer some of their own questions. For you to update them with your policies and procedures. And you need to be nimble. It’s not going to be static, right? So you can’t go to IT and ask them, you need a three day turnaround on updating something. You need to put it in the hands of the business users, right? Every time, if you’re, for example, an airline and you’re going to constantly be tweaking your refund policy, right? Put it in the hands of the business users to update those knowledge based items, which then get passed on. But then when the customer comes to you, how do we prioritize those requests? So using intelligence to then route those inquiries. If I’ve got an order that was delivered two days ago, and Mike’s got an order that is out for delivery right now, let’s make sure we prioritize Mike because Mike is probably really concerned about where his order is, right? Over Vikas, who got it two days ago and maybe was like, “Hey, you forgot to check.” Right? So being able to do some really cool things like that, using artificial intelligence, then when the agent gets engaged to help them suggest next best action. So yeah, if you didn’t have an AI strategy before, now’s the time because I know people are like, “No. It’s going to take me time. It’s going to take years. I don’t have the expertise.” There’s some really quick things that you can do to fundamentally change how you operate in this environment.
Gabe Larsen: (18:13)
I like that idea that [inaudible] AI basically from that customer journey [inaudible] makes it better. A little more easy. A little more [Inaudible] for the customer and for the brand. Mike, what would you add to that?
Michael Miller: (18:29)
For us, it’s all about what you guys mentioned earlier, which is getting more proactive. So we’ve got nearly four billion shipping events on our platform right now, and we’ve built machine learning models to crawl all over those specifically so that we can predict when an estimated delivery date or a promise date is going to be missed. So for example, just last week, we identified over 300,000 shipments that were going to miss their promise date and we did it up to 36 hours before the carrier even reported the problem. So you’re talking about up to a day and a half before you would otherwise know there’s a problem. When you can reach out to the customer, you can reassure them, you can appease them, you can reset expectations, you can talk to the carrier about the issues. So it’s really for us all about identifying stuff that the carriers aren’t telling you and that you can’t otherwise as explicitly see in the network so that you can get out in front of these issues and create better customer experiences. That’s the biggest place where we’re deploying it.
Gabe Larsen: (19:33)
Yeah, that’s incredible. The 36 hours. That’s a long time before obviously the carriers knew about it. Well, let’s wrap, guys, a lot of fun conversations, obviously challenging times need to figure out the best way to do that. Specifically, thinking about this idea of, “Where is my order.” Before we leave, advice for customer service leaders. Give me kind of your summary or your takeaway. Vikas, let’s start with you.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:58)
Yeah. I mean, my advice to customer service leaders is you have a once in a lifetime opportunity, right? For the last few years, every leader I speak to, not just in the customer service, but the C level in the boardroom has said, “My threat is Amazon and Walmart. When do they come into my market?” You have an opportunity here to take customers away from them because they’re having their challenges just like you are. So it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because you have this opportunity to acquire customers. I mean, I’m seeing CACs have literally zero, right? Customer Acquisition Costs of zero. But if you drop the ball, and now the pressure’s on you Mr. or Mrs. Customer service leader, if you drop the ball, when this pandemic ends, those customers won’t be there. What do you do? Think about quick wins. What can you do? Whether it’s on the agent experience, the automation piece, the bringing in of this order data into your contact center environment, into your customer care world, to be proactive with, there are ways that you can fundamentally change your business, not just for the short term, but we’re all going to come out of this. How does this actually put you in a better stead for when we come out of this pandemic? So that would be my feedback to customer service and C level folks all across the globe.
Gabe Larsen: (21:26)
You’re right and when we come out of this, there’s going to be winners, right? And if you do it right now, you’re going to be standing on that pedestal. I can’t agree more. Mike, what would you add?
Michael Miller: (21:36)
Very similar. I think there’s a strategic lens and a more tactical lens. Strategically, it’s exactly right. I mean, evaluate your partner ecosystem and the extent to which you can identify tools that allow you to get proactive, that allow you to get more efficient, automate tasks, I think is an incredible opportunity. More tactically, if you’re in the care center, our advice is, we’re seeing specific spikes in things like general delays, address issues, COVID related delays. So if you can build targeted workflows around getting proactive and issuing customer communications and reassurances around those, that’s going to serve you really well these days.
Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
Yeah. This proactive nature, now more than ever, I think we’ve gotta be proactive. Guys really appreciate you taking the time today to talk about COVID and all the different challenging times we’re participating in. And for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.
Michael Miller: (22:37)
Thank you so much.
Vikas Bhambri: (22:37)
Exit Voice: (22:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
If the events of this year taught those of us in the customer experience world anything, it’s that we can never stop innovating to be more customer-centric. We can’t hope that we will “get by” just a little longer with legacy CRMs and support tickets. We must embrace change and adapt quickly to meet today’s consumer expectations for a smart, omnichannel experience powered by a modern CRM—the key to scaling CX, meeting explosive growth, and adapting to change.
Some argue that 2020 has signaled the decline of ticket-based support systems. Why has the pandemic emerged as the straw that finally broke the legacy CRM camel’s back? The data tells the tale. Recent analysis of e-commerce trends shows a staggering 10 years of growth in just 3 months at the beginning of 2020. And that was just the early stages of lockdown. As chaos and uncertainty took hold, CX teams were inundated with customer calls and support tickets as they struggled to keep up with questions, changing plans, requests for assistance, and the demands of going direct-to-consumer.
But that’s only where the challenges begin. 2020 also forced organizations to accelerate digital transformation by 6 years to adapt to the “new normal” of stay at home orders, remote workforces, supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, and the economic slowdown. Along with this digital transformation, many CX leaders are realizing they need to follow the lead of the direct-to-consumer disruptor brands that are differentiating themselves, and thriving, by delivering a modern consumer experience.
The DTC Disruptor’s Secret Weapon: Intelligent CX Focused on the Whole Customer
As the pandemic took hold, most direct-to-consumer innovators were many steps ahead and better prepared to deal with the curveballs 2020 delivered. These businesses started with the right culture, philosophy, and customer-centric CRM platform. They built their business to connect with customers at scale. A great example of this is The Farmer’s Dog, a company dedicated to delivering safe and healthy pet food, who totally nailed the customer-first approach. Their customer service agents connect on an emotional level with their buyers using whatever channel the buyer selects to educate and foster authentic relationships. This takes a level of insight tickets can’t provide.
UNTUCKit is another great example of a customer-centric brand. They ensure their stellar shopping experience is supported across every customer touchpoint, especially support. Team members have a virtually seamless process for seeing customer history, gathering the right data points, and resolving customer inquiries.
