Gartner research released earlier this year highlights the current challenges and opportunities for digital customer experience. When asked what their top priorities were, CX leaders said it was supporting business growth by providing differentiated service that meets consumer expectations, all while improving efficiency.
Based on these aims, the research highlights three imperatives for digital customer service:
1. Meet increasing internal pressures and accountability
2. Prioritize and improve the digital experience
3. Explore digital applications to improve operational efficiency
Providing instant, seamless and easy service is at the heart of achieving these objectives. This is backed up by consumers themselves – 59% rated providing satisfactory, consistent answers as a top 3 factor in building trust and loyalty.
Essentially, customers expect and want to be able to find information and serve themselves, particularly around routine queries. Research shows that they are happy to embrace self-service channels to achieve this. According to the Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study, 83% already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyze queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website. Over half (54%) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64% also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.
Based on our experience, successful self-service requires brands to focus on five key areas:
1. Consistent multichannel knowledge
Consumers want to receive the same high-quality experience on self-service as other channels. That means creating and sharing a centralized knowledge base that spans all of your channels and can be accessed online, through chatbots, or agents answering queries on email, social media or the phone. Having a single source of information not only drives consistency but it increases efficiency by eliminating inefficient channel-based silos that add to costs.
2. Deploy AI for greater understanding
Consumers ask questions in a wide variety of ways, using different terms, language and even slang. They expect you to understand what they are looking for and to give them accurate answers, which can be difficult on digital channels. This is where text analytics and AI techniques such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) can help – they understand the context of a question and can, therefore, help provide a more accurate answer. And AI is also able to learn – meaning that answers become more and more accurate over time as it uses feedback to deliver the best possible response to particular questions.
3. Deliver a seamless experience
Questions from consumers are part of an ongoing conversation during the customer journey. This can span multiple channels – so a consumer might initially ask a query online, but then want to email or speak to an agent as a next step. That means brands need to make it easy for them to move beyond self-service to communicating with a live agent, either by chat, the phone or other digital channels. And the agent needs to be provided with a full background on their journey so far, enabling them to understand their journey and avoid having to repeat questions or provide duplicate information.
4. Remove the need to ask questions where possible
A better understanding of the customer journey can also remove the need for people to type in their queries. Through analyzing where they are in the process, and the typical information that other customers required at this stage, brands can automatically provide contextualized information to consumers. This makes the self-service process even easier – customers receive relevant answers without having to lift a finger, speeding up the journey and ensuring it is completely seamless.
5. Listen, learn and act on what your customers are saying
The questions that consumers ask on self-service provide a goldmine of information to brands. They show what they are interested in, what motivates them and what is important in the customer journey. By using AI to analyze this Voice of the Customer data, it delivers actionable customer insights that can be used to improve the experience, build trust and increase revenues. For example, if retailers receive hundreds of queries about a particular product that they don’t yet stock, it shows latent demand. Alternatively, if people are consistently asking questions at the same point in the process, such as about delivery times, there’s obviously a need to make this information more visible and up-front. Unlike feedback surveys, analyzing actual customer interactions provides a real-time, deep insight into your consumers that you can learn from going forward.
Self-service is key to delivering a consistent, high quality and seamless experience. Brands need to ensure that they are integrating it fully into their customer service strategy to meet rising consumer expectations, now and in the future.
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