Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpJune 19, 2019
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12min142

The future is upon us, with companies digitalising their contact centres with disruptive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Processing Automation (RPA), that are improving the Customer Experience beyond recognition.

In the age of Brexit and political and economic uncertainty, more companies are tasked with the hard remit to cut costs and improve services at the same time. Mission Impossible? Surprisingly, it’s not!

By using AI and RPA solutions in your contact centre you can reduce the cost to serve by as much as 95 percent compared to other communication methods such as telephone call, email, or live web chat – and at the same time improve the experience for both agents and customers.

The aim is to make the customers’ journey seamless at every touch point helping you improve customer experience and reduce cost to serve. In turn this helps to reduce customer churn (retain existing customers) and increases their willingness to buy again from you and buy more.   As we know consumers are more vocal than ever before, especially within the social sphere and review sites.  Great customer experience increases advocacy, helping you to attract new ones – becoming your best marketing channel.

By removing wasted effort and the repetitive and mundane, your people will have the time to not only do their job more efficiently but importantly support the shift towards an innovation and value driven culture. This in turn presents new opportunities to transform, differentiate and develop new target operating models, helping to drive accelerated revenue growth.

The future is now

Customers expect to be able contact you 24/7, using whatever communications method they choose whether that’s text, phone, email, video call, or web chat. More than 60 percent of customers interact through multiple channels and they expect a consistent service (Deloitte research). We often see IT managers responding to a CEO requesting a webchat solution and then rushing into buying an off the shelf product that it is not suited to their needs and not part of an overall strategy. We must emphasise that it is vital from the start to set objectives and have a strategy in place before you embark on any AI or RPA project.

A digital transformation strategy does not need to be a huge and overwhelming project with endless budgets and deadlines. By working with a Solutions Provider, you’ll be able to deconstruct it into manageable projects which will aid you in getting approval and devising a strategy.

Mapping out the customer’s journey

It is crucial to know which business goals you want an AI and RPA project to achieve. If your objective is to improve tCX with a view to increasing sales and revenue then it is advisable to study the existing journey that your customers take and question what works and what doesn’t.

With the guidance from a Solution Provider you can then look at how it should be improved by asking agents and customers how they want to communicate and what improvements they think would benefit them. By involving all stakeholders, you are not only helping with the buy-in for the new technology but also enabling them to envision how they will collaborate with the AI and RPA solution. It is crucial that companies understand how humans can augment technology and how technology can enhance the roles of humans. This is an imperative step in the process of redesigning business processes to support your objectives.

Integration is everything

A Solutions Provider will ensure that AI and RPA is integrated into the front and back office so you can utilise what you have and maximise your new solution.

A survey from Forrester revealed that 64 percent of respondents commented that a lack of single view of information was one of their biggest challenges in CRM. Often companies deploy an ad hoc AI solution that doesn’t integrate with their existing technology and the contact centre agents then have multiple screens at a time to view all of the communications. We have more technology and communications methods available to us than ever before but if we do not plan how and where to use them, then it can be counterproductive.

The aim is to create a single view of all communications and essentially to have one ‘smart in box’ so the agents can view everything on one screen. All interactions are integrated over an orchestration layer connecting the front and back office together. Then you can truly revolutionise your contact centre, CX, and your business processes.

Segmenting and prioritising customers

Customers want easy to use communications, they don’t want to be left on hold, stuck in a queue, and transferred from one department to another. They expect to move seamlessly between communication channels and not to be asked who they are and what the purpose of their call is again and again.

With AI and RPA, you can segment customers on value and expectations, for example you can prioritise high value customers so they can jump the queue to talk to an agent or provide a call back option when is convenient with them. As the customers are high value you may want to provide them with real time communications, such as a phone or video call, offering a more personalised service.

Agents can also see on their screen that they are your top tier customers and have visibility of their details and history so they can personalise the service and making them feel valued.