What Makes a Modern CRM?
If tickets aren’t the ticket, what is the secret to direct-to-consumer success today?
Visibility to Care for the Whole Customer
Now more than ever, customers feel they’ve lost control and trust. Zappos and Amazon have set the bar high with proactive, rapid, data-driven customer experiences. Modern CRMs can help brands rebuild that trust through data-driven conversations informed by a view of the whole customer. Agents must have complete visibility across systems to understand the consumer and their entire situation. But with a plethora of data, and a growing number of channels to monitor, we need AI to unlock these insights. Efficiency is the name of the game in customer service, and AI is a true force multiplier, enabling customer service teams to work more efficiently and focus on the customers who need the most help. Contact centers using ticket-based systems, while relying on siloed customer data, simply cannot deliver the type of experience customers demand today.
Omnichannel Customer Experience
Omnichannel support means a customer can connect with your business anywhere, anytime, and with any method—or even with multiple methods or channels. If a customer wants to reach out via email and then switch to chat, so be it! It’s the experience a new generation of consumers expect. This requires companies to break down silos and integrate their data for a picture of the whole customer across channels. Consumers must be able to switch channels mid-conversation and leverage the best channel for each conversation’s purpose. Our research shows that nearly 90% of customers are frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. That shouldn’t be a surprise—we all know customers want what they want.
Omnipresent, Guided Self-Service
Just as customers expect more tailored and personal communications, they also demand self-service options for immediate resolution. As our new AI e-book explains, AI is being rapidly adopted in contact centers to act as the first line of defense, amplify performance, and create strong efficiencies. The volume, velocity, and variety of customer data today overwhelm organizations without the technology, processes, and operational capabilities to integrate siloed data and personalize communications. AI is transforming customer experiences, and for good reasons.
Happy Agents, Happy Customers
Research shows companies with excellent CX have employees that are 1.5X more engaged than employees at companies with less satisfactory CX; additionally, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%. AI is also vastly improving agent productivity and reducing churn for contact center leaders. AI can have a dramatic impact on the customer experience and satisfaction, which in turn makes the employee experience far more interesting and exciting.
AI makes jobs more meaningful and less frustrating by deflecting much of the grunt work and alleviating manual and repetitive tasks agents hate. Agents don’t need to waste time transferring and redirecting customers. Rather, conversations can be automatically classified and routed to the appropriate agent for a speedy and personalized resolution. Not only will this reduce wait and handle times, but it will also maximize team capacity by directing real-time conversation traffic to the right person at the right time.
Realizing the Intelligent Customer Experience
You need a modern CRM to help you execute your digitally advanced, customer-first approach. Leading contact centers have indicated that integrated platforms and data analytics are important in gathering insights into the customer journey. Enter the Intelligent Customer Experience, a culmination of all of the improvements we just discussed.
Intelligent CX means leveraging a modern customer-centric approach and advanced AI to create a smarter, faster, and more enjoyable customer experience. It’s about delivering results fast using the power of AI and data from all channels, whether that be via a call, chat, email, tweet, or all of the above. Your customer service agents will feel more informed since you’ll be empowering them to provide real value, not just closing a ticket or processing a transaction. AI uses context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help, while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.
We’ve seen dramatic changes since March of this year that have accelerated every aspect of digital transformation. We recently launched Kustomer IQ for omnichannel deflection, sentiment analysis, and intelligent routing. Check out more details here.
Customer Care Delivered in a Remote Environment
The pandemic has certainly upended the notion of the traditional 9-5 office. Companies are racing to adapt to a distributed work model, and technology is the biggest driver in adjusting to operating remotely. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. It enables the delivery of the customer experience from anywhere, through remote work orchestration and oversight. Taming the CX frankenstack is another step toward easing the remote transition. Modern CRMs must allow organizations to streamline integration of platforms, data sources, and channels to make remote work.
Collaboration is key to delivering an exceptional experience, so the modern CRM should provide a platform for customer service representatives to work together, to deliver service and support more efficiently and effectively. Collaboration between agents enhances the quality of answers provided to the customer by leveraging subject matter experts. At Kustomer, we believe the collective knowledge of experts makes your customer service organization stronger overall. In fact, we’ve embraced the use of Collaborators, users from other teams outside of support that can view conversations, customer history, and searches. By setting up Collaborators, other team members or departments can help you solve customer questions with internal notes and @mentions, see customer feedback, and more.
The Demise of the Dreaded Ticket
2020 will be the beginning of the end for legacy CRMs and transactional ticketing systems that were built to manage cases, not customers. Personalized support has been a key tenet of the business-and-buyer relationship from day one. Every customer wants to feel like they are known, respected, appreciated, and well-served. They certainly don’t want to be insulted by an interrogation. Traditional ticketing systems will be left behind, as customers expect more and the world continues to converge quickly.
Intelligent, modern CRMs enable true connections to be made with customers in their greatest times of need, by making it easy for agents to come from a place of understanding and context, consistently. This requires unlocking the value of data shared between different teams (such as marketing and customer service), creating new roles to act on the data, and leveraging new and modern technology.
Download the AI for CX e-book to learn more, and take a look at how Kustomer can provide the tools you need for exceptional DTC customer service.
Every consumer has a different expectation as to how they believe they should be treated by organizations they do business with. Perhaps I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a full refund and an apology when I feel I’ve been wronged, whereas you wouldn’t be caught dead being so demanding.
But while we all have our minute differences, it is also true that consumer expectations generally shift with the times, and have clear generational differences. This past year has brought a significant amount of changes, and businesses may feel more in the dark about what their consumers are demanding. We wanted to pull back that curtain.
Kustomer surveyed over 550 US-based consumers to better understand what they expect from the customer experience, where organizations are falling short, and how expectations have shifted across generations. According to our research, 79% of consumers say customer service is extremely important when deciding where to shop, and many consumers are more picky with where they spend their money than ever before. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to deliver on consumers’ growing demands. You can download the full report here.
We Must Treat Customers as Humans
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that empathy is of the utmost importance when dealing with customers. As the world has drastically changed, and individuals feel more stress and anxiety than ever before, the potential to brighten someone’s day with a simple support interaction is hugely impactful.
According to our survey, 69% of consumers expect an organization to prioritize their problem if they are upset. Through a combination of sentiment analysis and intelligent routing, your customer service platform should be able to move upset or loyal customers to the front of the line and immediately get them help from the most appropriate agent.
