With mobile phones taking over our lives and conversational interfaces becoming ubiquitous there is certainly a new level of demand arriving at customer service centers. Customers do not accept a mediocre service experience anymore. With their smartphones they have the means to get to customer service with nearly no delay and they are certainly willing to use it.
And they do it.
In this situation customers are often already feeling some frustration or disappointment because they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve in the first instance. They already had their taste of a suboptimal customer experience.
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Frustration, disappointment – customers’ negative emotions towards a brand have a corresponding negative impact on the business. Customers just might go buy somewhere else. After all, in times of smartphones this has become simpler than ever.
The support center now has best chances to add the feeling of being disrespected and outright anger into the mix.
Or it can create a feeling of relief, of being respected, valued, even some satisfaction; this in spite of having come into the need of asking for support. Here the service agents have the opportunity to create a positive customer experience out of a poor one – one that will overlay the negative one.
Use Customer Service To Create Positive Emotions
Which one is better for the company – and the company’s bottom line? The answer to this question is pretty obvious. Inmoment Research recently released a study that clearly established links between positive experiences and positive outcomes for a company. And this was not the first study finding that investing into positive customer experiences results in positive outcomes for the company.
A 2016 study by Sitecore and Avanade showed a number of tangible business benefits that can be related to this investment.
The open secret is that there is an easy way to turn a customer who is on the edge into a satisfied and happy one. This way works around recognizing what the customer values:
- Their time
- Their channel
- Getting their issue resolved
This way clearly involves the smartphone. After all this is the switchboard of their lives and in all likelihood also the device where the issue occurred.
Go Social? No Way!
You may say: “Go social! Twitter, Facebook! People go there all the time! And they are getting fast and efficient help there!”
Do they? Most customers aren’t getting fast and efficient help on social networks. Only few do. Mainly those with loud voices, because of having large follower numbers.
And why are people resorting to social media? They use them as a last resort after the traditional ways didn’t work.
In other words, because they are disappointed, frustrated and likely even angry. So they act as derailers of the brand, instead of being brought on the way of becoming promoters or even ambassadors.
Resolve Issues Fast, The Customers’ Way
This is where conversational interfaces, messaging and mobile in-app support come into the picture. This combination allows a customer to directly cut through to efficient service instead of repeatedly iterating through information they have already given before. Via the app the customer and many of the interactions (s)he did before the incident are already known. An agent can get to work directly, maybe even supported by a bot as a copilot, or even an autonomous one.
The emotional advantage starts right in the beginning. In most of the cases the customer is already known and can be addressed by name instead of being in the need of introducing him-/herself. And due to the information that is already available the issue has been routed to the right service agents who in turn can get right at work when the ticket arrives on their desk.
And this may very well be before they even reply, thus giving themselves the chance to be equipped with relevant knowledge and perhaps already a solution suggestion.
As a result the customer feels treated respectfully and with appreciation of his/her concerns and time.
Now, it is an illusion that every call center has enough staff to be able to immediately react to every incident and inquiry customers may have – ideal but an illusion.
There is nothing worse than the electronic equivalent of holding music and the repeated statement that “your call is important to us”! Its mere existence actually proves the contrary.
Use AI to Improve the Experience
This is where AI and machine learning, exposed by chatbots take center stage.
In a supportive role the AI can already supply the agent with possible solutions to the incident at hand before the agent takes up the issue. These solutions can get derived from the FAQ, internal documentation, a community, or from previous incidents that dealt with a similar topic. The ranked listing of suggestions can then be presented to the agent by a chatbot as part of the conversational interface that is used in between customer, service agents, and the technology.
This already has the potential of significantly speeding up the resolution process, thus addressing what the customer values. It is a better engagement model that likely creates a positive experience – maybe a little wow moment.
When enough trust has been established to the AI, the chatbot can get into an autonomous role and engage with the customer before an agent takes over. The human agent then becomes the escalation point for issues that the system cannot resolve without human interaction. To get into this escalation the bot could offer and schedule a callback by a person or simply do a handover to the next service level after informing the customer about the necessity for this.
In this model even an explicit FAQ can be made obsolete as the chatbot can serve as a front end to it.
Conversational interfaces, alone or supported by chatbots have a profoundly positive impact on the business. The main benefits are:
- Customer service is addressed the customer way
- Faster incident resolution
- More satisfied customers who have a better customer experience
Satisfied customers have more positive emotions about a company. A positive base is more likely to perceive an engagement as positive, which means it turns into a positive customer experience. And positive customer experiences create positive business outcomes.
It is that simple.