Data used to segment customers can be managed, used to upsell and utilised for sales and marketing. The key is that people are required to analyse the data  to encourage departments to knock down the silos and share what they are working on.

Re-thinking business processes

The beauty of AI and RPA is that it forces companies to re-think business processes and how technology can be utilised to increase revenues and return on investment. Particularly around one of the biggest investments in your business – human capital. You can realign agents to focus on high value customers or queries that require more empathy and detail whilst offloading the daily mundane administrative duties to a Conversational AI. Enabling you to save cost and reinvest in training your agents to be more specialised to get more return from your investment.

Workforce optimisation

These disruptive technologies provide endless possibilities; redesigning CX and business processes.

Conversational AI solutions can learn content from your website and their customer conversations, so they can pre-empt needs. Relieve your agents and set up a self-serve option where customers can access answers to basic questions on your website. If the enquiry becomes too complex, then the digital agent hands the query over to a human agent.

Employees fears of being replaced

Digital transformation creates an intelligent blended workforce of humans and technology.

Employees must be reassured that with they will not be replaced with an AI and RPA solution, in fact it will complement them. Digital transformation is an opportunity for them to upgrade their skills and specialist areas. They will be able to focus on more valuable interactions as the AI solution frees them from mundane tasks. They will receive more job satisfaction from the new intelligent blended workforce. When rolling out AI and RPA, it’s crucial to ensure your culture is right first, otherwise your employees will reject it. Work on an open culture that empowers employees to share their opinions, digital transformation is a never ending process of continual improvement.

Mindset of a start-up

Digital transformation brings new everything – new technology, new ways of working, new business processes. Companies need to embrace the new culture and change existing ways of thinking, and adopt the same mindset of a start-up. By working with a Solution Provider they will reduce the risk through piloting any technology finding our what works and what doesn’t. They will also hold ‘discovery workshops’ to work closely with all of your teams conducting in-depth discussions on what technology they would like in place.

So, rather than ‘mission impossible’, it is very much ‘mission possible’; especially when you select the right partner.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 19, 2019
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3min153

The entry deadline is fast approaching for the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, which this year is marking ten years of celebrating the very best CX in Britain.

The gala event will take place on October 10 at London’s Wembley Stadium, where finalists representing some of the best-known brands in the country will gather to make presentations before an expert panel of judges, hoping to secure one of 24 category titles that reflect every aspect of customer centricity.

New categories for 2019 include Employee Experience, Employees at the Heart of Everything, Hospitality & Leisure, Retail, and Professional Services, and the awards will be presented during an evening black tie dinner ceremony.

Organisations have until June 28 to submit an entry, and further details can be found here.

Applications are now being taken from potential judges to join the line-up, and you can click here to find out more about becoming a UKCXA judge.

The finals, which are chaired once again by international CX consultant and author Ian Golding, is also one of the UK’s best CX networking opportunities, with hundreds gathering at the iconic venue to support colleagues and celebrate what makes the UK a beacon of customer-centricity in a rapidly changing business landscape.

The UK Customer Experience Awards is accredited with the prestigious Gold Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council, and as always is proud to be partnered with Cranfield School of Management, Barnardo’s, and the Customer Experience Professionals Association.

Reach for the stars: The UK Customer Experience Awards is Britain’s biggest celebration of customer centricity

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “The UK Customer Experience Awards has grown exponentially to become the biggest CX event of its kind in the world, and we are incredibly proud to be marking its tenth anniversary. Customer Experience is now a brand’s most defining characteristic, and it is impossible to overestimate its importance to the economy. These awards play such an important role in not only celebrating achievements, but also setting the standard for organisations to follow if they are to be successful in this new era where the customer really is at the heart of everything.”

 

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 19, 2019
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2min176

The vast majority of CIOs find integrating new communications with legacy systems a challenge.