Additionally, 53% of consumers expect a business to know about them and personalize how they interact. To create these meaningful relationships, companies need to adopt technology that allows them to see customer history, issues and behavior in context, no matter the platform. According to Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, the humanity of customer service is often lost in call center environments. “I think that one of the downfalls to old school ticketing systems is that it’s no longer about people. It almost becomes like data entry for those agents that are working on the same thing. It’s how many tickets there are,” said Coleman. “We were never thinking of it in terms of the human beings that are on the receiving end. And I think that’s what Kustomer has really done for us, it’s allowed us to spend the time with the human beings that are on the other line and spend more time developing our team.”
One thing is clear across the board: consumers expect retailers to know how they’ve interacted in the past, what issues they’ve encountered, and they want organizations to actively make amends. A whopping 76% of consumers expect companies to proactively follow-up and reach out to them if there is a problem. Whether it is a winter storm delaying a shipment, a new safety policy, or a fulfillment issue, proactive outreach is not only a nice benefit, it is now an expectation. Proactive communication can provide even more value when you use it for actions like reengaging unhappy or complacent customers, and building brand loyalty with targeted offers. Make sure your platform can power bulk messaging, targeting specific customer segments based on your unique data, like orders, location, or CSAT. In no time your customer service team will turn from a cost center into a profit center.
The Need for Speed in CX
We’ve all been there. Too much to do, too little time. This turn of phrase is even more pertinent for customer service organizations. Delivering real-time service is inherently difficult without endless resources, especially during peak shopping periods. But it is truly what your customers expect.
Seventy-one percent of consumers believe their problem should be solved immediately upon contacting customer service, but 52% report that they’ve experienced hold times longer than fifteen minutes. That’s a massive amount of consumers whose expectations are not being met.
Luckily, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence (AI), businesses now have the opportunity to provide more self-service options, freeing up agent time for complex and proactive support. In fact, 53% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, meaning AI-powered experiences fulfill their needs. Tools like chatbots are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, with 53% of consumers saying that chatbots improve the customer experience. They can be used to collect initial information, answer simple questions, and direct customers to a help center if human intervention is not needed.
These tools save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low level support. Additionally, 42% of consumers reported that they would be willing to buy a product or service from a chatbot. This transforms AI-powered chatbots from a deflection tool into a revenue generator, with the ability to suggest similar products, or answer questions consumers need clarification on before buying.
To read the full report, including industry and demographic data, click here.
In case you missed it, last week Kustomer hosted a series of events all around switching from traditional ticketing systems to a modern CRM for customer service. The week was action-packed, filled to the brim with insights from Kustomer executives and customer-centric brands like Lulus and Ritual.
It’s not too late to gather insights from the week. Below you can find four key takeaways from #MakeTheSwitch week, and what they mean for your brand.
1. Treat Customers Like Humans, Not Tickets
Many companies are still relying on the old model of customer service, where they treat each new interaction as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. To personalize a customer’s experience, you have to know the customer—and that requires data. A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and helps them deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service.
Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, thinks that the humanity of customer service is often lost in call center environments. “I think that one of the downfalls to old school ticketing systems is that it’s no longer about people. It almost becomes like data entry for those agents that are working on the same thing. It’s how many tickets there are,” said Coleman during a Thursday afternoon webinar. “We were never thinking in terms of the human beings that are on the receiving end. And I think that’s what Kustomer has really done for us, it’s allowed us to spend the time with the human beings that are on the other line and spend more time developing our team.”
Eric Choi, Community Support Manager at Zwift, said during a Friday afternoon LinkedIn Live that he made the switch to Kustomer because his team was looking for a platform that was more human, and allowed them to interact with their members in a more organic way. “The old ticketing system made me feel… like a deli counter. You pull a ticket, you get answered, you throw the ticket away and then you move on.”
When all customer information is available at the click of a button, agents are able to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship.
2. Unlock the Power of Data Through a Customer Service CRM
As Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum said in his Tuesday afternoon LinkedIn Live, an effective CRM should allow you to fully understand the relationship that your business has with each and every customer, and leverage data in order to do that. Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers. And you shouldn’t have to pay more for operational solutions AND modern communication tools in order to provide effective support.
Coleman agrees that e-commerce companies “absolutely have to be able to access data around what your customers are contacting you” about. Before making the switch to Kustomer, Lulus didn’t have any data because their platforms weren’t talking to each other, and that was a big issue. A modern customer service CRM should be designed to connect seamlessly with your other data sources and business intelligence tools, while taking the place of your support platform, contact center routing software, and process management solution.
3. Cut Down on Tickets With an Omnichannel Approach
In a multichannel support environment, each channel lives in its own silo with its own dedicated team of agents, with limited communication or sharing of information between channels. As a result of this fragmented experience, customers will have to take the time to repeat to the second agent what they told the first agent. In addition, multichannel support leads companies to focus on resolving tickets, rather than building stronger customer relationships, because agents lack a holistic view of each customer.
After switching to Kustomer, Coleman truly realized how many omnichannel conversations were taking place within Lulus’ customer base. With a truly omnichannel customer service CRM, Lulus “ended up merging or cutting [their] tickets down significantly.” Agent collision never occurs when communication channels are integrated, because agents can view the conversation and maintain context even as customers engage through multiple channels.
Michelle McCombs, Vice President of Safety and Support at HopSkipDrive, has now structured her team so they are all omnichannel. With Kustomer’s timeline view, and intelligent queues and routing, her team doesn’t have to go and find what they need to do next. All of her agents “live right there in their one space and… and get to work.”
4. Make the Agent Experience Effortless and Fulfilling
Ultimately, agent happiness directly translates to customer happiness. The more information that agents have at their fingertips, and the more they are able to focus on quality instead of quantity, the happier they will be, and the happier they will make your customer base.
Andrew Rickards, Director of Customer Experience at Ritual, has experienced this first hand. “It goes without saying customer service can be a thankless job and even … the best spirited individual can find those tougher days. So for me, it’s looking at the agent’s experience and understanding what the points of friction are and removing them, so what is already a tough job doesn’t have to be any tougher,” said Rickards. “When I talk about agent happiness, if you look at the internal surveys we do, to see just how people are on a quarterly basis, a lot of the questions that would indicate day-to-day stressors…we improved on those results post-Kustomer switch.”
Coleman agrees, and sees how making the switch to a more effortless platform can impact agent development. “I do feel that we’ve had less turnover due to the fact that the platform is easier, to the point where we’ve been able to actually focus our leadership on actual leading instead of micro managing,” says Coleman. “And what I feel is the most honorable and noble career, which is the service of helping other people, it gets lost in the abyss of really complicated workflows. And so Kustomer has given us, has given me as a leader, so much value, because I’m actually able to lead people for who they are based on their individual strengths and opportunities.”
