The Rise of Self-Service: How Changing Consumer Demands Require New Options

Kustomer Receives ISO 27001 Certification for Information Security Management TW

Consumer demands are at an all time high. According to Kustomer’s latest research, a whopping 90% of respondents think contacting customer service should be easier, and 85% of respondents think customer service should be faster. Quick service also continues to outrank all other customer service qualities in terms of importance, no matter the demographic.

But in order to prepare for the future, brands need to consider how to deliver on these skyrocketing expectations. Luckily, our research also shows that preferences are beginning to shift across generations, with younger demographics preferring more self-service options, and seeing the benefits of intelligent chatbots more clearly. Read on to learn what the data says about the need for CX speed and how self-service options can deliver.

Self-Service Appeals to the Consumers of the Future

An entire generation of consumers have grown up with the answer to any question in the palm of their hand. And after the pandemic, habits have shifted across all generations. Consumers that may not have shopped online previously, known how to book an appointment online, or had never been on a Zoom call, were forced to become digitally savvy overnight. What this translates to is a large cohort of the population that is willing, able, and even prefers to get questions answered on their own.

More than half of surveyed consumers (58%) reported that they prefer to solve customer service issues on their own versus talking to a company representative. Whether via an FAQ page or through a chatbot, talking to a human and dealing with the roadblocks that can often come with the process, seems to be falling more and more out of style. This only becomes more true when we break down the data by generation. When asked to rank the top three preferred customer service methods or channels, consumers under the age of 35 rank self-service amongst their top three. This means it will only become more important for businesses to invest in self-service tools as this generation ages, becoming the heads of the household and retaining their “help yourself” mentality.

How Self-Service Can Deliver on the CX Need for Speed

When businesses aren’t able to deliver fast service, their customers can become furious. And when we say fast, we mean immediate. According to our research, 72% of consumers expect their problems to be solved INSTANTLY upon contacting customer service. That means that wait times, holds, transfers and searching for information simply won’t be tolerated. On top of that, the threshold where consumers start to experience frustration after contacting customer service — meaning the point at which that furiosity begins to take shape — is at the four minute mark. This threshold was seen across all customer service channels and all industries, meaning that the appetite for quick service is universal, and a speedy response should be consistent across channels and audiences. Additionally, 46% of respondents think businesses don’t respect their time, with that number growing to over half of consumers aged 55+, who may still prefer slower channels like phone.

The question becomes, how can you deliver on this need for speed? Businesses need to tap into technology tools and 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. Self-service options should always be available, and 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.

Want more research data on the CX need for speed? Download our latest report here.

 

Supercharge Your Customer Service with Kustomer and Ada

Supercharge Your Customer Service with Kustomer and Ada TW

Ada and Kustomer are joining forces to help you scale brilliant customer experiences through a winning combination of AI-powered automation and the human touch.

 
Today, customers wield more power than ever before. To win customers’ loyalty, businesses need to deliver meaningful experiences on the channels customers prefer — anytime, anywhere. However, running 24/7 support is costly and challenging to scale. That’s why more and more businesses are turning to a hybrid model of support. This is because while chatbots are expected to save businesses eight billion dollars by 2022 and can automate 80% of customer inquiries, 70% of customers still prefer to be connected with a live agent.

To power this hybrid support model Ada and Kustomer have joined forces to build an integration that empowers businesses to deliver contextualized, fast customer service, at scale. Businesses can configure Ada Glass, Ada’s chatbot solution, to automate routine tasks to free up your agents’ time. Define keyword triggers within Ada Glass to facilitate a seamless handoff to a live agent within Kustomer, complete with full conversation transcripts alongside customers’ information and previous conversation history, all within a comprehensive timeline view directly within Kustomer.

How It Works

No-Code Platform for Speedy Deployment

Ada’s no-code building tools and drag-and-drop interface give CX teams full control over their own bot-building to launch a smart chatbot in 30 days with no technical lift.

Power Conversational AI for Automation at Scale

Ada’s industry-leading natural language processing technology requires minimal training to detect customer intent, enabling fast-growing brands to scale more automated interactions without adding headcount.

Scale One Bot Across Channels & Languages

Build automated flows in a single Ada bot that can be deployed across social channels and translated into 120+ languages. With Ada’s chatbot, it’s never been easier to amplify your social reach to customers and speak in their preferred language, all without a single line of code.

View the Entire Customer Journey at a Glance

Deliver personalized experiences at every touchpoint with a single thread of all customer interactions, including chat transcripts from Ada Glass, displayed in an actionable timeline view within Kustomer.

 

Want to learn more about the Ada x Kustomer integration?

Get started with Kustomer
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Total Economic Impact™ Study Finds Kustomer’s CX Platform Produces More than 400% ROI

Total Economic Impact™ Report Finds Kustomer’s CX Platform Produces More than 400% ROI TW

Study Further Finds That Centralizing CX Operations And Use of Automation and Intelligence Provides Measurable Value To Brands

 

New York, NY – August 3, 2021Kustomer, an all-in-one, top-rated AI-powered CRM for modern customer experiences, today releases findings from Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study showing that organizations that switch to Kustomer see up to a three-year 422% in return on investment (ROI). This study was based on the experiences of e-commerce retailer, a consumer marketplace, and direct-to-consumer retailers, who after switching to Kustomer, benefited from significantly lower CRM solution costs, increased agent productivity, and, for some, improved Net Promoter Score*.

By unifying and centralizing omnichannel CX operations, the interviewed organizations reduced their net cost of CRM tools by more than 40%, and increased agent efficiency and effectiveness by up to 30%. AI-driven workflows and intelligent chatbot, improved handle times by 50% and reduced customer service operating costs by 88%, freeing up agents for more valuable tasks.

“This Forrester analysis validates the essential role that centralized CX operations driven by intelligence and automation play in providing on-demand experiences at scale,” said Brad Birnbaum, founder and CEO of Kustomer. “Exceptional customer service and automation are not mutually exclusive. Unified customer visibility coupled with AI-driven operations are key for delivering quick, easy, and personalized services customers demand. These findings, coupled with our recent Business Intelligence Group’s Artificial Intelligence Excellence award, show that our investment in AI translates into meaningful gains for businesses and customers alike.”

TEI Study Findings

Kustomer commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study and examine the potential return on investment (ROI) enterprises may realize by deploying its all-in-one, AI-powered customer service CRM platform. To better understand the benefits, costs, and risks organizations experience when switching to Kustomer, Forrester interviewed four customers with experience using Kustomer and aggregated the experiences of the interviewed customers and combined the results into a single composite organization.

The study found a host of quantified benefits of using Kustomer, including:

  • Reduced net cost of CRM tool by 40%. Kustomer eliminated the need for multiple platforms and expensive consultants to deploy, manage and deliver support, delivering an average net price savings of 40%.
  • Increased agent efficiency and effectiveness by up to 30% with workflow automation. A unified customer view and customizable AI-driven workflows based on real-time customer data allowed organizations to automate repetitive processes, manual tasks, and routine customer-agent dialogue flows, which drove a 20%-30% boost in agent efficiency.
  • Reduced service costs by 88%. CRM-powered chatbots enabled personalized end-to-end service automation, reducing the number of conversations sent to agents and resulting in an 88% reduction in service costs.
  • Increased agent productivity by 50%. Leveraging Kustomer’s AI-powered chatbots to detect intent, determine next action, collect information, and trigger relevant workflows, organizations eliminated the overhead associated with manual triage and increased agent productivity by 50%. According to one Kustomer client, “We would need 20% more agents to handle the same workload we do on Kustomer.”

Additionally, the study uncovered unquantified benefits including:

  • Improved effectiveness of social media channels. Using Kustomer’s integrated customer service CRM, organizations were able to extend social channels beyond marketing and brand awareness to customer service and engagement. Businesses were able to leverage social channels to follow up on customer inquiries, prioritize influential accounts, improve purchase afterglow, and manage multiple brands from one centralized location.
  • Reduced training time for agents. Unified customer visibility and centralized customer service operations eliminated the need to train agents on multiple platforms, making onboarding new support agents faster and easier.
  • Operational flexibility. Kustomer enabled the responsive and flexible allocation of customer service agents, depending on business needs.

“Before switching to Kustomer, the businesses we work with struggled to provide a high level of service without a unified customer view, putting their brand’s reputation and customer loyalty at serious risk,” added Birnbaum. “Forrester’s assessment of Kustomer’s economic impact provides further proof that our easy-to-use CRM platform, fueled by intelligence and automation, creates a better experience for consumers while saving businesses valuable time and money.”

About Kustomer
Kustomer is a top-rated CRM, helping leading brands deliver modern customer service that creates customers for life. Through AI-powered automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of contact centers and businesses, enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.

*Net Promoter and NPS are registered service marks, and Net Promoter Score is a service mark, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

Media Contact:
Cari Sommer
Raise Communications
cari@raisecg.com

Download the full Total Economic Impact™ Study

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How Companies Are Mastering CX for the Modern Customer With Drew Chamberlain

How Companies Are Mastering CX for the Modern Customer With Drew Chamberlain

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Drew Chamberlain from JOANN to learn the secrets to keeping up with the modern customer. As times change, so should CX. Tune in to learn how you can adapt in these modern times.

How CX has Changed Over the Years

In the old days of CX, the best an agent could do was to wait for a customer to call in and hope that they could answer their question with their limited tools. These interactions are more of a one and done situation where there wasn’t much a rep could do to delight the customer beyond just solving the problem on a surface level. The goal of CX is to be the customer’s hero and this is accomplished through adapting with your consumers. As time and technology progresses, leaders would be wise to grow as well and to implement new standards of excellence among their CX teams. Agents used to be limited to only using the phone as a way to talk with customers, but now a plethora of tools are available to provide the ultimate experience. “Somebody calls you, you’re there to help and you move on and that evolved to email and then social media and that’s continuing to grow, whether it’s chat or SMS or even self-help options.” Chat bots, email, social media, instant messaging are all available for agents to utilize in the digital era.