That is among the findings in research carried out by global cloud communications software provider, IMImobile, which discovered that 92 percent of CIOs faced this issue. This comes at a time when almost all (98 percent) CIOs feel under pressure to deliver the Customer Experience expected by both customers and the wider business world.

Businesses are increasingly expected to respond with the same level of speed and consistency whether using email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, or new channels such as WhatsApp Business. However, more than half (52 percent) of CIOs admit they are unable to provide a truly connected and integrated customer communications experience across all channels and business systems.

Asked to consider the major barriers they face when it comes to delivering frictionless CX, CIOs cited legacy IT systems (51 percent), data being spread across multiple systems (51 percent), and budget constraints (42 percent), as the top three blockers to progress.

Aseem Sadana, EVP at IMImobile, said: “It is widely known that the ability to innovate and improve customer communications can make or break a business. Worryingly, the research lays bare the gap between the experience customers now expect, and what businesses are currently able to provide.

“The challenge is that delivering great Customer Experience is easier said than done. This is especially the case for large consumer facing enterprises, where fragmented, legacy IT environments make integrating new communications channels and processes very complex. Many of them also have data that is spread across multiple systems, with programmes and processes varying from department to department. CIOs must consider a centralised platform approach to orchestrate and automate communications across existing business systems and communications channels.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 18, 2019
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4min352

New research shows that the public appetite for points and plastic is as popular as ever, with the majority of UK customers subscribed to at least one loyalty scheme.

According to Hawk Incentives’ The Loyalty Evolution Report which surveyed 2,500 people across the UK – a massive 82 percent of Brits are signed up to one or more programmes. Sixty-four percent are signed up to between one to five loyalty schemes, followed by six to ten (14 percent), and 11 to 20 (two percent).

The founding grocery godfathers’ of loyalty schemes still take the lion’s share of the market, with eight-out-of-ten (81 percent) consumers admitting to subscribing to a supermarket loyalty card scheme.

The UK’s burgeoning coffee shop culture is also driving consumer loyalty, enjoying 42 percent of the share of the market, with restaurants in third place with 33 percent. Least popular currently are fuel schemes (with only six percent of the population subscribing); technology schemes (eight percent); and sports retail loyalty and rewards schemes (19 percent).

The study also revealed that 62 percent consider themselves to be brand loyal. Contrary to previous studies which have painted younger shoppers as more fickle, the Hawk report reveals that Gen Z, Xennials, and Millennials say they stay faithful to the brands they like or love. Indeed 77 percent of 25-34 year olds claim to be brand loyal, along with 70 percent of 18-24 year-olds and 34-44 year-olds.

Meanwhile, 85 per cent of females are signed up to loyalty and reward schemes, compared to 76 percent of men.

Lack of interest was cited by a fifth (20 percent) of respondents as the main reason for not signing up. Seventeen percent cited a perceived lack of value. This is also a greater reason for men (21 percent versus 11 percent for females), as well as the older age group (24 percent). Older consumers aged 55-plus are failing to sign up over concerns about the use of their data, the report found.

Despite the rise of digital technologies, consumers would still prefer a physical loyalty card rather than a digital format. This is the case for both subscribers and non-subscribers.

Over half (58 percent) of subscribers and 30 percent of non-subscribers said something in their purse or wallet was preferable to a smart phone app or another digital platform. Perhaps not surprisingly, non-subscribers don’t really have a preference, but 46 percent said they would still prefer a physical card if they could choose.

Chris Ford of Hawk Incentives said: “The fact that only 15 percent of consumers don’t currently subscribe to rewards programmes shows loyalty schemes are still very much alive and kicking. However, it appears consumers’ perception of them may have shifted as people become more concerned about data in the Facebook era.

“What we do know is that brands that offer loyalty schemes which are relevant, offer choice, and are easy to access, create the best opportunity to engage an already receptive audience of active customers. Mining your data intelligently and sensitively to create targeted rewards and incentives will only make consumers more brand loyal and better brand advocates. Reassurance that their data is in safe hands is, of course, also key in the age of transparency.”