Click here to learn more about how making the switch could be a gamechanger for your team.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri to discuss how to use AI in contact centers. Aarde is the Senior Director of Technology and Product for Global Member Services at TechStyle. He’s spent the last decade working in e-commerce and is the author of the book Enable Better Service. Vikas, a familiar guest on the show, is the SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer and a 20-year CRM / contact center veteran. Both Aarde and Vikas have extensive knowledge on the use of AI in customer service and they have come together to discuss how other businesses can optimize with the help of AI.
“Omnibot”, The Omnichannel Bot
Customer expectations have changed significantly over the last few months, and companies are starting to feel the strain— especially in regards to their AI. While autobots have a reputation for dehumanizing companies, we are starting to rely on them heavily as customer needs increase. To ensure chatbots have a positive impact, Vikas and Aarde focus on making sure they are used as an omnichannel tool. Aarde states, “You can’t just have a chatbot on your website anymore, and it only be in your chat profile. It’s gotta be across all of the different channels that you use to support your members.” As customers switch channels, the bot needs to be available to support your customer on their preferred channel. Gabe, Vikas, and Aarde called this adaptable bot an “omnibot.”
Knowing the need for effective AI, and bots that function on multiple channels, Vikas and Aarde discuss who should build the bots and how they should be built. Because coding and creating AI can be taxing, they recommend finding a good partner to help, as it will be a better use of resources. As for how an omnibot should be built, Vikas notes the need for authenticity to the brand. He states, “If you’re a fun hip brand, you want to keep it relative to that. If you’re maybe a more mature brand, you want to keep it in tune with your … general reputation and what your customers expect of you.” In other words, make sure that the bot matches your brand. And, as an additional note, let customers know they’re talking to a bot. Customers don’t like to question whether they’re talking to a person or not.
How to Humanize a Customer’s AI Experience
One of the main concerns with using chatbots, even ones that are authentically built to the brand, is that consumers lose the human touch of customer service. This is a valid point, but Vikas and Aarde explain ways to overcome that while still increasing efficiency. To humanize a bot experience, have a good team behind it. In regards to AI Vikas states, “You still need people that will go and optimize the program behind it.” It is a team effort to optimize a chatbot, and constant evaluative measures will ensure that it grows and changes with the needs of the customer. Good AI is not meant to replace people in customer service, but to aid those committed to helping customers. In fact, Aarde mentions optimization tactics that fix AI and help the customer at the same time. He says, “When we feed the transcripts to our agents, our agents are actually reading through and seeing where things fail and then they escalate that to the bot architects, the engineers in the background. So they could change those bugs.”
Best Practices and Final Advice on How to Optimize AI
Transcribing bot conversations and having the bots follow the customer across multiple channels helps with the overall customer experience. Additionally, not being hesitant to transfer someone to a live agent is a good tactic. If people are saying “Operator”, pressing zero, or yelling, don’t use the bot to fix the problem, have a person step in and do their job. Aarde’s final piece of advice, or best practice, is to not tackle the hardest type of AI first. Don’t try for voice AI from the beginning. “I recommend trying,” he states, “but trying it slowly. So testing with maybe a low volume channel first, just doing a small portion, maybe 10% of volume, see its success rate and then roll it out to the greater population.” Add AI to your company’s customer service department one step at a time. Agreeing with Aarde, Vikas adds, “Look at your FAQ. What are the articles that people most often go to that resolve their issue?” He also suggests, “[Talk] to your agents or even [look] at the analytics in your CRM ticketing tool to look at, ‘What are the macros they most often use?’” While investing in AI can be an intimidating venture, bots can provide increased efficiency to your company, and successful self-service to your customers.
To learn more about how to leverage AI in your customer service department, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri
Intro Voice : (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about one of these really relevant and interesting conversations, leveraging AI and self-service to really power your contact center. To do that we brought on two special guests. We’ll let them introduce themselves. Aarde, why don’t we start with you?
Aarde Cosseboom: (00:31)
Sure. Thanks again Gabe and Vikas for having me and Kustomer, of course, for hosting. I’m Aarde Cosseboom. I’m the Senior Director of Technology and Product for GMS, which is Global Member Services for a company called TechStyle. And we’re an e-commerce retail company.
Gabe Larsen: (00:47)
Awesome. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (00:49)
Vikas Bhambri, SVP Sales and CX here at Kustomer, 20 years CRM Contact Center Lifer, looking forward to the conversation with Aarde and Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Yeah, this is exciting. And you know, myself, I run growth over here at Kustomer. So let’s get in and let’s talk about this. Aarde, let’s start with the big picture. What do AI and self-service bots even solve?
Aarde Cosseboom: (01:11)
Yeah, this is a great question and really hard to answer specifics because every business is slightly different, but I’ll try to stay as high level as possible. Really it helps with self service, it’s in the title, but deflection, reducing contact. There’s a lot of automation that happens as well, too. So not only automating for your customer, but also automating a lot of the agent processes like creation of tickets and then auto dispositions as well too. And then one of the things that’s kind of hidden that most people don’t think about, and it’s actually one of the things that we don’t really measure that well in the industry in this area, is customer experience as well, too. So as millennials and gen X are expecting these types of tools, it creates a better experience for those people who are expecting it.
Gabe Larsen: (02:01)
Vikas, maybe you can add onto that. I mean, why do you think this is such an important conversation more so now than it was even just a couple months ago? Give us kind of that thought process.
Vikas Bhambri: (02:11)
Sure. I think what we’re running into right now is folks like Aarde are really seeing a tremendous surge of inquiries into their contact center. And the reason they’re seeing that is there’s the heightened level of anxiety and expectation for consumers. Most of what they’re shopping for, they want now and it doesn’t matter what it is. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine who’s in the middle of buying a bike. Now, normally you buy a bike and you’re good. Whenever it shows up, it shows up. But because of the quarantine, he is literally like, “I need a bike so that I can have something to do with my kids.” So when he placed an order for the bike and wasn’t immediately notified when his bike was going to be available, he got extremely concerned and started pinging the bike shop. So I think it’s really interesting to see that behavior, particularly in these times, the ticket surge and putting pressure on people like Aarde and his peers to be able to respond.
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
It feels like, again, there’s just more need for it than ever before. How do you think about chatbots versus social versus some of these other channels? Do you feel like they’re just different times to use them, is it different companies, is it different industries? Aarde, what’s your thought on kind of the mix of channels that are out there, why people would use one versus the other, et cetera?