Are You Available for Your Customer?

Now that there are plenty of communication channels open for consumers, many leaders struggle to find the right channels that fit their clientele the best. Drew’s advice is to first, look internally and find processes that can be automated. If there’s a common question among customers that’s easily answered with a copy and paste response, that entire interaction can be automated. The next step is to find a system that will integrate all of your channels and customer information into one place. Agents will historically take the path of least resistance so having a common ground where all of the necessary information is readily available saves time, energy, and money.

Drew also explains how important it is to be on your customer’s preferred channel of communication. Once you figure out what processes can be automated, you have to then understand how customers are coming to you – how they’re communicating with you and how their demographic responds to different channels. If a customer is talking to you on social media but then they decide to call in and the agent has no knowledge about their previous interaction, according to Drew, you’ve already lost that customer. “My biggest fear in this segment is if you’re not available in the channel the customer wants, you lose that opportunity to help them, to be available.” Customers want to be on the same page and they want to feel like the brand has a holistic view of their needs.

Adapt with Your Customer Through Smart Technology

If AI was implemented years ago in CX, customers most likely would’ve shied away from using such technology because it wasn’t common in everyday life. Nowadays, AI is in our pockets, on our desks, in our homes, and at our fingertips. The more that people are familiarized with AI, the more comfortable they are when using it in business and CX interactions. “To me, it’s more about how you can provide service to your customers when your agents aren’t available, or when the questions are easy enough that it can be responded to quickly without having to engage one of your team members.” This is why AI is such a great option for the modern CX leader. It allows teams like never before, to be available at all times for their customers. Sometimes customers have questions in the middle of the night or at different time zones – with automated responses made through chat bots, your team can still deliver the ultimate experience and be a hero to the customer at all hours of the day. “The real win there is being able to provide that 24/7/365 support, as well as allowing your agents to really focus on those really challenging and difficult tasks.”

To learn more about adapting to the modern customer and integrating communication channels, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Are You Available for Your Customer? | How Great Companies Master Modern Customer Experiences with Drew Chamberlain” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How Companies Are Mastering CX for the Modern Customer With Drew Chamberlain

TRANSCRIPT
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s podcast, I’m excited to get rocking and rolling. We’re going to be talking about, are you available for your customer? How great companies master modern customer experiences. To do that, we brought on the Director of Operations and Customer Experience at JOANN. I’ve been bugging Drew Chamberlain for, what is it now, Drew? Two years? I think I’ve been kind of harassing you about random stuff.

Drew Chamberlain: (00:36)
That’s about right. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (00:38)
Random stuff, but really cool background. Really gets into, I think both, to me he understands, I think the customer experience side and the operations side, that title highlights it. Which I think is just so unique. Oftentimes that is in two different roles and gets the systems, the process, and I think kind of the NPS, the overall experience side. So I think we’ll have a fun conversation today. So Drew, thanks for joining us. How are you, man?

Drew Chamberlain: (01:03)
I’m good, man. Thanks for having me. You’re right. It’s been two years. We’ve been interacting back and forth and trying to get this together. I’m glad we finally connected.

Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
Yeah. Yeah. So, I’ve definitely found a bit of your past and some of the things you’ve done, other podcasts you’ve been on, I think it’s, you are a man of much wisdom. So I’m looking forward to parting with some of that today. Before we jump in, we’d love to just get a little more personal. Outside of work, anything you’re passionate about? Any hobbies, crazy things you’ve done that you want to maybe mention to the group?

Drew Chamberlain: (01:39)
Yeah. I mean, from a passion standpoint, I have collected and refurbished old school arcade machines for about 15 years now. Yeah, it’s crazy. It started as a passion project, right? Always had an affinity for video games and found something on Craigslist, fixed it up. But now it’s become a whole family ordeal. My daughters love old school video games and they’re always looking for new ones for us to buy and put back together and I have a whole basement full of them so it’s a lot of fun. I’m the coolest kid in the neighborhood at this point.

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
So it is, it’s like, I mean, true, is this more like pinball machines or is this more like an Atari game?

Drew Chamberlain: (02:22)
Yeah, so I just got my first pinball machine. Those are a little harder to restore, but historically they’ve been like PacMan and Space Invaders. The standup, full-size, they’re like 400 pounds to carry around. I have no idea why I picked this as a hobby, but once you get them up and running, it’s a lot of fun. And we have friends all the time to play, but my daughters, again, they’re really into it. They haven’t really picked up the rehabbing part of it, but once they’re fixed, they love to sit behind them and play with them.

Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
Oh man! I wish you hadn’t said that, I would’ve asked like 10 more questions on that but I don’t want to spend too much time because I know our time is short. So if anybody else is interested, again, you might have to find Drew on LinkedIn.

Drew Chamberlain: (03:06)
Yeah. Reach out.

Gabe Larsen: (03:07)
So let’s do it. Let’s talk a little bit about this idea of modern customer experiences and maybe just start with the real big picture and tell me a little bit of some of your philosophies around how you have thought about really optimizing the customer experiences now and in your past.

Drew Chamberlain: (03:26)
Yeah, and I’ve been supporting customers, it feels like all my life, whether it was on the front lines in retail or eventually the last 25 years in call center and care center environments. But the real thing that’s changed over the years is how you show up for your customer. And it used to be, you just had to have a phone number, right? Somebody calls you, you’re there to help and you move on and that evolves to email and then social media and that’s continuing to grow, whether it’s chat or SMS or even self-help options. And that’s really, the thing is, today you have to be available through all these channels. My biggest fear in this segment is if you’re not available in the channel the customer wants, you lose that opportunity to help them, to be available.

Gabe Larsen: (04:19)
Oh, sorry. I wanted to click on that just real quick, because it seems like people debate, there is. There’s so many channels and they’re not sure where to go. And you start, all of a sudden, you find yourself on WhatsApp because you think it’s cool. How have you, or how would you coach companies to really find, what channels should they be on? How do you maximize that potential? You can’t possibly be on 75. So it’s sometimes like, where do you go there?

Drew Chamberlain: (04:44)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, obviously first you have to understand your customers, right? If your customer base lives strongly in the social environment, you need to show up in those channels to be able to support them. If your customers still prefer phone-based support, that has to be available. Obviously as people running care centers, we want to go to the areas that we’re optimized in that we have the best return on investment. But you have to understand that if you alienate the customer by not providing a channel that they’re looking for you at, you’re going to lose that customer completely. The trick here is that channels that you optimize in, you can try and lead people to that direction. But that doesn’t mean eliminating the channels that you’re not the best in are going to cost you more. Maybe you focus on email or chat, but you always have to leave that other channel out there, whether it’s phone or social in case the customer wants to contact you that way.

Gabe Larsen: (05:36)
Yeah. I think that’s so wise this channel thing. For a while there, I thought it was stopping, meaning we kind of maybe hit our max, but yeah. The WhatsApp, the Instagram, some of these social things that keep kind of evolving, it just is going –

Drew Chamberlain: (05:54)
I’ll tell you that the best tool is the one that can help you manage all those channels in one centralized location. It’s not, it’s a challenge to try and have five or six different tools to try and support your customers. You need to find that tool and that partner out there that can have all those channels in one. So whether it’s an individual agent that’s sharing information to other agents or one agent that’s multi-channel can answer all those, they have it right in front of them, that full 360 view of the customer.

Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
Yeah. Okay. Two follow-ups on that. The first one is, I still feel like there’s a little bit of confusion on kind of multi-channel versus omnichannel. Maybe just go a little further than that, because we can certainly respond on any channel we want, but as you kind of picture, if you could bring those into a single view for the agent, it changes things. Maybe click on that for a second.

Drew Chamberlain: (06:45)
Yeah, absolutely. In multiple roles I’ve had, some of the challenges that we’ve been presented with are that an agent may not have visibility into all the channels that a customer tried to reach out to us in. And so if your email is separate from your social and from your voice channels, a customer could channel hop and you could deliver maybe different answers to the same customer for the same question. You could solve the same problem multiple times and appease that customer three different ways and exceed what you’d want to do to resolve that issue. In that customer experience too, when a customer reaches out to you, regardless of the channel, they want to know that you know who they are, what their issue is, and how to resolve it. If they spoke to you over your social channels, and then they pick up the phone to call and you act like it’s an entirely new support situation, you’ve already lost that customer. That credibility is gone.

Gabe Larsen: (07:41)
Yeah, I think that’s so, I appreciate you bringing that up. I just think that’s still so pertinent to so many of our customer service interactions. And then the second question I wanted to ask is, it’s a buzzword, but you gave me that 360 view of the customer. It’s like, well, yeah. I have that. I go, I have my phone tree over here on screen one. And then I pop over to my name, CRM, Oracle or Salesforce. I’ve got that over here and I just have a different tab or different screen and I look up that person, like I have the 360 view. It’s just, I have 12 systems, right? Is that what you need? Or what do you mean by 360?

Drew Chamberlain: (08:18)
Yeah. You know as well as I do that an agent is going to go the path of least resistance. If it’s one system in front of them that they get the most information that they can use, that’s where they’re going to stay. And that means they miss out on information from another channel or answers that can help provide a solution for the customer, those things are going to be lost. And that’s why having a product that puts it all right in front of the agent without having to go to another tab, another window, without having to click on it. I can remember 15 years ago when I was taking inbound calls, there were two phones that I could click on. A red phone and a yellow phone. One was for closed calls, one was for open calls. I never clicked on them, ever. And I needed to because I could provide better support for my customer. If I knew there was an existing request for them, I could look at it and respond to it. But I didn’t because it took extra effort. If you have a tool in front of you that shows you on the screen you’re working on any outstanding items for that customer, leads you through that process and sets you through how to support them through the issues they’re requesting, man, you’re going to be that customer’s hero.

Gabe Larsen: (09:27)
I really think, it’s feeling like it’s more obvious, but boy, when I go about my daily business and buying and shopping, my wife just had an instance the other day. We’re just not there. What you’re talking about, for some it may seem obvious, but guys, we’ve not reached critical mass. So get on your tail and get going on it. All right. Let’s jump from omnichannel. You talk a lot about AI. This is another buzzword, but how can customer service leaders be thinking about AI? Should they? Are we still in a place where it’s like maybe learn about it but keep it, it’s a couple of years out?