Vijayanta GuptaVijayanta GuptaJune 18, 2019
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10min339

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays an important role in Customer Experience, marketing, and personalisation; It has the power to generate predictions about what goods and services customers are likely to want, when the demand will arise or propensity to switch will occur, and which platforms they are most likely to purchase on.

As a result, AI has become critical for brands wanting to improve their capabilities to offer personalised experiences, offers and recommendations. What’s more, marketers should not overlook the importance and the business case for investing in AI technology to deliver high-quality personalisation at scale.

Personalisation is key to customer loyalty, customer experience and increasing sales, with Accenture recently finding that 91 percent of European and American consumers are more likely to shop with brands which provide relevant offers and recommendations. Clearly, enhancing a brands ability to engage with customers on an individual basis is critical for brand success.

However, investment alone is not enough – in order for AI to provide effective personalisation, it must be implemented and used in the right way.

Organisations need to develop more sophisticated AI capabilities which can collect and analyse data in real time to offer tailored services and products. This capability must be advanced enough to work for customers as they move through an omnichannel journey which often spans across websites, apps, email and high-street stores, for example.

Omnichannel journey: Real-time data analysis is key

While it is true that AI has the potential to bring about this ‘new era’ of personalisation, the technology alone cannot guarantee quality personalisation. For that, business leaders must appreciate the value of AI, develop a clear strategy for implementation and ensure that it is monitored and improved by experts who truly understand it. 

Make the business case for investment

One common barrier to the adoption of sophisticated AI and machine learning technology is business leaders being deterred by the cost of the initial adoption process. While it’s true that AI can remove the manual, time consuming, and often overwhelming challenge of managing and understanding vast amounts of data, just like any new technology, the initial set-up process can be expensive and labour intensive.

Also, the skills required to implement this level of technology mean that organisations may face the added time and expense of employing dedicated data scientists, and adjusting towards a culture where marketers and technologists must work closely together  As a result, organisations may feel that there is not a viable business case to invest.

To counter this point of view, take a step back and consider the long-term benefits of the initial investment. If AI is implemented strategically, the future pay-off will be enhanced capabilities for personalisation, improved Customer Experience, and increased sales.

Even as far back as 2014, McKinsey found that maximising customer satisfaction, which today largely comes from offering personalised experiences, would result in a 15 percent increase in a brands revenue. More recently, research from Econsultancy found that 93 percent of companies see an uplift in conversion rates from personalisation. Together with a well implemented AI strategy, brands can personalise even more effectively and potentially see even greater conversion rates.

Develop a clear strategy first

It is important to understand that simply having AI and machine learning capabilities does not guarantee that a brand can offer a higher quality of Customer Experience. In order to see significant improvements, organisations must first decide what CX problem they are aiming to solve, which data sets they need to collect and monitor, and how they are going to use the data to remove the particular pain-points that customers face.

Strategy: Organisations must decide what CX problem they are aiming to solve

Whether a brand wants to convert more website views to purchases, increase the number of customers returning to the site, offer a smoother transition across different touchpoints, or improve online self-service, these priorities must be decided from the outset. Then, the right data can be collected and harnessed to address the issue.

With an overwhelming amount of data being generated and collected by companies today, this is an effective way to streamline efforts and ensure the most important issues are dealt with first.

Shoe retailer Footasylum provides a great example of the benefits of strategic AI implementation. It focused first on the specific pain-point of friction in the customer journey between stores and the web by using AI to link in-store purchases with online systems such as loyalty schemes, to create a single customer view. The brand can now predict which customers are most likely to purchase particular products and when. As a result, it has seen an 8,400 percent return on ad spend. Footasylum’s next mission is to breathe life back into the high-street by using AI to enable the web to automatically share valuable customer information with brick and mortar stores.