Aarde Cosseboom: (03:42)
Yeah. And it goes back to expectations. So your customers expect a lot from you. And as we grow in channels in the customer service realm, growing the social and then direct social, which is things like WhatsApp and Apple business chat, direct SMS, and MMS. Those are all areas that we need to grow into and when we do grow into, we need to create an omnichannel experience. So you can’t just have a chatbot on your website anymore, and it only be in your chat profile. It’s gotta be across all of the different channels that you use to support your members. And as a member switches, as they do the channel switch, maybe they start in chat online and then they say, “You know what, I’m going to pause the conversation. And now I’m going to go to Facebook messenger.” You need to follow that with your AI so they don’t have to start all over from scratch with that automation tool.
Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
I like that. Vikas, how would you add to that?
Vikas Bhambri: (04:38)
I think Aarde nailed it. The term chatbot is so yesterday, right? Your bot needs to be omnichannel, your bot needs to be available, not just via chat as a channel, but you know Aarde mentioned Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, SMS email, right? So when we think about automation and bots here at Kustomer, we think about it regardless of channel, I mean, even email, right? Why is it that somebody sends an email and somebody actually has to enter a response? Why wouldn’t you send some responses that will allow that customer to self service, even by email, which is obviously one of the older, more mature channels. So that’s how we think about bots here at Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (05:23)
Well, look, I’m as guilty as anybody; the chatbot I’m so used to thinking chatbot and it’s something on the website. Is there a different term? Is there, I mean, obviously as you guys kind of pointed out, it’s better to think about it, maybe in an omnichannel approach, but Aarde, I’m looking for you on this one, man. How come you haven’t invented a term that is an omnichannel chatbot? What is that term, what is it?
Aarde Cosseboom: (05:49)
I haven’t invented it, but it is out there. It’s IVA which stands for Intelligent Virtual Assistant and really it’s the omnichannel bot experience, doesn’t matter how you use it, but that’s how you deliver it. So Virtual Assistant or Intelligent Virtual Assistant,
Vikas Bhambri: (06:07)
Gabe, I’m not the marketer on this call, but I’m going to give you a lay up here and you can give me credit. And if our friends at Zendesk are listening, they’ll probably copy it as they always do, but Omnibot.
Gabe Larsen: (06:19)
Omnibot! Oh my goodness! Oh, stolen.
Aarde Cosseboom: (06:22)
I like it.
Vikas Bhambri: (06:22)
I’m a transformers kid. I grew up, I’m a transformers generation. So that just sounds super cool to me.
Gabe Larsen: (06:29)
Honestly that sounds like —
Aarde Cosseboom: (06:31)
Gabe Larsen: (06:31)
Omnibot does sound like one of those transformers. What’s the main transformer? What’s the old guy?
Vikas Bhambri: (06:36)
Gabe Larsen: (06:38)
Optimus Prime. Optimus Prime, meet Omnibot.
Aarde Cosseboom: (06:43)
That’s a great name for a bot too. We could brand it.
Gabe Larsen: (06:47)
It totally works. That probably is good for this question you guys. I consider myself a programmer. I wanted to build my own bot. My kids are doing little things with programming. It seems like a lot of people are building bots these days. Should someone just build a bot? Should you buy a bot? And excuse me, an Interactive Virtual Assistant. Aarde, let’s start with you man. You’re out there in the market, talking to people, can companies just build these things? Is that easy or should you buy it? I’m confused.
Aarde Cosseboom: (07:19)
Yep. Great question. There’s a lot of controversy here and lots of different companies are doing their own little flavor. As technology grows and changes, it’s enabling companies to be able to build their own. Things like Amazon Lex or Google dialogue flow, it’s getting a lot easier than it was a year ago or even five years ago. But in the current market and we assess this here at TechStyle every six months, we recommend to buy or partner, is what we like to call it, partner with an actual partner that has the technology in place. You get a couple benefits from it, ease of use, and you’ll get to market faster. You won’t have to do that long implementation, have to have those developers and experts build something from scratch. You’ll be able to lean on the expertise of your partner to help you with that. And then the other thing that’s really beneficial that most people don’t think about is, when you’re partnering with a technology partner, they’re going to be leveraging all of the AI and machine learning that they have across all of their other customers and bring all of that to you and your bot. So if there’s a best practice in your space, we’re in retail, for example, and we use a partner and they have a best practice for another retail customer, they’re going to knock on our door and give us that easy flow without us having to do all the legwork. So I recommend buy for now and partner with a dedicated partner that has it in that ecosystem.
Gabe Larsen: (08:45)
Yeah. Look, it’s becoming, I mean, there’s just, there’s enough out there. You guys, I think you can get it for a good enough price that I don’t know if you need to dedicate a whole engineering team to kind of build your own automation, roles and bots, and things like that. So I don’t think I’d disagree with Aarde. Vikas, this one just came through on LinkedIn, this is from Keith, this question, and I meant to throw this in here and so I want to throw it in now. He said, “Hey, look, we’re trying to humanize our bots. So we designed them to help people not be viewed as an application. But it still comes — begs the question of how do you think about these bots? I’m thinking more on the website at the moment. Do you name it the bot, do you put a human there? Do you — how do you balance that? Have you seen best practices on that?
Vikas Bhambri: (09:26)
Yeah, the first thing that I recommend to customers is you got to keep it authentic to your brand.
Gabe Larsen: (09:32)
Vikas Bhambri: (09:33)
That’s number one. If you’re a fun hip brand, you want to keep it relative to that. If you’re maybe a more mature brand, you want to keep it in tune with your just general reputation and what your customers expect of you. The other thing is, I think in the early days, and most companies have gone away from this, I remember there was a brand in the UK that had announced a bot, but they branded it Lucy. Ask Lucy. And customers cannot really tell whether they were speaking to a human being or a bot. And they actually got very negative feedback because people were just asking questions and the bot at that time, you can imagine almost seven, eight years ago, wasn’t trained. It couldn’t answer half their questions. So I think the more that you let your customer know, “Look, you’re dealing with a bot” and that allows them to give some flexibility and some leeway to you to understand that look at some point, this bot may not be able to answer my question; to know that you can always escalate to a live human agent, right? So you can still give it a name, right? But making sure it’s authentic to what it is. And if the point comes where it can not resolve the customer’s inquiry, that they know there’s a handoff, a seamless transition. That’s another thing a lot of people get wrong. Right? So now I connect to the human agent, don’t make me ask the five, six, seven questions that I just went through with the bot. The agent should pick up the conversation fluidly from where I left off. Aarde what do you think?
Gabe Larsen: (11:09)
Yeah Aarde, I want to talk — do you agree because I think you might disagree?