Drew Chamberlain: (10:05)
Yeah. So artificial intelligence, AI, is definitely a buzzword. Definitely things that you’ll hear in promotional material. And to me, it’s more about how you can provide service to your customers when your agents aren’t available, or when the questions are easy enough that it can be responded to quickly without having to engage one of your team members. And whether that’s computer logic figuring out how to respond or whether you’re building a table that says, if this question’s asked, this answer is provided, the real win there is being able to provide that 24/7/365 support, as well as allowing your agents to really focus on those really challenging and difficult tasks. And the thing is, our customers have evolved. 10 years ago, if you said a robot’s going to answer your question, or you’re going to have to find your own answer, customers would have it, right? There’s no way. What do I pay you for? What are you there? You’re there to support me, right?

Drew Chamberlain: (11:04)
But today, because whether it’s technology in your hand in your cell phone, or just the way we’ve grown through how we interact with computers, people now expect it, right? They want to be able to self-serve and that’s again, having every channel available for your customer. I wish I could staff team members 24/7, but that’s just not possible today. It’s just too difficult. But customers want answers at midnight, at one in the morning. They want west coast time and east coast time and having a tool, whether it’s artificial intelligence or self-service that helps those customers with the majority of the requests that you’re going to get, it’s just going to get you that much further ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (11:46)
Where do you recommend that people start? I mean, I kind of liked your overview, but if I was just hearing this for the first time and it resonates with me, it’s like, especially 24/7, I feel like a lot of us are in that place where it’s like, hey, we have to have something after hours. And we’re having a hard time overseeing. How do you recommend people kind of just get going? Is it you focus on the chat area? Like get a chat and get smarter there? Or do you focus on that problem after hours? Or how would you start to think about the baby steps?

Drew Chamberlain: (12:19)
Yeah. So we have looked at it. First, you have to look within. Look at what types of requests you’re receiving and can you provide an answer, an automated response? And what I’ve done in the call centers that I’ve worked in is oftentimes we’ve built talk tracks or automatic scripts that we’re sending to customers, whether it’s over the phone or an email. We’re cutting and pasting, or putting it into our response. If it’s that same response every time, and that answers the customer’s requests, you can automate that. You can have artificial intelligence do that for you when your agents aren’t there to click the button and free them up. So the first thing you need to do is can your customers be supported that way, or a high percentage of your requests coming in, something that you could automate? Once you’ve figured that out, then what channels are they coming through? Obviously artificial intelligence is key for digital channels, whether it’s chat, email responses, even some social responses and direct messaging, private messaging, you can use some of that automated responses. But I would say, be honest about it. Let your customers know that you’re using a service to provide that answer. I wouldn’t try and fool somebody into thinking that it was a human response.

Gabe Larsen: (13:33)
That’s exactly right. I still run into that. I still run into that sometimes. There is, there’s this moment of like, trust loss that you’re like, “Oh. Is this a bot?” And I’m like, just say like this is the bot or you don’t have to like say this is Annie from whatever. I’m glad you threw that at the end because I’m like, look, just be authentic with me. It’s midnight, I’m tired, you’re tired.

Drew Chamberlain: (13:55)
Yeah. Just own it and make it cool. So our state of the art chat bot or our future technology is here to support you through this, but then leave that there that if need be, we’re always here to assist. Let them know that there’s always an escape plan. You don’t have to speak to the channel if you’re not comfortable with it. But what I have found is, once customers start to use tools like that, the key here is they have to get the right answer quickly the first time, then they’re bought in. If you don’t take the time to build the background for it and you’re not giving fully detailed answers or helping the customer through the experience, you’re going to lose them. They’re never going to want to go through that channel again.

Gabe Larsen: (14:39)
Yeah. So true. I really appreciate that. It’s right. I was talking to someone the other day and they were really struggling with the where’s my order question. They’re like, we’re just being bombarded by this kind of potentially simple requests that it’s like, that’s just a great place to maybe start your AI journey. Find that question that’s fairly simple. They can type in their order number. They can give some piece of information and it can just say, “Hey, it’s due Tuesday at six o’clock,” or whatever. And we don’t have to take that on the phone. We don’t have to take that. But identifying some of those potentially easy things that maybe reps don’t always have to answer, it’s a great place to start your AI journey. So, as we look to wrap here, Drew, I’m wanting to go just back, big picture. Certainly the pandemic has not been very fun for all of us. I say that with as much sympathy and empathy for those that are struggling, in and out of work or your businesses are struggling, but many customer service leaders have experienced this crazy surge and they didn’t know what to do. And some of that’s gone now. Others have had to find other ways to kind of keep their reps busy, et cetera. Any advice for kind of the different parties of customer service leaders that are hopefully coming out of this crazy situation, but moving into that next phase and really trying to kind of come out on top as leaders?

Drew Chamberlain: (16:01)
Yeah. And hopefully, these groups have already done this, but you have to leverage technology. If you’re using outdated technology, if you haven’t evaluated the technology you’re using, or even worse, if you’re not taking full advantage of the technology you have, you’re really cheating yourself. And that’s where you need to invest so that you are scalable. We talked about whether it’s artificial intelligence or an omnichannel having all of your channels in one area so that you can scale your team members, if you haven’t done that yet, you’re really selling yourself short and you’re hurting your customers.

Gabe Larsen: (16:40)
He said that nice. Get on your horse and get going everybody, seriously. Well, Drew, so fun to have you. I know our time is always short, but I really appreciate the punchy, action-driven explanations and advice for the group. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, or maybe ask a little more about your pinball machine or anything like that, anywhere you can direct them?

Drew Chamberlain: (17:04)
Yeah. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Drew Chamberlain. I’m at JOANN stores. Just connect with me there and we can always continue the conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (17:13)
Awesome. Alrighty. Well, hey. Again, appreciate your time, Drew, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

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Research: How the Retail Customer Service Landscape Has Shifted

Research: How the Retail Customer Service Landscape Has Shifted TW

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.

Want to learn more about how to deliver on modern day retail customer service expectations? Download the full report here.

 

Kustomer Debuts Next Generation Chat Platform, Enabling Businesses to Deliver AI-Powered, Personalized Customer Service at Fraction of the Cost of Phone Support

Kustomer Debuts Next Generation Chat Platform, Enabling Businesses to Deliver AI-Powered, Personalized Customer Service at Fraction of the Cost of Phone Support TW

Businesses Can Now Resolve the High-Frequency Needs of Digital Shoppers Faster and More Efficiently, Providing Personal, Empathetic & Helpful Chat-Based Support to More Customers

 

New York, NY – January 19, 2021Kustomer, the top-rated CRM platform for omnichannel customer experiences, today launched its next-generation Kustomer Chat platform. The intelligent, easy-to-deploy conversational messaging platform leverages AI and historical customer data to enable secure, personalized engagement from websites and mobile devices throughout their buyer journey. This reduces shopping cart abandonment, empowers customers to resolve their own issues and inspires customer loyalty with a smarter, more convenient and cost-effective support option that helps businesses stay on top of support volume triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also helps businesses scale cost-effectively by replacing phone-based support that can cost over $8 per contact, with an AI-powered messaging experience at 1/10th the cost.

“Customer service has become a lifeline for consumers struggling to adapt in the post-COVID era. They need personal, informed support throughout their buying journey, and they need it on their own schedule. Unfortunately, the crushing volume and complexity of requests has left businesses struggling to keep up and searching for smarter, digital solutions to address customer demands,” said Brad Birnbaum, founder and CEO of Kustomer. “As one of the most popular and efficient support channels, chat is the answer, but it must be smarter, more personalized, and less frustrating than legacy chat experiences. That’s why we are so excited to introduce our newest version of the Kustomer Chat platform with AI chatbots powered by rich customer data to help businesses deliver highly-responsive, smart, and personalized support at a fraction of the cost of traditional channels. By allowing customers to easily resolve problems on their own and engage with CX at their convenience, Kustomer Chat provides businesses the tools to deliver on customers’ expectations and grow their business. Using AI-powered advanced triage and recommended agent actions, CX organizations can deliver faster answers to their customers’ needs.”

Brand New Kustomer Chat Platform Packed With Features

The new version of Kustomer Chat delivers benefits for both consumers and businesses by making chat-based support interactions smarter, faster, and frictionless. Businesses can now automate, deflect, or instantly resolve customer issues using chatbots powered by machine learning and customer data from the built-in CRM platform. Businesses can also improve agent productivity by using AI and the customer’s full history to eliminate guesswork, accelerate triage, and recommend or automate actions. The platform features an extensive set of capabilities, Kustomer Chat empowers businesses to deliver seamless support around the clock, dramatically improve the customer experience quality, and reduce the costs and complexity of their service operations.

  • Embedded Knowledge Base: Enable quick access to FAQs and deliver instant resolution with AI-Powered Knowledge Base that can be accessed from within the chat widget.
  • Persistent Conversation History: Keep conversations continuous even if the customer has momentarily left, with a persistent interaction history that allows anywhere, anytime engagement, without losing context or needing to repeat themselves.
  • CRM-Powered Chatbots: Powered by machine learning and CRM data, deploy powerful bots across the entire journey to automate routine agent interactions, deliver personalized experiences, and drive faster resolution.
  • In-App & Push Notifications: Reduce abandonment and churn, and eliminate frustrating waiting on hold by using in-app and push notifications to instantly notify customers when there is a response from an agent.
  • Multi-Brand Customization: Deliver customized experience across multiple brands. Manage unique settings to create brand-specific experiences including branding, styles, language, conversational assistant, automations, SLAs, reporting, and more.
  • Build Your Own Chat Widget: Create your own conversational interface and experience using turnkey tools and developer configurations.
  • Targeted CSAT Surveys: Collect meaningful, in-the-moment feedback by targeting CSAT surveys based on customer data.
  • Enhanced Performance and Reliability: Completely rewritten in industry-leading modern programming languages Swift and Kotlin, along with simplified implementation, and super-light SDKs, the new chat platform delivers top speed and reliability.
  • Support for the popular Dark Mode and Landscape mode.
  • Intelligent Agent Suggestions (Coming Soon): Using AI and entire ticket history, brands can eliminate overhead manual triage, accelerate response times, and recommend or automate actions for agents.

