In today’s hyper-connected world, brand loyalty can be one of the hardest goals to achieve. With a plethora of options at their fingertips, consumers are no longer enticed by labels, product image, or even price. It’s the experience with the brand that matters most. While getting the best deal still ranks high in many minds, if the experience of doing business with the company is difficult or lacking, that “great deal” feels less than great. Customer experience is becoming a boardroom conversation mainly because how a consumer feels about their interaction with a brand is becoming the biggest determination of whether they will come back.
So what defines “good customer service” today? It’s an experience that is easy, personalized, available, and accessible everywhere. And while that can feel like an impossible hill to climb, the benefits of offering a customer-first experience are plentiful. Customers that are turned into advocates are brand loyal and bring in new business and revenue. So how do you get there without breaking the bank or overworking your customer service team?
Modernize your customer engagement approach
Most customer service teams are bogged down with legacy systems that make it impossible to provide an efficient and personalized experience. Fundamental to putting customers first is, not surprisingly, actually knowing who those customers are. Modern customer engagement platforms are designed to close the information gap between customers and businesses to provide a single source of truth about the customer. By having a 360-degree view about their history with the brand and previous interactions, agents can provide a personalized experience from the jump, getting right down to the business of helping without spending precious minutes with introductory questions.
Now that you know who your customers are, chances are they – like most of us – want their questions or issues resolved quickly and would do absolutely anything to avoid the dreaded call center queue. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered tools are helping customers get assistance quickly and are providing companies of all sizes a cost-effective way to ensure their customer experience is scalable and consistent across channels. And since chatbots don’t take vacations, the always on and available requirements can easily be checked off.
For those that may be a bit skeptical about AI, don’t be. Today’s AI-powered chatbots are more intelligent than ever before, require less data than traditional machine learning to start offering value, and most importantly are easy for customers to engage with. Where traditional chatbots were very task oriented and relied on a strict script, modern chatbots are conversational – speaking to customers the way humans naturally communicate. They can understand the variances in how different customers communicate, allow for mistakes (like typos) and identify the intent of what the customer is asking, not the words that are being used. This leads to better and quicker outcomes for customers with simpler, straightforward requests while opening up agents to help those customers with more complex or high-value queries.
But don’t get swept away by tech
This sounds counter-intuitive to the earlier point, but it’s equally as important. A customer-first engagement strategy certainly requires some modernization to meet customer expectations, but it’s equally as important to not look at technology – AI or otherwise – as the silver bullet to all your customer experience issues. While tools like AI are fantastic at helping companies reduce call center volume and overall cost, it does not mean that human agents are obsolete. There are always going to be some situations that require human-touch, and some customers that prefer to engage with a living, breathing, emotionally intelligent person.
While the role of the human agent will likely evolve, the best deployment is one where human agents and bots work together to deliver the best possible outcomes for customers. In some cases that means bot-led with human assistance; the bot identifies the intent, providing the history and context of the initial engagement, and hands over to the human agent to help finalize the resolution. In other cases, it may be human-led, with bot assistance where the bot is providing information to the agent on the backend to help reach a solution more quickly.
Technology is evolving so quickly around us and the definition of good customer service is evolving with it. Emerging technologies are helping businesses reimagine how they engage with customers. But at the center of all of this innovation needs to be the customer. As technology advances and new business models emerge, the customer needs should to be at the heart of everything. The old cliché of the customer is always right remains constant and it’s important for companies not to forget this as they modernize their customer experience strategy.