Lay the foundations for advanced AI

In order to get a good understanding of which CX problems to address first, brands should undertake background research with marketers identifying which personalisation processes are currently creating the most conversions online, and which are less successful.

Another important foundation is to ensure that all data sets are integrated and consolidated. In order to offer recommendations in real time, brands must be able to predict consumer needs and use data to meet them at the right moment, on the right platform. AI can be used to accurately forecast where the customer will be in their decision making. Without access to all of the data about any given customer, there will always be a limit to how successful these predictions can be.

Clueless: Without accurate data, it will be impossible to fully predict a customer’s decision

In conclusion, it is key to remember that although AI has great potential to offer tailored experiences for customers in real time, the initial investment does not automatically guarantee quality personalisation and a return on investment. For that, a solid foundation must be put in place by understanding where customer experience can be improved, deciding on a clear strategy for implementation and removing data from silos.

Then, AI has the power to offer personalised experiences which offer true value to customers and meet, or even exceed, their expectations.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 17, 2019
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4min493

The most exciting gathering of award winners and experts in the field of complaint handling will take place London this autumn at a brand new conference, and now is your chance to join them for a special  discount price.

The Winning With Complaint Handling conference is hosted by Awards International, and will feature six insightful panel discussions from UK firms which have wowed judges at the annual UK Complaint Handling Awards.

Taking place on September 25 at the Park Plaza Riverbank in the heart of London, this unique one-day event will offer practical techniques on transforming complaints into improved products and services, and provide guidance on creating customer loyalty through outstanding complaint handling strategies.

Industry insight: Winners of the UK Complaint Handling Awards will discuss strategies for success
Attendees will be able to interact in real time with each panel using the Slido app, to put questions to panelists and vote on issues as speakers discuss the need to adopt dynamic, technological solutions instead of traditional approaches.
As with all Awards International events, the conference will be an excellent networking opportunity, as guests will include representatives from a wide range of sectors. A full line-up for the conference will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, joining Awards International CEO Neil Skehel as Co-Chair of the conference will be Daniel Ord, Founder and Director of OmniTouch International, and one of the world’s leading authorities on contact centre excellence. Daniel also leads CXM’s Contact Centres Masterclass.
Co-Chair: Contact centre expert Daniel Ord will welcome guests to Winning With Complaint Handling
“I’m thrilled to be welcoming attendees to London later this year for what will be one of the best opportunities to learn the skills and strategies of award-winning firms,” Daniel said.
“Our panel discussions will feature valuable insight into what the very best brands are providing customers when it comes to complaint handling.”
Neil Skehel added: “This isn’t just another conference; you will be an integral part of this event and your priorities will shape what we discuss. It promises to be an educational and inspirational experience for everyone involved.”
Tickets for Winning With Complaint Handling are now available, while those who book before midnight on July 19 can enjoy a special Early Bird Discount, saving them £100 on the full price. Click here for further details.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 17, 2019
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2min492

The world’s first bricks-and-mortar store selling only items that are trending online in real time will open its doors in London next month.

The Trending Store will be open from July 3 – 7 at Westfield London, operated by trend foresighting platform Nextatlas, and partnered with charity Save the Children.

A ‘How We Shop’ concept store of the future, The Trending Store has been created in response to shoppers’ needs, bringing together the smart intel of online shopping and the human interaction of shopping ‘in real life’ for the first time. How We Shop is Westfield’s retail research and trends platform, now in its sixth year.

NextAtlas will track 400,000 of the hottest influencers or ‘trend innovators’ to analyse what they are speaking about or wearing and pick 100 items across an array of price ranges it deems to be that day’s trending items. Stylists will be on hand to hunt out looks as instructed by Nextatlas’ AI technology, to stock the store each day, and be inside the store helping customers pick out key items to suit their own individual styles.