“Chat is the most cost-effective and fastest way to support and win over our customers,” said Becky Leader, VP of Customer Experience at Rent The Runway. “Kustomer’s chat platform is a critical part of our omnichannel support strategy. Agents can efficiently deliver seamless web and in-app chat support, quickly switch to another channel if needed, and follow up on any missed messages.”

New Research Shows Customers Want Chat-Based CX

Kustomer recently conducted a study of consumer chat preferences that can be downloaded for free at www.kustomer.com. The research showed consumers aged 18-24 rate customer service today as slower, more difficult, less personal, and less convenient than all other age groups, meaning that current customer service strategies are falling short when it comes to this generation. But their appetite for self-service via chat reveals an easy way to improve upon these negative feelings: 61% of consumers 24 and younger prefer self-service, compared with only 23% of those 65 and above.

About Kustomer
Kustomer is the top-rated CRM platform for omnichannel customer experience, helping leading businesses create customers for life. With an advanced, AI-powered, omnichannel customer experience platform, Kustomer delivers a unified single view of the customer, automates manual tasks, and scales easily to deliver the efficient and effortless CX that businesses, agents and consumers love. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of top customer-centric brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier, Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.

Media Contact:
Cari Sommer
Raise Communications
cari@raisecg.com

Join us for our webinar on January 26th, 2021: Servicing the Modern Consumer With Chat.

Register Now

 

Consumers Love Live Chat, but Businesses Aren’t Adopting It. Here’s Why.

Consumers Love Chat, but Businesses Aren’t Adopting It. Here’s Why. TW

One of the biggest shifts over the past few years? A digital-first mindset. While phone support isn’t going anywhere, when you force consumers to switch platforms in order to get their questions answered, you give them a reason to abandon their purchase or generate negative feelings. The less effort, the better — and with the digital-first consumer, chat is often better.

In an effort to understand how brands are currently using live chat for business, why some have not yet done so, and whether there is a disconnect between customer needs and brand expectations, Kustomer went out and surveyed over 100 CX professionals and compared these findings with our recent consumer research.

What is Live Chat for Business?

Live chat is a customer service widget that allows your questions to be answered effortlessly within the web browser. Live chat allows customers to effortlessly communicate with customer service representatives in real time, without having to leave the platform they are already doing business on. The live chat allows customers to communicate with customer service at stores or brands in real time without having to talk with a customer service representative.

Why Consumers Love Chat

Think about the online shopping experience. You find the perfect Christmas present for your son, but have a question about whether batteries are included. So, instead of picking up the phone or searching for an e-mail address to contact the business, there is a chat window right there on the page that can allow your questions to be answered effortlessly. While switching channels may not sound like a deal breaker, the data says otherwise.

According to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, 79% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on their preferred medium or platform, and 81% of consumers would abandon a purchase due to a poor service experience.

Chat, as well as social media messaging, allows you to instantly meet your customers where they are, whether that is browsing online for products, checking their shipping status, or perusing your social channels. Research from Matt Dixon revealed that only 9% of customers who have low effort experiences display any kind of disloyal attitude or behavior, compared to 96% of those customers with high effort, difficult experiences. And chat does a great job of delivering this effortless quality customer service experience.

The Business Disconnect

Curiously, businesses are not aligned with these consumer preferences and wants. Only 25% of surveyed customer service organizations are currently using chat, and 18% report they currently use chatbots. When taking into consideration the effortless, fast service that modern customers demand, the vast majority of businesses are missing a huge opportunity and leaving themselves open to competitors.

The top two reasons that companies have not yet adopted chat software, speak to a lack of time, resources or strategy internally: the organization does not know where to start, or they have staffing constraints when it comes to managing more channels. However, the third most popular reason speaks to the massive disconnect between CX organizations and consumers: businesses report that they don’t think their customers want or like it. However, according to Kustomer’s recent consumer research, customers rank live chat as the second most popular channel or tactic for contacting customer service, right below phone.

Top Reasons CX Organizations Haven’t Adopted Chat
  1. Don’t know where to start
  2. Staffing constraints
  3. Customers don’t want / like it
  4. Lack of customizable solutions
  5. No budget
  6. Lack of executive buy-in

Additionally, many organizations report that they are prevented from adopting chat because of the lack of customizable solutions. Seventy-five percent of CX teams say that matching the chat experience to the overall brand experience is important, so slapping any old chat widget on your site just won’t do. Make sure that your customer service CRM can allow your business to build or integrate chat widgets seamlessly, ensuring that all customer data and history is integrated within the chat experience, while maintaining brand guidelines.

When it comes to chatbots, the reasons for lack of adoption differ slightly from live chat:

Top Reasons CX Organizations Haven’t Adopted Chatbots
  1. Not sure of the benefits
  2. No budget
  3. Lack of resources to manage chatbots
  4. Customers don’t want / like it
  5. Tried, isn’t effective
  6. Lack of executive buy-in

As chatbots are quite new, and often involve buying a pricey solution or building one with an internal team, the top reasons for lack of adoption make sense. But 61% of the younger generation prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, meaning that the benefits are clear: your customers now expect chatbots as an option.

Additionally, chatbots free up agent time for more complex and proactive support. They 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 and automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could 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.

Look for a platform that leverages chatbots and AI-enabled deflection to act as a first line of defense, optimizing a customer’s ability to self-serve so agents can focus on the most important cases and deliver the highest impact.

Want the complete findings from our research on chat? Download the report here.
 

The Chatbot Cheatsheet: 6 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program

Chatbot Cheatsheet: 7 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program TW

Conversational automation is crucial to great customer support. An effective customer service chatbot can communicate with customers and answer important questions, streamlining the customer support process.

How to Understand Your Metrics When Building a Customer Service Chatbot

Containment rate, or its alternative name, “deflection rate,” is the percentage of total conversations fully handled by a chatbot, and is a key metric to track when trying to figure out how well your chatbot is performing. Customer satisfaction is also important. Keep in mind how the introduction of a chatbot could alter existing performance indicators. For example, will the average handle time increase now that agents are only handling more complex inquiries? Ultimately, a well-defined customer service chatbot program will be able to communicate increased agent efficiency and customer satisfaction, which equals a reduction in the cost of care.

Learn how to build a chatbot that makes communication easy with these six chatbot tips, and watch customer satisfaction skyrocket! Now, let’s explore how to build an effective customer service chatbot program.

1. Start With Hello

Your first customer service chatbot 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 perfect right out of the gate, so avoid wasting time by trying to build something “perfect”.

2. Leverage the Agent

We have seen countless customer service 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 customer experience research, but your customer service agents are the ones who know how your customers are interacting with the chatbot. Treat the bot like another agent: when you need performance feedback, use its peers.

3. Templates, Rules, and Machine Learning

Not all customer service 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 customer service chatbot with many different skills and a large corpus of knowledge.

Why make your customers trudge through structured flows when they can 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.

4. Know When to Handover

A customer service 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 because they often suit the modern customer’s habits of utilizing mobile technology to solve simple issues. 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 customer service chatbot helps reduce handle time and expedites the customer’s support request.

5. Automation Happens Elsewhere, Too

Customer service 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 chatbot, and leverage additional intelligent services: automatic tagging, routing, and prioritization for the agent (just to name a few).

6. Be Customer-Centric

At the end of the day, the success of your customer service chatbot comes down to how well it fits into the customer support journey and cadence strategy you have outlined for your customers. Consider different segments of customers that might prefer automation to “direct human” connection. Perhaps automation can be more helpful at the end of a live chat interaction than at the beginning. Take a good look at your customers, and we’ll help you find out the right size that fits. In doing so, you will improve your customer experience and customer satisfaction metrics. Discover Kustomer’s intelligent chatbot solutions today.

Leverage the Power of Customer Service Chatbots

The Undeniable Power of Chatbots TW

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

If you’re ready to automate and streamline the interactions you’re already having with your customers, start with these skills to experience the core customer service chatbot benefits:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

You Must Know Consumer Expectations to Deliver on Their Demands. We’ve Got the Data.

You Must Know Consumer Expectations to Deliver on Their Demands. We’ve Got the Data. TW

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.

 

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations TW

Artificial intelligence is making a major impact on customer service and shows no sign of stopping. The increased interest is warranted — Forbes contributor Kathleen Walch of Cognitive World said AI is a useful tool that’s improving customer service, enhancing customer loyalty, enabling better brand reputations and allowing customer service agents to focus on tasks of greater value that can bring companies more business.

While all of these benefits are highly advantageous for businesses, making sure customer service staff are satisfied is a critical initial step in the process. Here are four simple ways that AI chatbots can improve work-life for your customer service agents and better streamline agent experience and expectations:

1. Improved Work Efficiencies

One of the many benefits of utilizing chatbots is the ability to shift work expectations of customer service agents. As Chatbots Magazine stated, chatbots are truly the future of engagement. There are many direct questions that can be handled by way of automation, giving customer service staff the freedom to take on the more meaningful conversations within a short period of time.

2. Better Conversations With Customers

When customer service staff can focus on more important cases instead of the simple questions that AI chatbots can handle, agents have a strong role in driving business and loyalty for the company.

3. Enhanced Job Satisfaction

When customer service agents have more time to focus on complex queries and enhance the connection between customers and your company, they may find greater overall satisfaction in their work. With AI chatbots, you also have the opportunity to introduce steady, more enjoyable working hours that create work-life balance. AI-powered bots can handle the low-level inquiries during the traditional “after hours” time frame, which means you don’t have to worry about keeping staff on the clock at all hours of the day. Not only can this help with workplace satisfaction, but it can also reduce overhead costs.

