Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave!


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Most analysts agree that improving customer self-service offerings should be a high priority for organizations in 2013, but do current offerings match customers’ expectations?

Driven by an increasingly connected world that knows no time constraints for shopping, switching service providers or paying bills, customers are demanding the same access to an organization’s service and support operations. Forrester says that 71% of consumers place valuing their time as the most important thing a company can do in customer service.

However, online self-service is often anything but time-saving. A combination of out of date knowledge bases, overly complex FAQs and search boxes that leave users wondering if it’s their spelling or terminology that is at fault for irrelevant results, makes it a miracle customers find the answer to a query at all. Let alone quickly.

One of the problems is that websites are just too complex to easily navigate and ironically they’ve become that way to serve customers better. Responding to customer demand for additional product offerings and providing more choice might have helped sales to grow, but it has also significantly increased the complexity of an organization’s infrastructure and their websites.

When speed, alongside reliable information, has become paramount in securing a sale or customer loyalty, it doesn’t matter how much information is available on a website, if it’s not easily accessible it can have a very negative effect. In an independent survey sponsored by Artificial Solutions, 89% of people saying they would potentially buy from a competitor if they could not get their queries answered online.

An intelligent virtual assistant powered by natural language interaction (NLI) overcomes these problems by enabling the customer to ask a question in their own way without any need to understand industry jargon or the right terminology. In fact, NLI technology can even compensate for common spelling mistakes and still deliver the answer the customer was looking for. If an important piece of information such as color or tariff is missing, the assistant doesn’t just give the nearest answer, it asks the customer for further clarification.

A good virtual assistant shouldn’t just be able to deliver the right answer. They should enrich the self-service experience by automatically updating back office systems, walking customers through problem-solving trees, setting up transactions such as requesting the dispatch of spares or booking a service call.

To satisfy customer needs, organizations must continue to provide a wealth of information online, excluding any possibility of websites becoming easier to navigate. As the labyrinth of web pages grow, companies must deliver not just the answer to the query, but a suitable method to find that answer in the first place.

Andy Peart
Andy Peart is CMO of Artificial Solutions, the natural language interaction (NLI) specialist that enables users to have a meaningful, humanlike interaction with technology. Andy has over 25 years experience in running marketing operations in the UK, Europe and the US, including executive management roles at software companies such as ACT, Alterian, Kalamazoo and Magic Software.


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