Mario Coletti, Managing Director at Nextatlas, said: “Traditional retailers have always used stores to gather customer information. The Trending Store is revolutionising store management by using Nextatlas’ platform to make stores a destination of data science rather than a source of it. It’s a pioneering example of how AI will be relevant for customers as well as a way to make stores more effective in generating enhanced Customer Experience.”


Neil HammertonNeil HammertonJune 17, 2019
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9min383

In 2019, we’ve seen a number of brands look to simplify their communication channels in a bid to reconnect with their customers.

From Gucci opening six customer contact centres that will provide phone, email and live chat communications, to Lush deleting all of its social media channels in the UK – it seems that some organisations are going back to basics when it comes to their customer service. As AI and social media platforms are increasingly placing algorithms and automation between organisations and their customers, is the desire to get closer to them coming full circle?

Companies less audacious than Lush might be weary of turning off their social channels and turning instead to ‘legacy’ platforms such as email or the phone to engage with their customers. However, it’s important to look at how brands can, and should, embrace traditional communication channels to offer a more personalised customer experience, helping them reconnect with their audience in a genuine, human-to-human way.

Shortcomings of social media

Although social media has been hailed as an unavoidable staple of any communication strategy for brands, its limitations are starting to appear. For instance, an increasing number of studies are showing the adverse effects of social media on the mental health of users. From self-esteem issues to anxiety and ‘Fear of Missing Out’, it’s becoming apparent that these websites are not just the communication heaven they were sold as in the mid to late 2000s.

As a result, a rising number of Millennial or Generation Z customers are turning their backs on social media, either by completely deleting their accounts, or taking regular breaks from the most popular websites. This could mean that, in the future, social media will no longer be the number one channel for companies to reach younger audiences.

Social outcast?: An increasing number of Millennial and Gen Z consumers are unplugging from social media platforms

To counter this, we’re seeing some social media platforms take steps to make the feeds more wholesome. Recently Instagram and its parent company Facebook modified their algorithms to prioritise content from people users are close to – rather than branded content. Instagram also changed its format from chronological order to a system where order posts appear on timelines, meaning customers are much less likely to see native content from brands, and especially small business owners, who might not have the budget to promote paid-for content.

While social media was first considered the best way to get closer to customers as it allowed for a proximity and a dialogue that simply did not exist before, new sets of challenges are starting to appear for brands. They must start reconsidering the channels they previously used to interact with their customers if they want to build strong, long lasting relationships.

Back to basics

As companies strive to embrace innovation, especially in their customer relationship strategies, it’s important to remember that technology isn’t just creating new ways of communication through the internet – it has also completely transformed existing tools.

Phone systems, for example, have come a long way in recent years. While we tend to think of it as the archaic cable phone that takes hours to get us through to a customer service agent, technology has actually revolutionised it. New phone technology now allows companies to safely record data about their customers, enabling them to automatically know exactly who the customer is, what they are calling about and the products and services they have purchased with the company. They can also let brands get closer to the customer by automatically connecting them to a representative who knows their name and why they’re calling. The list goes on.

Phone favourite: Phone tech has improved to provide a seamless Customer Experience

Being able to integrate a telephone system into overall customer support means brands can now make customer communications more seamless and easier. This removes barriers between brands and their customers by enabling them to build genuine relationships with their customers, providing a level of care that algorithms cannot enable on social media.

Reconnecting to customers

Thanks to the internet, consumers now have access to an apparent infinity of products, services and brands. Cutting through this noise is a challenge that can only be tackled with impeccable customer engagement, and this starts with getting closer to your customers. Recent studies have shown that customers now expect the same from brands as they do from their friends: reliability , authenticity, and the feeling like the brands ‘get’ them and what’s important to them at this point in their lives.

While social media allows for a quick dissemination of ideas and products, it cannot entirely replace the type of one-to-one communications that enable brands to truly serve their customers. Companies need to give the phone another chance and embrace it as a key part of the communications-mix of the future.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 17, 2019
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5min634

A new study shows that Brits are quick to complain online following a bad ecommerce encounter.