Aarde Cosseboom: (11:15)
No, I do agree. There’s a little bit of uncanny Valley; gotta be careful about not tricking your customer into thinking they’re talking to a human. So I totally agree that you have to upfront tell them that it’s a bot. I like to brand it as giving it kind of a bot accent. So if it’s a voice bot giving it a little bit of a mechanical accent, so they know that it’s a bot or, not having a hundred percent of a fluid conversation fragmented a little bit more so they know that they’re talking. Also, you could declare it at the beginning of a chat or social conversation saying that “You’re engaging with an AI tool at this time.” And then, another key point here is you’re right, try to do it on brand. So we have 95% of our customers are females. So we have a female voice. If you’re selling golf clubs online, you may want a male voice because there may be a higher percentage of males that are listening to or engaging with your bot. So think about voice, tone, accent, especially accents, U.S. accents. So if you’re on the East Coast, don’t put words in there like “cool” or “hip” or things like that. Make sure that it’s localized to your customers and brands.
Gabe Larsen: (12:29)
Yeah, don’t use one of those weird Utah accents like you hear coming in all, all “Here y’all.”
Vikas Bhambri: (12:36)
One other thing to Keith’s question, right? And this whole concept of an application; look, it goes back to back in the day and chat, we started out with what we called a pre chat survey, which was literally, “Here are the five questions you need to answer so that we know who to route you to, who you are,” et cetera. Then it became a bit more where people were doing authentication. And so they had some data. Then we moved to this concept of conversational form, which was still a bot, but it asked the question in a humanized way. So it wasn’t just “Fill out these five questions.” It would ask you the question one at a time and maybe there was a variability where if you said you were a buyer versus a seller, the next question would change. Now Keith, where we want to take it is the bot can gather so much data about the customer before they even type in one word. So a lot of that is now picking up with the information that is now unknown to you so that you can then either answer the inquiry or then route it to the agent. So it should necessarily have that kind of predetermined, almost process flow. You can be much more mature about how you even go about using natural language processing for people to just key in things and it doesn’t have to be hard coded, right? So I think there’s a lot that you can do there now.
Gabe Larsen: (14:00)
I like that. This is, I think, one of the questions that comes up often, this is such a cool feature look at this. I can just throw this in here, right here. Look at that. Are you guys seeing that?
Aarde Cosseboom: (14:11)
Vikas Bhambri: (14:11)
Gabe Larsen: (14:12)
Geez louise, man, look at this technology. Scott Mark, little shout out to Scott Mark. What are best practices around the handoff from a bot so we stop dropping the ball? I think that’s — we wanted to get actually into some best practices. Maybe we start it now. That’s just a big debate. It’s when you handoff, how do you hand off, how many questions do you ask? It’s just, it never feels right. Thoughts? Aarde let’s start with you on that one.
Aarde Cosseboom: (14:38)
Yeah, absolutely. And you have to think of one thing first, which we call the IVR prison or the chatbot prison. You’ve got to allow people to get out of that prison. So if you get the same question twice and it’s not — you can’t recognize the right answer like, “What is your email address?” and can’t recognize, ask again, can’t recognize, fail it out to a live agent. That’s a good best practice. Also if they say the word operator or press the zero key on their phone, or if they start cursing, definitely fail them out of the IVR. Don’t keep them in prison. Always allow them a way out of that IVR. But then when you go over into the agent experience and that handoff, even for the experiences where someone engaged with the bot for a very long time, and there’s a long transcript, maybe there is actions that were done like they updated their credit card information with the bot, they updated their billing information, their name, profile; all of that you want to transfer to an agent, screen pop not only the member profile, start to fill out the case or tickets so the agent doesn’t have to do it. And then also, feed them the transcripts so that if the customer or member says, “Hey, I talked to the bot, it updated my billing address, but I think it didn’t do it right. It didn’t do the right street address, the right number. Can you go back and check and see if it did that?” The agent should be able to scroll up through that transcript and see exactly where it failed and then fix that, that failure.
Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
Yeah. Vikas, what would you add to that?
Vikas Bhambri: (16:13)
I think the biggest, so Aarde nailed it, right? So, your initial implementation, those are all the best practices. I think the challenge for most brands is you’ve got to treat this like a program management, just like a marketer would if they were doing a promotion on their website or doing a campaign. Constantly revisiting and optimizing, right? So one, your bot is going to get smarter if you’re investing in the right technology. But two, if you’re finding that customers are constantly getting challenged, that process in your step, go and see what do you need to do to modify it, to smooth that out, right? So where are people cursing, where are people hitting zero? Where are people saying, “Get me to a live human agent?” How do we further optimize that piece before we do it? So I think that’s the biggest thing I see is where people will roll these things out and then forget about them and then six months later, they’ll say, “You know what, this isn’t working and we just have to pull it off the site.” And that to me —
Gabe Larsen: (17:16)
Why do you have to call me out like that? Why do you have to call me out like that? I mean, geez louise. In all truthfulness, that was my first experience with a bot. I mean, it’s been a few years back, but I don’t know. I thought you could throw it on the website and it would maybe like, I don’t know, do its things, some sort of magic or something. And three months later, I’m like, “This thing’s a piece of garbage.” I totally, I mean, I came to the heart of the conclusion that like anything else, it has to be iterative and optimized. I love that one.
Vikas Bhambri: (17:45)
No, I think Gabe, this is an interesting thing, right? Because people keep talking about AI just on a broad macro level. And you know, people will say, look, “AI is going to put everybody out of a job. We won’t need salespeople. We won’t need marketers. We won’t need customer service people.” No, because the role will change because the technology is great, but you still need people that will go and optimize the program behind it. Right? So I think, I think that’s an interesting nuance just as we think about AI generally.
Aarde Cosseboom: (18:11)
Yeah. And talking a little bit about supervised learning; so when we feed the transcripts to our agents, our agents are actually reading through and seeing where things fail and then they escalate that to the bot architects, the engineers in the background. So they could change those bugs. So your team members, your agents are now a part of a QA or quality assurance process on your technology, which is huge. And it kinda levels up the agent as well, too. They’re no longer just answering chats and emails and phone calls. They’re now, they now feel a part of the organization because they have a higher role in reporting this information back.
Gabe Larsen: (18:49)
I’ve been hearing more about this kind of bot, almost like a role, like a bot architect. I love the idea of getting the frontline people in front of it. Guys, give me a couple other nuggets. I think that’s where people want to go with this because I think people are getting onto the idea that they need to have these assistants or bots on their sites, et cetera. I don’t know if people know some of the best practices, lessons learned from deployment, where they get started. Our time’s a little bit short, but give us a quick rundown. Aarde let’s start with you then Vikas, we will go back.