4. Increased Capacity

Realistically, customer service staff can only talk to one customer at a time, making it difficult to handle more than one issue simultaneously. When AI chatbots are introduced, you can alleviate the pressure that customer service agents once felt about long queues. While this is beneficial for agents in terms of streamlined expectations, your company can still meet bottom-line goals and continue servicing all customers that contact you.

Working With Kustomer

Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform is built to meet the expectations of the customers and agents of today. With our solution, you can better manage customer inquiries and high support volume to streamline staff and company expectations. Request a demo today to learn more about our process and services.

Better For You: AI Chatbot vs Live Agent?

Questions You Should and Shouldn't Bring to a Customer Service Agent TW

Customer service agents provide immense value to any business. Not only are they highly knowledgeable resources that consumers can rely on to solve their issues, they also play a role in influencing purchasing decisions and building community.

The digital age, however, has made it easier for companies to rely less on human agents to answer easy questions and instead utilize artificial intelligence to get the job done, and many significant companies like LinkedIn, Starbucks and eBay are on board. The general interest in the AI chatbot is only anticipated to grow, as Business Insider reported that the market size is projected to increase from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024.

The Power of the AI Chatbot

Enabling automated, low-level service via an AI chatbot allows your business to take these smaller inquiries off the hands of your agents, so they don’t have to work around the clock. They are able to focus on the most important cases, playing an invaluable role that drives business and loyalty.

But which questions should chatbots handle, and which should be escalated to customer service agents?

Questions for AI Chatbots

Today’s consumers love convenient interactions. AI chatbots allow for quick resolution without impacting the quality of the experience.

Questions that are simple are ones chatbots can easily handle. CXL Institute refers to these as “Tier 1” questions, which can be interpreted easily by a machine that’s loaded with information in a database. Queries regarding size availability, time and rescheduling for travel booking, as well as specific order numbers can be easily answered by chatbots.

  • “What time is my flight?”
  • “When will my package arrive?”
  • “How much is a ticket to the Monday show at 5 p.m.?”

Queries regarding information that can be found on your company website are also great for an intelligent virtual agent to tackle, saving customer service agents time and energy that would otherwise seem wasted.

  • “Where is the nearest ATM?”
  • “When does your store close?”

Chatbots have the ability to ask fact-based questions, pulling customer information into your internal knowledge base that is built in part by the customer queries. Some examples include:

  • “Which day do you want to go to the event?”
  • “How many people are attending?”
  • “What color are you looking for?”

Questions for Live Agents

Live chat is unmatched for some consumers. When it comes to the complex questions, we agree. For example, if a customer is interested in a certain product but wants more information and guidance down the sales funnel, an agent can address doubts, answer these specific questions and help customers make decisions.

Questions that can turn into bigger issues based on communication limitations don’t work well for chatbots; customer service agents can provide sincerity in the form of understanding and humility, for example, which can improve the reputation of your business. Some examples:

  • “Why can’t you process my credit card?”
  • “How can I get credit for this coupon?”
  • “I can’t decide between the small speaker and the big speaker. Can you help?”
  • “I used to wear this perfume, but I can’t find it anymore. Do you make something similar?”

AI chatbots allow you to scale your customer service and rely both on artificial intelligence and human agents to provide a quality experience for consumers.

Learn more about how Kustomer can improve your customer service strategy today by requesting a demo.

 

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai to Deepen Intelligent Automation Capabilities

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai TW

Here at Kustomer, we believe artificial intelligence plays an essential role in helping companies scale customer service and efficiently deliver exceptional results. And we aren’t alone. Gartner predicts that 72% of customer interactions will involve technology such as machine learning and chatbots by 2022. That’s why we are excited to share that Kustomer is acquiring Reply.ai to deliver even deeper intelligent self-service and agent assistance to our customers.

As a long-time partner of Kustomer, Reply is able to seamlessly integrate their tools into the Kustomer platform and help brands efficiently scale without compromising quality of service. The partnership furthers our commitment to integrating Kustomer IQ, our artificial intelligence engine, throughout the customer journey, while providing some powerful benefits to businesses and customers.

Reply is ranked as one of Forrester’s Top 10 AI Providers for Customer Service Automation, leveraging sophisticated machine learning models to power incredibly accurate self-service chatbots and deflection tools. With an astounding 40% average deflection rate, Reply, now a part of Kustomer IQ, can successfully resolve nearly half of all initial customer communications without the need for live interaction with a service agent. And with 67% of customers preferring self-service over talking to a company representative, deflection tools are not only a win for businesses, but also for customers.

With Reply now a part of Kustomer IQ, our customers will save thousands of hours spent answering simple questions, so they can focus on the most important cases that have a much larger impact on business and loyalty. At a time when customer service teams are being asked to do more with less, our suite of AI tools can tackle your growing queue of inquiries around the clock, while drastically minimizing costs.

We are so excited to welcome co-founders Omar and Pablo Pera, and the entire Reply team of world class data scientists and engineers to the Kustomer Krew. With Reply’s engineering offices in Madrid, this acquisition will also expand our presence in Europe and accelerate our growth in the region.

It goes without saying that we’ve always been committed to revolutionizing customer service. Today’s acquisition of Reply marks one more step in that journey.
 

What Customers Can Now Expect From Kustomer IQ

Chatbots

Built within Reply’s natural language processing engine, these best-in-class chatbots feature visual flow builders and templates for easy one-time creation and deployment across multiple channels and languages, providing effortless experiences by connecting customers to the right information.


 

Knowledge Base Deflection

An enhanced deflection widget can be embedded in forms, email, and chat, and features a powerful information retrieval system in which a semantic search engine and answer extractor not only provide relevant articles and content, but the exact answer to a question.


 

API Access

The platform can plug into third-party APIs to leverage a company’s most critical customer data points when deflecting. For example: a chatbot can answer the question “where is my order” or “when does my policy expire”.
 

Agent Assistance

Relevant answers and subsequent actions can be suggested to agents based on historical behavior, user text and conversation context. Actions include routing or auto-tagging conversations, as well as responding with relevant templated content.


 

Analytics Dashboard

Deflection success rates are measured and chatbot behavior can be evaluated, with functionality to support custom events, set conversion goals and segment audiences.

With Kustomer and Reply now joining forces, we are excited to announce the immediate availability of Kustomer IQ Plus, delivering new ways to interact with customers through chatbots and sophisticated AI capabilities. Please get in touch to learn how to get started or watch our latest ondemand webinar.
 

Kustomer Acquires Automation Technology Company Reply.ai, Accelerating Kustomer IQ’s Intelligence Platform To Help Companies Effectively Scale Customer Service

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai TW

Reply is the first acquisition for Kustomer, reinforcing Kustomer’s commitment to AI and machine learning capabilities throughout the customer journey. With Reply, Kustomer will now offer enhanced chatbot and deflection capabilities through its customer service platform.

New York, NY – May 14, 2020 — Kustomer, the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences, announced today it has signed an agreement to acquire Reply.ai, a customer service automation company founded in 2016 that helps companies scale intelligent customer service without compromising experience. Reply leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning models to improve agent efficiency through self-service chatbot and deflection capabilities. This announcement comes on the heels of the expanded roll-out of Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence engine embedded across Kustomer’s CRM platform. With Reply, Kustomer can provide even deeper intelligent self-service and assistance via Natural Language Processing (NLP) based chatbots, enhanced omnichannel customer deflection and machine learning based response suggestions. Madrid based Reply will also accelerate Kustomer’s European growth by significantly increasing its presence in the region.

“We believe artificial intelligence is essential to helping today’s enterprises scale customer service and efficiently deliver exceptional results. We recently rolled out Kustomer IQ to meet the growing need for companies to have access to the power of AI, and with today’s acquisition, we continue our investment in bringing self-service tools and intelligence capabilities to our clients,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “Reply has built deflection and self-service chatbots that help companies effectively deflect initial customer communications at an astounding rate of 40 percent. This means that almost half of all initial customer communications can be successfully resolved without requiring live interaction with a service agent, bringing greater efficiency to the entire customer service function. We are excited to welcome co-founders Omar and Pablo Pera and the entire Reply team of world class data scientists and engineers to the Kustomer Krew.”

The Reply suite of tools include deflection capabilities that look at historical and contextual data, continuously improving over time, as well as deflection widgets that can be embedded in forms and email, and features a powerful information retrieval system that extracts relevant answers to customer questions from a company knowledge base. Reply also features a platform to build chatbots that can be deployed across multiple channels and languages, and agent-assist tools that suggest relevant answers to messages and subsequent actions, such as routing or auto-tagging conversations.

“We are excited for Reply to join Kustomer and share its mission to make customer service more efficient, effective and personalized. As a long-time partner of Kustomer, we are able to seamlessly integrate our deflection and chatbots technologies into Kustomer’s platform and help brands more cost-effectively increase efficiency. We look forward to working with Brad and the entire team,” said Omar Pera, Co-Founder of Reply.

“By leveraging advanced AI capabilities and Kustomer’s robust CRM platform, combined with self-service deflection tools, Kustomer is uniquely built for the needs of today’s enterprise companies,” adds Birnbaum. “Since 2015, we have been committed to revolutionizing customer service and today’s acquisition of Reply marks one more step in our journey.”

For more information about Kustomer, visit www.kustomer.com

About Kustomer
Kustomer is the omnichannel SaaS CRM platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences. Built with intelligent automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of any contact center and business by unifying data from multiple sources and enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.

About Reply.ai
Reply.ai helps brands scale customer service by providing AI-powered solutions that instantly resolve common customer questions on chat and ticketing channels. The two core products, Deflect for Ticketing and Deflect for Chat, reduce consumer frustration and deliver 24/7 personalized service, ultimately increasing self-service effectiveness and support team capacity. Reply’s customers, like The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas, Vail Resorts, Honeywell, Glovo and Paula’s Choice, rely on Reply for innovative and industry-focused solutions to customer service problems. Reply was founded in 2016 by former Google and CERN engineers and is headquartered in New York City and Madrid, Spain.

