It’s the Age of Engagement in Customer Experience. What does that mean? In a nutshell, it means that in an increasingly digitized world, the need for companies to form a deep and meaningful human connection with their customer base is more crucial now than ever before.
The delivery of Customer Experience has been utterly transformed in recent years by leaps in technological advancement. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the first-touch connections that customers are making with companies. AI and Machine Learning have completely changed the game.
But in the race to embrace revolutionary new technologies, often in order to increase volume and reduce cost, it’s easy to lose sight of one very important factor: the value of human connection. The numbers show that humans still prefer to deal with other humans rather than with digital channels – 83 percent, to be precise. When a customer has a great experience with a brand, they stay loyal for longer and spend more. In Voxpro’s view, great customer experiences are no longer delivered by humans or technology, but rather by humans and technology together. We call it ‘Blended AI’. Voxpro Co-Founder and CEO Dan Kiely explains:
“2018 will be the year of blended AI—even though interest in AI and chatbots is increasing, human interaction will never go away. While some brands have goals of decreasing their call volume by 50%, real-time interaction will increase (as evident by the Forrester prediction that more brands will phase out email in favor of real-time customer engagement communications). Human interaction will be at the epicenter driving AI in customer service, and is imperative for it to be successful and not see satisfaction levels drop. We still need cognitive thinking that can tweak the algorithms and step in to help customers when needed – brands shouldn’t leave everything to a bot.”
This is where things get really interesting. While a customer’s desire to deal with other humans has not changed, the type of human they want to deal with has changed radically, as have the type of issues they want those humans to address. Customers want to deal with agents that already know their name and their entire case history by the time they pick up the phone. They also want them to be able to solve complex issues comprehensively and quickly, and to ensure that these issues will not arise again. In a nutshell, customers want highly individualized interactions with highly skilled and empowered agents. This is the essence of the Age of Engagement.
According to Jeffrey Puritt, President and CEO of TELUS International, the future of AI in customer service is focused on directly supporting, rather than replacing, contact center agents, because fundamentally, there are things humans can do that machines just can’t.
“Where machines have made very little progress is in tackling novel situations. They can’t handle things they haven’t seen many times before. The limitation of machine learning is that it needs to learn from large volumes of past data. Humans don’t. We have the ability to connect seemingly disparate threads to solve problems we’ve never seen before.”
IDC research supports this notion, citing that overall customer service agent numbers are anticipated to go up over the next 2-3 years, with many firms reporting an expected increase between 10-50 percent.
Not only will we need more agents, we will see a need for more highly-skilled agents who can solve more complex customer cases and provide cross-channel consistency of service,” continues Puritt. “More than ever before, customer service agents are the key to providing a world-class brand experience.”
In the Age of Engagement, humans are rapidly travelling up the value chain, and it is AI and Machine Learning that are fuelling the journey. Here are four examples of how:
1. Machines can handle basic CX tasks at a volume and speed never seen before, thereby freeing up humans to solve more complex problems for customers, while building deeper relationships with them.
2. AI has the power to collect and aggregate vast amounts of customer data across business systems, websites, past customer interactions, and many other sources. This data allows the agent to have a highly personal, informed and time-efficient interaction with the customer. The data also allows companies to provide excellent self-service options, again, freeing up customer service agents for the most complex problems.
3. When customers call for help with minor issues, AI can handle them far more quickly than humans, thereby reducing customer wait times and increasing first-time resolution rates. This allows agents to spend more time with customers when necessary, in turn deepening that human connection.
4. Finally, AI has the power to support that most precious human quality of all: empathy. Xavient, a global IT consulting and software services company, has built an AI-powered analytics platform called AMPLIFY. By coupling voice recognition software with customer data, AMPLIFY can determine when there’s an issue that should be escalated to a live agent. The agent is then fully prepared to deal with the customer in a highly empathetic way, and they are equipped with all of the data they need to provide swift yet personal resolution.
The Age of Engagement will see a revolution in Customer Experience: incredibly powerful technology empowering agents to deliver the most high-touch, high-care experience for a whole new generation of customers. The deep human connection that this will forge between customers and brands will bring about longer-lasting and more valuable relationships between them. Voxpro – powered by TELUS International is leading the way in combining the best of both humans and machines so that the global brands we partner with are perfectly positioned to thrive in this new era.