According to Gartner, “By 2020, 85 percent of all customer service interactions will no longer require the support of a human intermediary.” By optimally deploying disruptive tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, virtual assistants and bots, retailers can transform customer interactions, differentiate their brands and increase profits.
Many retailers already have automated customer interactions using SMS alerts, interactive voice response phone systems, and email reminders to reduce contact center volumes during the peak holiday season. The good news is the opportunity to automate has grown significantly with the introduction of AI into the customer experience. All of our digital interactions — chat, social, SMS, email and website self-help — can now leverage AI to enhance the efficiency of customer care teams. To process high volumes in half the time, retailers can implement a hybrid of virtual assistants and humans where AI technology does the majority of the heavy lifting and humans become the final editors.
The challenge for many companies has been that when it comes to bots and AI, they don’t know where to start. Here are four key steps companies can take to modernize their CX.
1. Map the customer journey
Journey maps capture customer actions and emotions when interacting with a service, product or brand. Conducting interviews and surveys, reading transcripts and reviews, and running analytics can reveal how your customer would prefer to interact and how they actually interact with your brand. You can get to know your customers better by looking at CX from multiple perspectives — front and back office, different channels and tiers, and others.
While journey mapping, you may learn where your biggest customer service failures happen. You may also discover where AI could resolve issues and have a dramatic impact on efficiency, such as adopting a proactive SMS/text notification strategy for order status updates or using chatbots during checkout, on support pages or for visitors shopping for more than 20 minutes.
2. Collect and analyze customer data
Data analysts can help you source customer data and extract meaning from it. They can objectively identify your top 10 contact drivers and help you determine which ones could be automated entirely, partially, or in some cases, not at all. Data analysts can also track customer resolution rates. If customers are not getting issues resolved adequately, the CX needs to be redesigned.
3. Decide on the right mix of bots (computers) and brains (humans)
Develop your hybrid CX strategy based on your main contact drivers. Decide which transactions require a refresh. Three CX trends may shape your approach:
Customers are already comfortable talking to bots. Think “Hello, Siri.” According to a Google study conducted by Northstar Research, more than half of teens and 41 percent of adults in the U.S. use voice search daily.
Conversations are driving commerce. “Conversational commerce,” a term coined by Chris Messina (formerly of Uber and Google), points to the intersection of messaging apps and shopping. Conversational commerce interfaces such as Slack and WhatsApp, have become mainstream, increasingly enabled by bots and AI.
Bots are addressing menial tasks, enabling humans to focus on higher-value work. AI enables humans to persuade and make complex decisions. One manufacturer/retailer of outdoor clothing used automation to improve conversion rates by 40 percent with an abandoned shopping cart strategy. When a customer removed a cart item, a 10 percent off promotion popped up. If the customer accepted the discount, a live chat agent appeared to close the sale.
4. Engage the right partners to execute
Mixing bots and brains is best done as a team and in phases (usually over a period of 6 months to 12 months) as applying the right mix requires ongoing measurement and maintenance. An internal (IT) or external partner who has experience with bots and AI technologies can help you implement efficiently. However, do not relinquish responsibility entirely to the partner. The most successful CX automation projects involve those who have direct contact with customers.
Today’s CX demands accuracy, speed, efficiency and an authentic connection. Combining human and computerized interactions can differentiate your brand while driving a smarter, more modern CX that meets your customers’ needs.
Lauren Kindzierski is vice president, solutions and capabilities at HGS. Her passion for customer experience has driven her to develop innovative engagement solutions for clients with smart integration of Bots&Brains™. In 2016, she received a Silver Stevie® Award for being a Women Leader in Business, Executive of the Year. Lauren holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Walsh College.