Ah the sound of the cash register, the ‘kerching’ of a sale, the buzz on your phone as a purchase is made… there is nothing more welcome to a vendor’s ear than any, and all, of the above. And so too, to the satisfied customer when that coveted possession is now officially theirs.
To get a prospect to actually commit to a purchase is an achievement, given that the Customer Journey is fraught with opportunity for customers to leave the path and go elsewhere for solutions. Until that actual transaction has gone through and been finalised, it is still too early to rest on one’s laurels, so to speak, because something as simple as a last-minute poor experience can send that potential buyer running for the hills — into the arms of the competition.
A growing trend in the Customer Journey, no matter how mature your strategy may be, is the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI). Now robots are being enlisted to better serve customers’ needs and improve their experience, with the intention of ultimately leading to a purchase.
Why AI, one asks — querulously?
People as a rule are wary of anything that has a robotic feel to it but, as industry speeds up and we increasingly expect and depend on fast, quick and seamless problem solving, it appears that our machinelike friends are stepping into the gap, more so as organisations scale.
Who can’t relate to hanging on for eternity for the answer to a simple question, waiting to speak to a customer support agent — who has (in all probability) answered this same question hundreds of times — only to finally be met with a bored, demotivated soul who would rather be on a beach somewhere, or at least playing on their mobile phone?
And then they can’t answer the question, even from their carefully prepared script… That is, if you are still on the line and haven’t run out of airtime in the process, while holding on.
Dunno about you, but I get really irritated with a slack attitude, fumbling, uncertainty and poor customer service generally. I’m the one who terminates the call prematurely — I’m that person.
Generally speaking, industry-standard for a call centre abandonment rate is between 5% and 8%. Call abandonment is classified when the caller hangs up early, either before an agent can (eventually) address their question, or while an agent is attempting to help them.
As a customer, we want to be acknowledged as important or, at the very least, respected as someone seeking help and a solution to a query, no matter how trivial the query may be. The surest way to satisfy a customer is to solve the problem as seamlessly as possible, and a bored or indifferent person on the other end of the line is not really likely to offer this, fact.
Some would say that it is no longer necessary to endure slack service, as the human element is slowly being phased out in some companies, with AI being incorporated into their customer support teams to improve interactions and the customer experience.
According to Microsoft, “By 2025, as many as 95% of all customer interactions will be through channels supported by artificial intelligence (AI) technology.”
Reasons to get comfortable interacting with AI
The irony here is that out-dated systems — eg agents reading from scripts —create frustration and, by introducing AI at any point along the Customer Journey, the customer will experience informed, intelligent and convenient solutions, making for a more ‘personalised’, integrated and omni-channelled experience. AI re-imagines the customer interaction, blowing out the cobwebs of legacy systems.
As good as CRM systems may be, no-one in a customer-facing role can be expected to ingest the entire history associated with any one customer, and then be expected to obtain their own insights, ‘on the fly’, in real time, to solve the issue at hand. It is also impossible to programme rules into automated systems to handle every imaginable aspect of a customer’s history.
To be able to achieve this level of service and heightened customer experience wherever they interact with your brand, product, service, etc. requires finding intricate patterns within almost limitless data points. This is where AI excels, leaving no touchpoint, untouched, so to speak.
This requires merging data for any type of behavioural analytics and, with the latest generation of data unification tools the process is not only fast, less manpower intensive, but also a fraction of the cost of the expansive data engineering initiatives of old, and AI thrives in this environment, the more data crunching the better.
We impatient humans want results, yesterday, so for AI to add any sort of value to the Customer Journey, they need to offer responses intuitively — read, naturally/in the moment — understanding and interfacing with the customer’s chosen touchpoint. This is the key to in-the-moment, successful engagement, the key to insightful, real-time delivery. I can buy into that, no more fumbling from a tired or bored call centre agent.
By now, I am sure we have all encountered applications such as chatbots — intended to mimic human interaction and provide instant, customised responses, 24/7 — and virtual assistants that obey commands or answer questions and which, through engaging the customer in a simple conversation help shoppers find what they are looking for?
Within the correct context, AI can actually shape customer behaviours, through finding the correct touchpoints and by making the service automated, fast and hassle-free.
Taking it a step further, AI remembers a customer, and treats them with the warranted respect and attention throughout their unique customer journey, no backchat or attitude.
And here, to make you think a little deeper, just in case you are still hesitant…
So, before you blanche at the thought of being assisted by a digital agent and visions of ‘Terminator’ flash through your mind, think about those wasted Life-Minutes you spent on hold waiting for that call centre agent to solve your problem, then think hassle-free, instant, intelligent and helpful information, all rolled into one (successful) interaction that gets you heading directly to the check-out point.
I’ll buy that!