How AI puts the “omni” in omnichannel communication

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Today, more businesses than ever are zeroing in on how to best interact with customers. New communication channels are popping up all the time, and for the most part, that’s a great thing. More choice often means more ease for customers.

With each new communication channel that appears, the stakes get higher for businesses. Think about how quickly people integrated things like Snapchat and TikTok into their lives: it’s one thing to adopt a new technology as a user, and completely another to be able to meet the customer there as a business in a satisfactory way.

It’s not news that omnichannel communication is the key to making customers feel cared for. For businesses , this means more than just being able to interact with their customers through a single agent interface or “pane of glass”. Businesses also need to be sensitive to all the ways in which a customer wants to interact with them. Doing this right elevates the customer’s experience from merely satisfactory to truly delightful.

The AI advantage

When a user comes to a business to try to solve a problem, there are a few things the business can do to make the experience a good one. Being able to identify, understand, and resolve the problem quickly is just as important as doing it in a personalized, empathetic way that brings a smile to the user’s face.

From the business’ point of view, this requires crunching data quickly, asking the right questions, and zeroing in on the right problem so you can suggest a useful solution. Additionally, awareness of the customer’s context and sentiment makes it possible to treat the customer with empathy. All of this is made possible with AI.

There have been a number of advancements in this field in the last few years. We have chatbot technology, knowledge technology, and natural language processing and understanding, which all make it easier to communicate with the customer and resolve issues quickly.

This technology isn’t just useful for customers. Most customer service workers are early-career employees in low-paying jobs, in industries with a high level of employee turnover. It’s a lot of burden to put on one person to solve customer problems on their own. AI can help tremendously with things like coaching the agent in real-time or after the fact.

AI also helps with quality monitoring by transcribing and analyzing every call. Instead of monitoring one agent once a month, businesses can now monitor 100% of agents 100% of the time, creating teachable moments everywhere. This gives employers the opportunity to upgrade their agents’ skills so they can get better at their jobs, leading to even more customer satisfaction.

Creating a customer service cocoon

The winning formula for creating a truly delightful customer service experience uses AI every step of the way. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say you’re at home one day and your internet stops working. Calling customer service would require you to stop your day and get on a call for at least 45 minutes.

AI makes another scenario possible. The customer can go to the provider’s website on their phone and find the support they’re looking for easily, with a clear set of steps. If the customer fails to resolve the issue on their own, they can then connect to an agent. The agent can, at the very least, set expectations up front, by saying something like, “Resolving this issue is going to take 30 minutes. Do you have 30 minutes to spend on a call?” If the customer doesn’t have that time to spare, the agent can then offer other ways to get in touch with them, for example communicating through WhatsApp.

What’s happening underneath this? Number one, the business is trying to understand who you are and what your relationship with the business is. It’s also learning your current context and communicating effectively with you within those parameters. Finally, the business is giving you a number of flexible options to keep that connection alive until the problem is solved, which sometimes means switching up the channel of communication.

We can think of this approach as a sort of omnichannel “cocoon.” Rather than providing a number of disparate ways for the customer to try—and potentially fail—to get in touch with the business and solve their problem, the business built a space where they know who the customer is, they know the issue, and they can communicate effectively via an ongoing thread to keep the customer informed and resolve the issue quickly.

In short, AI enables a continuous, lifelong conversation with the customer. Every time the customer comes back, they’re able to pick up where they left off, without providing new information. This process makes it easier on the customer and the agent, and lays the groundwork for a truly omnichannel experience.

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