Media Contact:
Cari Sommer
Raise Communications
cari@raisecg.com
 

Top 8 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know

Man in coffee shop with iPhone

Consumer expectations are changing daily, and technology has a lot to do with this. The digital age has made customers expect instant gratification; when technology makes just about any information available at the click of a button, more and more people are turning to their devices for answers. With this technological transformation comes many up-and-coming customer service trends that companies can get behind to transform their business and cater to the expectations of the customer. After all, Gartner research predicted that 85% of consumer interactions will occur without interacting with a human face-to-face.

Does this mean that companies should rely solely on artificial intelligence to run their business? No, but they can certainly benefit from using it as a supplemental tool.

What are Customer Service Trends in 2021?

Customer behaviors have drastically changed since the pandemic hit in 2020. There’s been a shift in what customers find valuable and important. The changes in consumer behavior and digital-first shopping transformed customer service trends have taken on a new identity in 2021. Throwing out the old and bringing in the new, here’s an analysis of some of the critical customer service trends happening right now that every business should be addressing.

It’s all about enhancing the digital customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at the current trends in customer service that can help you run your business and satisfy consumers:

8 Current Trends in Customer Service

Keeping up with what’s new in customer service trends can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most. We recommend addressing these trends in your CX strategy:

1. Promote a Strong Company Culture

Customer service has always been dedicated to taking care of the customer. But at NRF 2020, Alex Genov, the manager of research and user experience at Zappos shared the importance of shaping the company culture of your business to reflect the customer care you want to provide. More speakers at the event detailed how they refer to their customer service employees as something more encouraging, such as “brand ambassador.” Empowering the customer service agent is one way to get the positivity flowing through the customer journey.

2. Make Your Customer Service Options Mobile-Optimized

Today, everyone you know has a smartphone. And if they don’t, it’s rather shocking.

With so many people using devices that bring convenience right to the palm of their hand, it’s advantageous for your business to make sure its website works on mobile. Specifically, it’s critical that your customer service options are optimized for mobile. According to a Gartner survey of nearly 9,000 customers, the most preferred device for issue resolution was the phone at 44%.

The more channels your customers have to reach you, the better their odds of doing so and feeling satisfied with your ability to communicate.

3. Build Strong Customer Connections

Making the customer feel as though they’re a part of a community when they purchase your products or services is a great indication of strong customer service. This builds brand loyalty and advocacy and strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the business. When customers trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable and confident reaching out to your customer service representatives if something does go wrong.

4. Take the Omnichannel Approach

This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2021. Often confused with multichannel support — or offering customers more than one option for contacting your customer service representatives — omnichannel support is guaranteed consistency in customer service as they shift from one channel to the next, so conversations are picked up right where they left off. With the right technology, your business can achieve an omnichannel approach with ease.

5. Focus on Self-Service Opportunities That Benefit Your Business

Many customers are confident in their ability to navigate your page and figure out the answer to their problem without feeling the need to contact customer service. While we do encourage having additional options like chatbots and live agents, one way customers can answer some of their own queries is through your Knowledge Bases (KB) or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

As explained by Knowledge Owl, a KB and FAQ page are similar pieces of collateral that are each considered a self-service option that, giving your customer service agents a break from the repetitive questions that tend to flood their inboxes.

Building these pages up on your website can enable effortless self-service. Just make sure customers are directed strategically back to your customer service agent as needed

6. Be Responsive on Social Media

Just like owning a smartphone, most consumers have a social media presence on one or more channels. Not only are they using these platforms to communicate with family and friends, share pictures and laugh at memes, they’re also turning to social media as a way to connect with brands from a customer service standpoint. Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at social media management company Sprout Social, told Business News Daily that brands should focus some of their customer service efforts on social media to satisfy their customers.

“Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using [and] … focus their engagement efforts there,” Cuttica said. “A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer.”

7. Use Chatbots to Your Advantage

Contact forms are becoming less attractive to consumers. Why? Because they want fast, convenient service when they have a question or problem that needs to be solved. Chatbots are a great way to get the conversation started with customers without resourcing your agents to stand by every time a customer enters your site. Chatbots can pull information from knowledge bases to serve answers up to customers. Plus, they can be used to answer low-level support questions and provide 24/7 support, saving agents thousands of man hours.

8. Continuing to Utilize Live Support

Remember: While chatbots are highly advantageous, that doesn’t mean that AI should replace your talented human resources. Your business can benefit from bringing both together to increase scalability and drive efficiency across all customer service channels. AI can automate manual tasks and provide initial information about customer problems, giving agents the information they need to solve customer problems without compromising quality. This makes customer service more convenient for customers and can even improve your engagement and satisfaction scores over time.

Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?

Customer service technology can help you incorporate these new trends into your current strategy. Kustomer enables you to deliver effortless, personalized customer service, powered by intelligent insights and unified data.

Understanding how to deliver on growing customer expectations can be challenging without the right tools. That’s why we’ve created our Buyer’s Guide to provide the resources you need to evaluate potential partners, measure your success and pick the perfect customer service software solution. Request a demo today to schedule your 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service Without Losing the Human Touch

Customers have high expectations when it comes to the level of service they demand from brands. While the American Express Customer Service Barometer found that Americans are willing to spend up to 17% more on businesses with excellent customer service, the top reason most customers switch products or services is because they feel unappreciated by the brand. In fact, 33% of Americans are inclined to switch to a different company after a bad experience.

Unfortunately for companies, the cost of human support is high. Introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into operations is one way companies can control costs while improving their service abilities and maintaining the human touch that makes customers feel appreciated and valued.

What Is AI Customer Service?

While AI and machine learning may at first appear to threaten the customer service industry, they actually have the power to make customer service agents’ jobs less time-consuming and more fulfilling.

Integrated AI can instantaneously retrieve the data an agent needs, while the agent or support team deals directly with the human side of customer service. This eliminates the need for human agents to run multiple systems simultaneously to address customer inquiries. Rather than employ agents to work 24/7 in a call center, AI can be used to field and classify calls and messages so human agents are then able to work more reasonable shifts with increased efficiency and reduced physical and mental stress.

Through intuitive machine learning that constantly works to improve itself, AI allows companies to be present to the very best of their abilities along every step of the customer journey.

How Are AI and Machine Learning Being Used in Customer Service?

There are plenty of reasons why AI and automation should be loved, especially when it comes to customer service capabilities. Here are a few ways the technology is already being used:

Chatbots

Everyone has had the experience of needing a simple question answered by a brand, only to dread having to jump through customer service hoops just to get someone on the phone who may or may not have the answer. Conversational chatbots can make these conversations more seamless. Not only do conversational platforms help cut costs, they also can help your customer service scale and enable your agents to have more meaningful and productive conversations. By using chatbots to aid your live chat operations, your business will be able to engage customers in real time without the need for an around-the-clock staff.

Amazon, for instance, uses chatbots that leverage the data the company collects on all of its customers and their past orders. By allowing chatbots to access information about the customer’s past preferences, you can have the chatbot interact with customers up to the point where an agent is needed. Once the conversation is transferred to an agent, they can pick up where the chatbot left off.

Eventually, you can train your chatbot to not only acquire customer information, but also recommend the actions customers and agents should take next. If a customer simply needs a common question answered about a product they already purchased, the chatbot can direct them to a FAQ rather than contact an agent. This saves the human agent’s time and allows them to make better use of it dealing with more complex customer queries. All chatbot interactions can be automatically tagged in your AI system so they’re easy to track and reference, and can be used to improve future recommendations.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to handle the necessary, but routine tasks that keep support agents from interacting with customers in meaningful ways. By taking care of low-priority, mundane tasks, RPA helps customer service agents reclaim time in their days that would be better spent handling high-value customers or fully addressing complex questions without feeling rushed.

RPA works across multiple systems to track user actions within an application to complete and perform tasks ranging from automatically replying to emails to routing conversations. The improved efficiency from saved time on menial tasks also saves companies money. Aside from cutting costs, RPA has the power to increase revenue by speeding up the rate at which customers are able to make purchases through your company.

Agent Specialization

In the past, automated phone systems performed data dips, moving customers through a phone tree where they were asked to “press 1 for a current reservation,” “press 2 for reception,” “press 3 to make a new appointment” or something similar. The flaw in this system is that the information collected was never handed off to the agent, and the customer would have to repeat themself once they were connected with a human. AI eliminates this unnecessary process — if a customer is calling about a product that’s discontinued, for example, there might not be a need for a human agent to talk to the customer only to relay that same information. This saves time for both parties by supporting your human customer service agent and saving the customer from exasperation.

Using AI to capture information about the customers and pass along only the absolutely necessary parts of that information allows agents to have more meaningful conversations and become more knowledgeable about the areas of the business that matter.

If a customer still wants to talk to a human even after discovering their product is discontinued, the agent can immediately begin the conversation by offering recommendations for other products the customer may like. AI doesn’t eliminate the need for humans, as many people incorrectly assume when they hear talk of using AI in customer service. Instead, it augments the human team and allows them to be better at their jobs.

Monitor Support Operations

When you use AI to monitor support operations, you can predict when conversations may start to turn from positive to negative. This insight allows managers to intercede accordingly, and no longer requires them to randomly audit customer service calls to regulate quality.

AI can also help monitor which responses result in reopened tickets. If response A, for instance, tends to resolve inquiries quickly, but response B results in the ticket repeatedly being opened, the system can recommend you eliminate response B in order to set your agents up for success. Managers and executives can use the data generated by AI to oversee customer service operations in a more clear, efficient way, improving day to day operations for everyone involved.

What Are the Advantages of Automated Customer Service?

Customer satisfaction is directly linked to the service experience, and so it’s important to make sure the customer journey is as seamless as possible. Integrating AI into your customer service isn’t about replacing humans. Rather, it is about arming your customer service agents with the information they need to have purposeful conversations with your customers, and using data to personalize your customers’ experience with your brand.