Aarde Cosseboom: (19:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll make it super short, but, it’s a huge chasm to cross from having nothing to having something. That’s why I recommend trying, but trying it slowly. So testing with maybe a low volume channel first, just doing a small portion, maybe 10% of volume, see its success rate and then roll it out to the greater population. So try to do the easier channels first. So online web chat is probably the easiest or a social chat or an SMS bot. Don’t tackle voice first. That’s going to be your hardest heaviest lift and you’re going to be sidetracked.
Gabe Larsen: (19:54)
Vikas what do you think man?
Vikas Bhambri: (19:54)
Yeah, I agree with Aarde. Look, you have to look at this as a crawl, walk, run, right? If you try to bite off more than you can chew, you’re going to end up pretty miserable. So for me, number one is, look at your FAQ. What are the articles that people most often go to that resolve their issue? Maybe that’s something you want to be more proactive serving up. The second is talking to your agents or even looking at the analytics in your CRM ticketing tool to look at what are the macros they most often use, right? Because if somebody is just cutting and pasting, we’re hitting hashtag time after time, again, that means those are probably some, that’s some low hanging fruit that you could front end via a bot, the omnibot, for them to resolve themselves. So those are some things that you could look at. Query the data you have, and then just think about, “How do you want to be proactive and thoughtful about putting some of these things in front of your customers?”
Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
I think that’s spot on you guys. I mean, my biggest takeaway from today, I’m going to trademark Omnibot. That’s what I’m doing. That’s — I could barely listen to you guys. I was thinking so much about money I’m going to be making on Omnibot here. No, I’m teasing. Aarde, really appreciate you joining. Vikas, as always, great to have you on. For the audience, hope you guys have a fantastic day.
Vikas Bhambri: (21:19)
Have a great weekend.
Aarde Cosseboom: (21:20)
Exit Voice: (21:27)
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I was beyond excited. I had the perfect gift for my wife for our anniversary planned out. After doing some initial research I had an ad pop up on my Instagram feed that provided exactly what I wanted — a personalized canvas with our wedding song on it. I pictured my wife opening up the package on the day of our anniversary and being overcome with emotion. I was sure that I had “husband of the year” in the bag. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had planned.
The order process for this personalized canvas was very straightforward. I specified how I wanted the canvas to look and provided the exact wording, the canvas size, and the design. It was three weeks until our anniversary so I believed I had plenty of time. I put in the order and they sent me an email that said it would take them 1-2 days to provide me a proof and then 1-2 days to complete the canvas before shipping it. It was exactly what I saw on their website before I ordered. I knew I was cutting things a little tight but wasn’t worried. After four business days, I approved the proof they sent me, I kept waiting to get the confirmation that my order was shipped. After four more days I emailed them on a Friday asking where my order was. I started to freak out as I was down to a week before our anniversary.
I finally heard back from them on the following Monday (as they don’t work on the weekends): “We are a little backed up on our orders. We had more orders come in that we weren’t prepared for “. While they were extremely apologetic in their response they were putting my “husband of the year” award in jeopardy. Two days later I emailed them again asking when my order would be shipped. They responded quickly that it would be shipped the next day and to my relief, it was. It’s too bad that it was shipped on the same day as our anniversary. My wife is very understanding and wasn’t upset. I was disappointed though as this whole situation could have been avoided. Organizations need to consider how they can be more proactive in their approach to the customer experience so they don’t let down their customers and create lifelong customers. This is at the core of becoming an intelligent customer experience (CX) organization.
What Is an Intelligent Customer Experience?
Intelligent CX involves leveraging the technology and data that exists today to create a better overall customer experience. This includes sharing data between the different teams such as marketing and customer service, creating new roles to act on the data, and leveraging new technology such as AI.
Eliminating the Silos
Too often, organizations suffer from a lack of communication between different functions such as marketing, customer service, sales, and manufacturing. The loser in all of this is the customer, and ultimately the business, as companies will lose potential revenue and customers.
Intelligent CX organizations have more open communication and data transparency which creates a more fluid transition between the discovery and buying customer journey stages. As an example, the manufacturing team at the customized canvas company should have informed the marketing and support teams that orders would be delayed. They then should have updated their website and order emails so I would be aware of any delays and sent proactive communication of these delays while I anxiously waited for updates. Instead, I was the one that had to reach out to their customer service team a few times for updates. The friction points that existed in my customer journey could have been avoided by breaking down the silos within this organization.
Use Data to Provide a Differentiated Experience
The second component of an intelligent CX organization is leveraging the data you have about the customer to provide a better customer experience. This was the first canvas that I was purchasing from this company, yet there didn’t seem to be an acknowledgment of that. I felt like any of their other customers. If this data was appropriately used they could have:
Proactively reached out when they realized that my order was going to be delayed
Routed my issue immediately to the next available agent
Provided me with an exclusive and personalized offer as a first-time buyer to help drive repeat business.
We’re seeing organizations with an intelligent CX mindset collect more data at each touchpoint. They are also creating new roles that combine CX and analytics to help deliver on an organizations’ CX vision.
Embedding Artificial Intelligence
The last component of an intelligent CX organization is applying AI to inject automation and machine learning into the customer experience. AI takes advantage of the data that you have and helps organizations act on it in ways that could never be done before. This not only generates additional revenue but can result in significant cost savings.
During the purchase of my customized canvas, AI powered technology could have detected a delay in the processing of my order and proactively sent me an email without having to reach out to the customer service team. Another example is having an AI-powered chatbot on their website that could have provided me with an updated status so I didn’t need to wait until Monday to receive a response. These examples are just a small slice of what AI can do. Smoothing out these areas of the customer journey by leveraging an intelligent CX mindset is what transforms a good customer experience into a great one.
The Time for Intelligent CX Is Now
We need to go beyond providing a great customer experience — customers are expecting more. Intelligent CX organizations break down the silos that exist between different departments, they collect more data and better leverage existing data, and they embed AI into their CX processes. This ultimately creates an extraordinary, frictionless experience for your customers that will result in brand loyalty and ultimately drive a more profitable business.
PS: While it was late, the canvas has a special place in our home and reminds my wife and me of our wonderful wedding.
We recently held an exclusive invitation-only online Speakeasy with CX executives in California. These leaders ranged from digitally-focused to family-run organizations, across all sizes and industries. The primary purpose of the event was to engage our Kustomer community to discuss complex topics during these difficult times. The conversations naturally flowed from how their businesses are handling the COVID-19 crisis, to transformation while resources are crunched, and finally their top three strategies for success.