The survey of 2,000 UK customers by retail operations platform Brightpearl found that almost a third of shoppers have left a negative review online, with nearly seven in 10 having done so in the last year. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed will also share a negative retail experience with someone else they know to warn them off a particular brand.

In the digital age, consumers are quicker to take to social media or online review sites to share their anger or dissatisfaction, but even those who don’t vent wish they had.

Fifty-five percent of Brits are yet to leave a negative review of a company online, but the same percentage regret missing out on the opportunity to air their grievances with the brand or retailer when they’ve had a poor shopping experience.

Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl, said: “Brits are famously awkward and averse to confrontation and complaining, but, with the rise of so many avenues for customer feedback, from online forms to social media, those habits appear to be changing. Consumers have started exercising their right to have a moan when they receive sub-par service – and brands need to start paying closer attention.”

The research reveals that online consumers are becoming more reliant on the feedback of other shoppers to support their decision making.

Forty-six percent of respondents regularly check star ratings for online retailers before buying from them, and two-in-five consumers have been put off a brand or a retailer they might have shopped with – by a single unfavourable review.

Thirty percent of shoppers do look more favourably on retailers who actively respond to negative reviews posted about their services online.

Meanwhile, 55 percent admit they would also be likely to spend more money with an online outlet which had ‘excellent’ reviews or star ratings. Brits believe they would be willing to spend as much as 22 percent more with a brand or retailer which has received mostly ‘excellent’ reviews than one which has been reviewed less favourably.

However, on average, UK customers want a brand or retailer to have a whopping 30 positive online reviews before they’d trust it enough to part with their cash, and anything rated below four out of five stars is generally considered negative by discerning consumers – with shoppers becoming highly dubious about shopping with any brand that has more than five negative reviews.

“From our research, it is clear that a positive review – or 30 – can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer,” Derek continued.

“It is also important for retailers to be aware of the wide-ranging impact a negative review can have on their business, as well as understanding where those problems are coming from – whether it’s items not arriving on time or at all, to lack of delivery updates or cancelled purchases. Customers pay attention to middling and lower reviews, resulting in lost sales opportunities and potentially damaged reputation. The best approach to negative reviews is to identify and fix the issues that can lead to unhappy shopping experiences.”


Ryan FalkenbergRyan FalkenbergJune 12, 2019
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11min889

Have you been the victim of chatbot incompetence recently?

It typically starts with a specific query that you need help with. You don’t have the time to listen to the contact centre’s hold music, so you turn to the company’s much vaunted chatbot.

It seems fairly straightforward. You type in your question and press enter. The chatbot comes back with a list of completely unrelated content links, and asks if any of these solve your problem. ‘No’ you say.

You retype your question, hoping this time it’s a little clearer. Again the chatbot cheerfully responds with a new list of possible ‘helpful’ articles and FAQ links, and mentions that it is busy learning and is grateful for your help. It will get more accurate the more people engage with it.

Oh, so your diabolical customer experience is all for a good cause – to train their chatbot! The cheek of it.

After a third attempt, you notice a link that may be relevant. You click on the link and are taken to a three-page document providing generic product information. The assumption is that you will take the time to read this document and then work out the answer yourself. With raised blood pressure, you click on the ‘Connect me to an agent’ link and hope that possibly they may have the knowledge needed to solve your query. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. That’s how it goes with so many omnichannel customer journeys these days.

I must confess I expected more. I envisaged that by now we could engage with chatbots that are capable of diagnosing my specific issue, and then offering me a relevant response that results in a relevant action. In other words, a chatbot that is not simply an over-hyped digital assistant that can execute basic instructions or offer me links to possible content matches. I had in mind an digital advisor that could operate at the level of an expert – one whose intelligence is defined as much by the relevance of the questions it asks as the answers it finally offers.

