A new survey by Voxpro – powered by TELUS International reveals how consumers feel about CX and technology.
Customer experience (CX) strategies, channels and preferences are constantly changing. As new innovations such as AI, machine learning and automation come to market, many businesses seek to leverage these technologies in order to improve operations and CX. For customers, however, taking a huge leap into the future isn’t always what they’re looking for.
With so many channels and ways to interact with brands now at a customer’s disposal, it’s almost impossible to predict what each individual wants when it comes to personal brand interactions. While we here at Voxpro don’t claim to be clairvoyant, we do have the next best thing – opinions of more than 1,000 consumers in the US.
In October 2018, Voxpro surveyed these consumers to gauge how they feel about customer experience with brands, their preferences for interacting with technology, and to what extent they trust brands and tech. The results of the ‘Voxpro CX Index: At the Corner of Technology and Human Experience’ provide us with ideas of what the future of CX looks like, and how brands can successfully deploy strategies that create engagement and mutual trust between them and their customers.
As Technology Evolves, Consumer Preferences Will Too
At the dawn of customer experience, the most sophisticated technology for brand interactions was the telephone. Consumers would call a number, only to be placed on hold for an exorbitant amount of time and then they might not even speak to the right person or department who can help resolve their issue. While frustrating, consumers had no choice but to put up with it because it was the only option available to them in addressing their problem. Fast forward to 2019, and things have moved on quite significantly, to say the least.
Today, consumers have a wide range of options when deciding how to interact with a brand, and one of the most promising channels with which to do that is automated chat. Brands embrace it for its obvious cost-saving benefits and its ability to automate simple interactions, freeing up agents to tackle more complex issues. Consumers today, however, are far less likely (than brands) to embrace it. Indeed, the Voxpro survey reveals that 68 percent of consumers still have not used a chatbot to contact a brand for customer service.
Our advice to brands, however, is not to give up on this channel simply because it has yet to be widely embraced by consumers. Whenever new technologies come to market there will generally be hesitation from consumers. Think about it in the context of SMS texting. At first, only teenagers and younger generations embraced it, and it was quite a costly add-on service to monthly cellular packages. Now, it’s the go-to channel for personal and oftentimes professional communication amongst almost all ages. Indeed, it’s so common that unlimited SMS is table stakes for all cellular providers today while dozens of apps that can offer free texting – such as WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber – have emerged.
The takeaway here is that consumer preferences evolve over time. As consumers gain more exposure to new technologies, they begin to feel more comfortable and trusting, using the technologies freely and often. Brands should continue to invest in and deliver chat and AI options with the belief that consumers will in time start to see the benefits and conveniences these channels bring to their customer experience. As our survey reveals, some already do – 49 percent would be willing to use these features initially for information gathering, with a view to ultimately speak to an agent to resolve their issue.
However, brands should be cautious about relying solely on these technologies. Of the 32 percent of consumers that have used chatbots, only 47 percent rated their experience as either good or very good. Clearly, there are still improvements to be made and so, businesses should continue to depend on a balanced approach to CX – that is, leveraging both human and technology assets.
Technology Won’t Replace Humans and Bots Aren’t Taking Over the World
Despite general talk that robots will be able to do everything better than humans, the truth is that the future of customer experience is dependent on both humans and technology. When 56 percent of consumers haven’t used chat or automated features specifically because they prefer experiences with real people, the writing is on the wall – robots aren’t going to replace agents any time soon.
While chat is very beneficial for information gathering and solving simple, common customer service issues, only humans are equipped with the problem-solving skills and capabilities to rationally handle or escalate more complex and unique interactions. Not to mention the fact that the human ability to empathise as well as connect on a personal level can never be emulated by technology.
On the other hand, technology still has its place in the CX realm. Its ability to quickly process data and efficiently handle mundane tasks means that customer issues are resolved faster, resulting in better experiences that create loyal customers. It also allows agents to focus on the more pressing and strategic matters at hand.
In 2019, we’re going to continue seeing the customer experience landscape evolve. New and improved technologies will advance the way brands engage customers and, as they do, consumers will learn to interact and use these technologies to their advantage – to create better experiences. However, humans are at the heart of every brand and their value will always be critical to attracting and retaining long-term, loyal customers. Our advice in 2019 is to ensure that your CX strategy comprises a blended approach that involves humans and technology to help you deliver beautiful customer experiences all-year long.
Check out part one and two of this blog series on the Voxpro survey that dives into more details and consumer perceptions of customer experience and technology. For more information on the Voxpro CX Index and to download a summary of the results, please visit here.