Incorporating AI customer service not only improves your relationships with your customers, it builds trust and increases brand loyalty. This means more repeat customers, and more word of mouth referrals for your business.

When you build an incremental strategy to roll out AI in your organization and optimize according to data collected, success is sure to follow. Using AI to build a more complete view of a customer’s relationship with the brand helps companies meet high expectations for exemplary service, and come across as anything but artificial.

Kustomer Offers AI Business Solutions

The Kustomer platform stands out among customer service solutions for the comprehensiveness of available customer data and its business process automation that is driven by branchable, multi-step workflows and custom business logic. Kustomer IQ is a groundbreaking new service that integrates machine learning models and other advanced AI capabilities with the Kustomer platform’s powerful data, workflow and rules engines to enable companies to provide smarter, more personalized, automated customer experiences with increased efficiency.

Kustomer IQ integrates machine learning, natural language processing, predictive analytics, deep learning and multi-dimensional neural network mappings as a part of its AI suite. Natural language processing involves the interactions between computer and human language, and dictates the extent to which computers are able to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data. Natural language processing is used along with text analysis, computational linguistics, and biometrics in sentiment analysis, also known as opinion mining, which helps companies keep a finger on the pulse of their target audience’s interests and values.

Companies that employ the AI suite are then able to use their own data to train Kustomer IQ’s predictive machine learning models, automatically customizing them to address their own business needs. With each new interaction and piece of data, these models learn and self-tune increasing their predictive accuracy and improving the decision making of both the models themselves and the customer service organizations using Kustomer.

Through Kustomer IQ, companies will be able to automate manual, repetitive tasks and essential processes of their customer service experiences. In addition, Kustomer IQ changes the way companies manage knowledge during a service inquiry by surfacing relevant insights and predicting future outcomes to enhance customer self-service, facilitate real time intervention through recommendations, and streamline proactive outreach. By automating everything and providing the right information at the right time, Kustomer IQ frees up agents to focus on more complex and emotional customer interactions, resulting in reduced costs and faster resolution of calls.

Features of Kustomer IQ include automated conversation classification, queues and routing, customer sentiment analysis, automatic language detection, suggested agent shortcuts, customer self-service, conversation deflection and workforce management. If you’re interested in learning more about Kustomer IQ and how it can help elevate your business’s customer service capabilities, download our ebook, explore our website and get in touch today.

Kustomer offers real-time, actionable views of customers, continuous omnichannel conversations, and intelligence that automates repetitive, manual tasks to make personalized, efficient and effortless customer service a reality.

 

To Bot or Not to Bot? Neither, Start with a Strategy

By Mark Kersteen from Kustomer and Maggie Lin from Solvvy.

Customer service automation is the hot topic of conversation these days, and more specifically, how bots fit into the mix. While intelligent automation is core to both Solvvy and Kustomer, we encourage our customers to not simply take an automation-centric or bot-centric approach, but to first take a step back and identify what your key goals are.

We’ve seen companies jump the gun and add a bot because they felt like everyone else was doing it, only to find it delivered sub-optimal/disappointing results.

In reality, not everyone is using a bot—but many are experiencing mixed results. In our recent webinar, 67% of participants shared that they aren’t using any bot technology today and 72% of participants who have tried a bot have experienced issues.

So, what can we take away from this? It’s important to see the big picture and identify where automation can add value, rather than implementing point solutions like bots and hoping they make an impact. We’ve all been there–it’s easy to get swept up into adding a piece of technology just because it’s what everyone else is doing.

In this post, we’ll tackle a key goal we’ve frequently seen from our customers: how do we increase agent productivity to improve our overall customer experience? We’ll share how intelligent automation can effectively support this goal in two ways by 1. increasing efficiency for customers and 2. increasing efficiency for agents.

Increasing Efficiency for Customers

Empowering customers to resolve questions on their own means agents handle less repetitive questions (and less tickets). This translates into getting back to customers faster and focusing on high-value questions that require the human touch. Increasing efficiency doesn’t have to be complicated. Depending on where you are in your support team maturity, ways to improve include investing in content, intelligent self-service, and end-to-end automation.

Content
While it seems obvious, when companies are scaling quickly, a lot of focus is given on agent enablement versus customer enablement. But, at the end of the day, customer enablement helps agents at scale. In an organization where customer interactions are often 1:1, investing in content is 1:many and scales with the business. Taking the time to create help center articles can save your support team hours of copy-pasting a macro that should be public to customers. Publishing content that helps customers find answers on their own frees up your agents to deal with more complex questions.

Intelligent Self-Service
Investing in content is step one. Intelligent self-service is the next step to making it easy for customers to discover this information. With intelligent self-service, it’s important to understand the underlying technology used to determine user intent. A lot of bots fall short here because they are keyword-reliant or rules-based and ultimately aren’t able to understand the context of a question and the relationship of words unique to a specific business. Self-service eases the workload for agents, but if a bot is falling short of expectations, it can create friction when a customer reaches an agent and has to repeat their question.

End-to-End Automation
The ability to fully automate repetitive transactions is a huge opportunity in customer service. These could be questions around order lookups, returns, refunds, and subscription changes. By handling these types of questions without an agent, support teams can direct attention to complex questions and take on proactive initiatives that scale. The interface for end-to-end automation can be guided steps, or it could be a bot in a chat window. Whichever way you deem the best customer experience, it should be clear that it’s not a human and that it is an automated experience.

Increasing Efficiency for Agents

We’ve spoken with agents who have expressed anxiety about chatbots or other technologies taking over their roles. It’s totally natural to be wary of new technology, but our answer has always been clear: We don’t think there’s anything to worry about. In fact, there’s a whole list of ways that bots and automation can assist agents and make their lives easier. Bots can take over the boring, repetitive, and mechanical tasks that drive agents up the wall, freeing up their time to focus on the interpersonal connections and more emotionally complex tasks that likely attracted them to the profession in the first place.

Conversational Forms
Just because it looks like a bot and acts like a bot, doesn’t always mean it’s a bot. Conversational forms are robots in disguise. When a customer opens the chat window, they’ll feel like they’re chatting to an immediately available agent. The conversational form will start asking the customer questions. These include important queries for identification—name, email address, phone number, shipping info, and whatever else is necessary—as well as more quantitative questions, like asking them to describe the issue they’re having. This way the customer gets the instant feedback they expect on chat, and the agent can jump into the conversation with all the info they need.

Suggested Responses
The scariest thing about pursuing a chatbot strategy is the lack of control. Once you switch on that feature, there’s nothing standing in between your customers and an algorithm that may not always provide the best experience. Enter suggested responses. This system works like the suggested text feature on your phone, but just for service. A computer processes the conversation and generates answers, but instead of sending them straight to a customer, the agent gets them first. This speeds up their reply time, and the system can also learn from the agent’s choices to become smarter. The more agents use the system, the better it gets at helping them, so you can be certain that automation is helping your experience, not holding it back.

Further Uses for Automation
There is a whole world of automation-enhanced solutions to everyday problems for your organization—and the majority of them work behind the scenes. Using an automated system to suggest tags, categorization, macros, and helpbase articles for your agents can save tons of time, and can be much simpler to set up and operate than a customer-facing chatbot. Assisting your agents’ everyday workflows and reporting may not be glamorous, but it can have a massive knock-on effect towards streamlining your experience and increasing efficiency. As Peter Johnson, Kustomer’s VP of Product, summarized in our recent webinar: “Automation is not just about helping the customer, it’s about helping your support organization scale, and identifying areas the product team can improve.”

Final Thoughts

If we can leave you with one bit of advice to take away, it’s this: before pursuing a bot or automation strategy, do your homework and consider your options. It’s crucial to have a strategy, and that you don’t just jump right in. As Kaan Ersun, Solvvy’s SVP of Marketing, advised on our webinar: “Number one, define a strategy, and figure out where the bot can be useful to you, where it won’t work, then pursue new opportunities. Start with the big picture, then move towards implementation.”

Look at the data available to you, and use that to define your strategy going forward. Take some time with your reporting, and see what the most common issues are and where customers are asking for support. Once you start spotting patterns, those can dictate where you’ll go next. Maybe something as simple as an updated help page or self-service tool can cut your service volume in half? If your agents are constantly doing the same things over and over again, solve for those issues first. If your goal is to increase efficiency, then you should be focusing on finding the best method, not using chatbots for their own sake. By looking at the patterns within your support organization, you can start identifying issues that are holding back your experience to dictate your strategy, which is great practice as a whole. That’s the best way to figure out how automation will fit in.

With the right groundwork, you can be certain that when you do start to explore and use new technologies, your efforts will be a success—and will make a meaningful difference for your customers.

The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation

84% of the attendees of our recent webinar, The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation, consider Customer Experience Automation a priority for their strategy going forward. What options are available for the automation-minded company, and will a bot deliver amazing service AND make you breakfast? Well, not quite. We got to the bottom of these questions on air, and you can too from the recap below.

Watch the recording here.

Peter Johnson, Kustomer’s VP of Product, and Kaan Ersun, Solvvy’s SVP of Marketing, are both authorities on bots, automation, and using intelligent technologies for better service and support. They discussed the pros and cons of the solutions out there, and made some suggestions for picking and enabling more intelligent service.

Is Automation a Priority?

To kick things off, we started with a poll to take the temperature of the audience. We asked, “Is adopting a customer experience automation solution, such as bots, a priority for you / your organization?” The results were surprising—the majority of respondents were actively pursuing an automation strategy. Here’s the breakdown:

Yes, this year: 40%

Yes, next year: 32%

Yes, within 2 years: 12%

Not a priority: 16%

Terms You Need to Know

To level-set, PJ and Kaan laid out an overview of the terminology they’ll be using when discussing this complicated technology.

While “intelligent” technologies have existed since Roman times, the term “Artificial Intelligence” came into use in the 1950s—though truly intelligent products just started becoming widely available over the last handful of years. Machine Learning is a more specific application, referring to the ability of machines to advance their program and “learn” from their mistakes without additional programming. A good example is the recent Google AI that beat a world champion at Go. Deep Learning is an even more advanced subset, describing computers that use algorithms that mimic the neural networks of the human brain—meaning they can learn on multiple levels without human supervision.