What Is Being Done NOW
An executive began by reciting a quote from their CEO: “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” And boy did that ring true. A key theme that kept surfacing was the importance of unifying product and CX. It’s critical to get buy-in and support from product and engineering around co-owning the CX goals. For instance, you may set a goal for the amount of CS contacts per thousand transactions, and the product team should take this information into account during development.
Several other executives stated that they had a growth problem during the pandemic. Finding the right resources to help the business scale was an issue. Others stated that their CX issues were a mixture of stagnation and scale, and they were seeking to optimize workflows to minimize the impact of furloughs. Regardless of whether the business was scaling or contracting, everyone agreed that baseline tickets were rising and removing friction between product, engineering and support was critical. A great example of this success was raised during the conversation: “How many times have you issued a support request to Netflix?” Most everyone responded: never.
Transformation While Resources Are Crunched
There is an old technology world competing with a new technology world that is now thriving. Is the old technology still relevant? Many organizations are moving towards modern technology and digital transformation.
One executive stated that they were part of the old school class of folks who thought that CX couldn’t be done from home. And yet, they transitioned their CX team to work from home in a week. Interestingly, the CX leader started the process a few weeks before COVID hit as she had a funny feeling. They configured laptops and had them out to agents who previously did not have access to laptops at all.
Another executive stated that their agents, based in London and Austin, already had laptops to successfully work from home, but 200 agents in the US needed monitors to work from multiple screens. Employees came back to the office for basic accessories like chords and power plugs. There was some hesitation about voice quality or even security using home computers, but that went away after the first week. The pandemic accelerated their business continuity plan and now challenges occur more due to kids, school and scheduling.
Many companies saw a surge in volume, so job enrichment and training had to be put on the backburner. They needed more people or more resources to get the job done. However, work from home presented some challenges around measuring metrics and understanding who can sustain remote work and who may not be up to par.
One executive stated, “I think there were people getting away with it at the office and the home office is not conducive to working. Kids are maybe getting in the way. Some folks are struggling and may not be candidates for working from home.”
Luckily, many individuals think technology can help. The CEO of one organization used to work at stodgy banks, and he doesn’t want that for his current company — he wants to be different. He wants to adopt AI and transform into a modern financial institution. Other executives stated that their companies were not as forward-looking on AI, and convincing management could often be a challenge.
Moving the Customer Experience Dial
A CX executive began the conversation by stating that moving the needle 1% is a good thing, and focusing on one single metric that does so could lead to success. In his case, it was support cost as a percentage of revenue. This metric scales because it is clear to everyone.
“If you double the revenue, you can double support costs,” he said. This metric sets a north star and ties every team back to the results. The CX group doesn’t own the code, the product or messaging, but once you touch the customer, you can take what the customer is saying back to the other departments. If a customer tells you a problem, it’s your job to take that problem to the business, and potentially increase revenue as a result.
Organic growth occurs when there is no friction. Look at a disruptive company like Netflix. You never contact Netflix support, and you don’t have friction. Everything slows down if you don’t eliminate friction.
Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
It was overwhelmingly agreed that baseline tickets were rising and that it was important to remove friction between product, engineering and support. In a recent report by Kustomer, How the Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, the data mirrors the conversations at the Speakeasy. Our study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.
In order to address this, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer CEO, recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.
To reiterate a comment from one of our CX leaders, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”
Your Top Ten Takeaways
1. Do a better job of capturing feedback and delivering to the product team
2. Build a strong product team for better customer experience
3. Reduce CX costs by 50% under the notion of do no harm to the business
4. Offer personal value-based services
5. Innovate support solutions like an effortless experience
6. Improve the bottom line AND customer satisfaction
7. Improve knowledge of the product and industry across the company
8. Hire people with industry-specific knowledge
9. Implement self-service as customers want to serve themselves
10. Use all the data you have to make support an effortless experience
One of the biggest challenges for contact centers and customer service departments is convoluted systems. According to CCW Digital research, two of the top five areas for improvement include agents spending too much time on low-value work and the absence of a 360-degree customer view.
When customer service agents don’t have a 360-degree customer view, they spend excess time navigating applications and databases trying to manually find customer information and history, which is frustrating and inefficient for both employees and customers. However, with the right technology, it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to learn why.
Tap Into the Power of a Centralized CRM
Building a 360-degree customer view is dependent upon giving our front-line employees and customer service agents the tools they need to see customer history, route inquiries accordingly, and find solutions seamlessly through an efficient customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
As seen in a recent CCW Digital webinar, during a peak in the pandemic, customer contact volume increased ten fold, while agent capacity decreased 20%, call duration increased 62%, wait times increased by 27 minutes, and as you would guess, customer satisfaction decreased — by roughly 28%.
As customer volume increases and agent capacity decreases, friction is brought into the customer experience, exposing an unforgiving area for improvement in the contact center — the vast majority of CRMs being used are not getting the job done. Simply put, customer service departments around the globe are losing customers as a result of poor management and technology.
Specifically, incorrect and incomplete data means longer wait times, less ability to predict needs, and less ability to personalize interactions.
We’ve seen an uptick in digital channel utilization which means you have more touch points and data sources to aggregate customer history, and therefore a greater need for an omnichannel CRM.
The only way to alleviate the friction in the customer experience is to create a more efficient process, reducing the amount of applications agents need to record and access customer information, and resolve problems by using a single, unified, and actionable customer service CRM.
Increase Efficiency and Personalization Through AI and ML
AI can help you better glean insights from your data at scale. Then it can be used to improve routing and provide agents with real-time guidance and recommendations, thereby increasing their ability to “see” and “use” their 360-degree view.
AI and machine learning (ML) have the ability to improve the precision and speed of service by automating repetitive, manual tasks as well as your most complex business processes. For instance, high-volume conversation traffic could be intelligently routed to the most appropriate agent, loyal customers could be prioritized, and agents can quickly deliver standardized responses when appropriate.
With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI can simulate human actions to complete repetitive and rule-based tasks and processes. RPA can allow chatbots to fully complete a customer conversation without the need to escalate to a human agent, as well as provide the customer with more self-service opportunities by tapping into appropriate backend datta. This makes agents more efficient, freeing up their time for complex and proactive support, and gives customers more accurate information quickly.
Let’s take a closer look at chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like initiating a return or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI, ML, or automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite.
If a business leverages customer data properly and gives the chatbot a 360-degree customer view, chatbots can ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support. Of course, if needed, once the customer experience requires a transfer to an agent, automation can route the customer to the right agent, best equipped to solve the problem, and transfer all of that data into the agent’s view.
Want to learn more strategies to deliver standout customer service through a 360-degree customer view? Download CCW’s latest report here, filled with insights from Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum and NYT bestselling author Shep Hyken.