If you talk to most AI companies, their chatbots already perform like digital experts. They will refer to their amazing natural language understanding and incredibly intelligent algorithms that are powered by ‘machine learning’, ‘deep learning’, and ‘neural nets’. They will give you the sense that all you need to do is point their technology in the direction of your knowledge base and the digital advisor will magically onboard all your product, policy and procedural expertise. Then, with just a little bit of guidance, you can soon have trained your chatbot into a digital Einstein that can change your customer service offering forever.

When you ask them to show you a working example, they will probably show you one of their canned demo’s – built off a scenario where the source data is in rich supply, the use case is clearly defined, and the user script can be carefully followed. As a result, their chatbot’s conversation will feel so intelligent, so human-like, that you will feel you simply have to have one.

Just don’t ask them mid-way to type in something unscripted and to upset their crafted storyline! I am certain that you will be quickly informed that they have not managed to train this chatbot to cover all contexts, and that this is simply used for illustration purposes.

No ifs or bots: Many chatbots are lacking when it comes to customer support

The real reason is that it is all really a digital mirage. It looks so achievable until you shift your eyes down to your current position, and suddenly the mirage vanishes. There are a number of reasons for this:

Companies seldom have the quality of data needed to accurately train a customer facing chatbot

Most companies operate in a world of legacy systems, limited integrations, poor quality data, and poorly documented internal policies and procedures – the very things that cognitive systems depend on to build their engagement accuracy.

A customer support chatbot is powered more by prescriptive than predictive logic

To understand the difference, ask Siri or Alexa for an answer based on available information, and they can usually give it to you. For example, if you ask: “What is the weather looking like tomorrow in London?”, you will be amazed how accurate the answer is. That is because the information exists, and thousands of people have already asked the same or a similar question. The patterns are thus established and the correct answer can be predicted.

However, try ask a question that requires more context before answering. Say: “What is the best home loan for me?”. You will probably notice that the response will be to offer you possible links to companies offering loans. It won’t begin by understanding your needs. This is because a financial need analysis is driven off a diagnostic set of prescribed logic. There is no answer yet – the problem still needs to be understood.

In regulated environments, you need to be able to prove your chatbot asked the right questions and offered the right advice

Where a chatbot is powered by predictive logic – the logic you need to train and that keeps ‘learning’ based on multiple engagements – you will find it will struggle in a regulated environment. This is because the logic is designed to change and adapt, based on user engagement. It is also hard to prove how a decision was reached, as each recommendation is made in what is often referred to as a ‘black box’. This is hugely problematic when you are offering customers advisory support in a regulated environment, such as banking and finance.

Context matters, and the way most companies capture prescriptive logic lacks context

Prescriptive logic is typically captured using documents (knowledge bases) or decision trees (process flows). It’s how we have trained employees brains for decades and it’s how we are trying to train our chatbots. So just like giving staff exercises to learn how to apply the formula to different situations, we get teams to train the chatbot, telling them when they are right and when they are wrong. The problem is that documents and decision trees are not able to capture all the possible scenarios. They can only describe a few. And as a result, the more variables you need to consider in order to offer a customer accurate, relevant advice, the harder it becomes to achieve.

The good news is that there are now digital platforms available that allow you to achieve the holy grail – a chatbot capable of asking me context relevant questions that then lead to relevant answers and actions. These platforms have been built off data-powered, prescriptive logic that can ensure your customers are offered a consistent, compliant and context-relevant digital engagement, one that leads to a successful customer service outcome every time.

These platforms have acknowledged that not all logic should be predicted, and that for customer support chatbots the foundation of the logic has to prescribed. The trick is ensuring it is also contextual, and these platforms have now managed to do this in a way that can be maintained effectively.

The dawn of chatbots capable of offering customers consistent, compliant and yet highly context-relevant customer engagements is upon us. And it’s about time, too.




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