Bots—Are They All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

But how are these advancements being used on a practical level today? Bots are already taking on a variety of service and service-adjacent tasks within the enterprise, from Digital Marketing and DIY Service, to use cases involving virtual assistants. However, these experiments are still in their early stages. While they may help scale your service, they require a lot of effort to build, and lack customer understanding and the ability to deliver a quality, memorable experience. When you look at the cost and effort to build one versus the level of experience they provide, the math is a bit off.

As PJ put it:

“You’ve probably contacted or been contacted by a support system that tried to act like a human being, but clearly is not. One of our best practices is not to try to seem human, because it can really hurt your brand image and experience.”

On top of that, they aren’t exactly plug-and-play. Service teams have to create replies for every possible input, and they need to be customized for the relevant terminology and details of your business. Actually integrating them with your existing data systems can be a headache, plus they need ongoing maintenance every time you add a new feature or product.

Who’s Using Bots?

Bots may not be the tech overlords they’ve been billed as (yet), but other applications of automation and intelligent systems can supe up your support. And, it’s probably not too late. In our second poll, we learned that most attendees haven’t started using bots yet:

We asked, “What has been your experience with traditional bot technology in your CX operations?” and these were the results:

We use a bot today and love it: 9%

We use a bot today and have encountered some issues: 12%

We use a bot today and have encountered many issues: 12%

I don’t use any bot technology today: 67%

From Bots to Conversational Experience

Before you start experimenting with bots, it’s good to know your options. As Kaan recommended:

“It’s key to have an overarching, holistic automation strategy first—then you can deploy bots as point solutions.”

Bots are a part of this strategy, but not the only focus. Instead, you can also use automation in conjunction with other integrations and platforms to create a stronger experience. Conversational forms look like a chat, but can be used to gather customer info and issues before handing off to a more capable agent to handle the issue. A system that automatically suggests responses to agents works the same as a bot, but uses the added layer of human oversight to learn the right way to respond by tracking your agents’ decisions. And automation is useful for suggesting tags, categorization, macros, helpbase articles, and assisting workflow and reporting—all things that can speed up your experience and make it more efficient, without directly interacting with customers.

As PJ summarized: “Automation is not just about helping the customer, it’s about helping your support organization scale, and identifying areas the product team can improve.”

Kutomer and Solvvy work together to make conversational experience a reality. If you submit a question to Solvvy and can’t find the answer, you can choose to instantly open up a chat in Kustomer and get the answer. Kustomer’s conversational form then collects your personal information, then connects you with an agent who knows your whole customer history.

Where to Begin?

Where do you start the process of using automation or bots strategy if you haven’t already? Kaan had some advice: “Number one, define a strategy, and figure out where the bot can be useful to you, where it won’t work, then pursue new opportunities. Start with the big picture, then move towards implementation.”

Adding to Kaan’s advice, PJ suggested going straight to the data: “First thing: Look at your reporting, and see where you have the highest level of support volume. Look for patterns, see which questions your customers are asking, and what the most repetitive tasks are for your agents?”

If you’re taking a wide-angle approach and carefully planning your strategy, instead of leaping head first into messing around with a bot, your initiatives are much more likely to be a success.

You can always watch the recording HERE, and for more great insights into service, experience, and technology, follow Solvvy and Kustomer.

Live Chat vs Messaging Apps: The Modern Hybrid Solution

When organizations are considering a chat strategy, there’s a common debate over whether live chat or a messaging app is the right method to use for client communication. Both models have pros and cons, but technologies have evolved to make a hybrid approach not just possible, but effective. By blending both models together, you can test, collect feedback, and grow — and new tools make it easier than ever to take the best from each approach. Below we have a list of live chat benefits and which platform is the best to use going forward. You can also read about Kustomer Chat’s new features here.

Live Chat Benefits: Understanding the Possibilities

If you’re on the fence about including a live chat feature on your website, there are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t be. First and foremost, companies who have included a live chat feature see an immediate competitive advantage. Forrester reported that companies saw a 10% increase in the average order value when customers engaged in chat before making a purchase. Live chat also leads to about a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour. There’s no doubt that one of the biggest live chat benefits is that customers prefer the consultative and instantaneous experience.

But before we define each of the live chat benefits and drawbacks of each, it’s important to define the difference between “Synchronous” and “Asynchronous” messaging.

Synchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with “Live Chat”, where a customer can only maintain one chat “session” at a time with an agent. These conversations only exist for as long as the customer is active or at least one agent is online.

Asynchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with email, social media, or SMS messaging. Within these channels, neither the customer nor the agent communicate in real time. This means customers can start a chat and come back to it an hour later without worrying about ending “sessions.”

What’s Wrong With Live Chat Solutions?

Chat used to be confined to a website, where customers would wait for an agent to become available. If they got disconnected or refreshed the page, the session would end. To keep customers from waiting after sending their chat message, many organizations would disable the chat experience on their site whenever agents weren’t available. Once connected to an agent, customers would have to stay confined to their desk chairs chatting back and forth until they resolved their issue.

The Old Version of Live Chat: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers get instant replies and immediate feedback, which sets that expectation going forward.
  • CON: The “session” philosophy means a customer can’t message you from their computer, and then respond to you from their mobile phone.
  • CON: Normally works based on “agent availability” meaning that if agents are maxed out or not available, chat is removed, and you are asked to leave a message. Or worse, the website hides chat completely.
  • CON: Missed/dropped chats immediately stop a conversation and require everyone to start over.

How to Modernize Live Chat

With the introduction of smartphones, app-based communication shifted customer expectations. They could open an app, click “contact support”, and start a conversation, but didn’t have to wait around for a reply. When a reply did come, they’d get a notification to check it and keep the conversation going. This allowed customers to move freely from a desktop to their mobile app if they needed to get up and grab a coffee, for example. The ease of use across any device led to a natural shift from the need to be “live” to customers becoming accustomed to asynchronous messaging within third-party apps.

Asynchronous Messaging App: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers can start a chat from their computer and finish it from their smartphone.
  • PRO: The app is always available as a means to collect and store customer issues while “offline”, which agents can follow up on later.
  • PRO: Past chat conversations can be stored and replied to for context.
  • PRO: Customers don’t expect instant replies.
  • CON: Conversations are never “closed”, making it hard to measure agents on that metric.
  • CON: Conversations with customers are dragged out over a longer period of time, slowing down resolution times.
  • CON: Customers can always reply to old conversations, which can make it harder to follow up and provide timely or quality support.

While asynchronous messaging has become more popular, there are some great concepts that underlie live chat functionality, like using agent availability to set expectations. Instead of completely removing the experience of chat from your site when agents aren’t available, you can collect customers’ info and issue, and then pass them to another channel for follow-up—setting the expectation that a reply will not be live.

Modern Chat Gives You the Best of Both Worlds

Ideally, you can bridge the gap between these kinds of synchronous and asynchronous messaging by providing the customer with both live chat benefits: the ability to chat live with an agent, but also maintain an asynchronous state when agents are not available or over-capacity by shifting the conversation to channels like email or text messaging or setting expectations about your reply times.

Customers need a fast response to get an answer or complete a sale — like asking about clothing sizes on a retail site — but you can’t always provide 24/7 communication. That’s why your chat tool needs to evolve to combine the best features of synchronous live chat and an asynchronous messaging app. Kustomer chat is always on, allowing you to set business hours so that customers have the right expectations. That makes it easy to provide synchronous chat when agents are available, and asynchronous when they’re not. The history of every conversation is saved across platforms, so it’s easy for agents and customers to move from platform to platform to fully reap all the live chat benefits. The option to close conversations makes chat support more efficient and easier to manage and measure, and because everything is tied to the customer, agents have all the necessary information when they start a new one. Modern chat solutions meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your business — and with Kustomer chat, you can deliver the best possible chat and messaging experience.

Looking for live chat solutions for your company? Kustomer’s chat makes it easy to deliver the experience that’s right for your team and organization. To learn more about our latest additions to our chat offering, read our product updates here.

Product Update: Making Live Chat Scalable

Live chat for business is everywhere these days, but many companies are still figuring out how best to manage chat conversations at scale. This is why Kustomer’s Chat function—available over both web and mobile—now includes a few features that makes life easier for support teams.

End Chats

Kustomer Chat now includes the option to “End Chats”. Now agents can permanently close a chat conversation once it’s over. This will happen when an agent marks a conversation as Done—locking the ability for a customer to type a reply back to the chat (they can always open a new chat, of course).

This also adds an “end chat” button to the customer experience, allowing the customer to end a conversation when they are done communicating and notifying the agent. In addition, it sets customer expectations regarding agent availability, so customers aren’t replying to chat messages when agents are not available.

Single Chat Sessions

Another option available to companies is to allow only one chat conversation from a customer at a time. This feature ensures that every customer is matched with one agent, and limits the number of teams the customer may work with at once.

Chat Reporting

Support teams that choose to activate the above feature will also be able to better track open and closed conversations and more accurately analyze their chat volume. For example, if you collect the contact reason, every conversation will (usually) have a single reason for contact (unlike chat conversations that are opened again and again, for a different reason each time), so you can look at a definitive number of closed chat conversations per specific topics.

Kustomer Chat is always evolving. Our latest updates to Kustomer Chat include:

  • Conversational Assistant: a pre-conversational feature that helps your team collect information from customers automatically, before reaching the agent.
  • Chat Availability: a feature that incorporates Business Hours into the chat experience, allowing admins to determine what the after-hours experience will be for chat users.
  • Chat Deflection: helps to set proper expectations for your customers with estimated reply times, and diverts traffic when your Chat team doesn’t respond by directing your customers to other channels.

Kustomer Chat is used by online marketplaces and direct-to-consumer brands like Slice, Zeal, UNTUCKit, LOLA, PetcareRX and more. Schedule a demo below to see how Kustomer Chat can work for your business:

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