Nothing sours a customer on a brand faster than a less-than-ideal interaction when they need assistance. Research shows poor customer service causes up to 66% of customers to switch brands. Many companies try to address this issue by hiring more people to staff call centers, but–as the saying goes–the better option is to work smarter, not harder. Enter cognitive automation (intelligent automation).
The average consumer expects immediate service in this digital age; they want 24/7 access to answers, multiple ways to connect with a business, and for their issues to be resolved quickly. Chatbots are the first wave of response to these needs, currently resolving about 30-50% of customer inquiries. Customers prefer these interactions to waiting on the phone, and it reduces call center workload, too. These artificial intelligence technologies are good, but chatbots and AI technology aren’t the whole solution.
A recent SuperOffice Customer Service Benchmark Report analyzed the customer service quality of 1,000 companies and found most are missing the mark. Eighty percent of businesses believe they are providing excellent customer service, while just 8% of customers agree. Yikes!
Assuming that a company’s response to an email query would generalize to their customer service overall, researchers sent out identical emails to their targets. The email was two simple questions:
Do you have a phone number I can call?
Where can I find pricing information on your website?
Responses were measured across five different customer experience categories. The real story here, though, is that 62% of the companies contacted never responded at all. Human intervention failed. Automated customer service has a better record. Of the companies that did respond, only 20% of them answered both questions in the first response.
What seems like the simplest litmus test of customer service revealed a massive failure on every index that matters to customers (response, response time, response information).
If a basic chatbot with AI capabilities can take care of 30-50% of customer interaction or inquiries, research suggests cognitive automation (intelligent automation) can make 80% of the average customer journey digitally touchless.
Let’s look at some companies leveraging automation to up their customer service game.
Amazon was among the first companies to centralize their customer service database – once a customer has reported an issue via any communication channel, that information is available to all channels so that information need not be repeated upon subsequent contact(s).
In addition, while Amazon was also an early adopter of chatbot help, recently they began using neural-network-based models for both customer-facing assistance and for use by human representatives to better their responses. Their cognitive service is based in conversational AI and natural language processing. As the system learns to make better decisions, it improves performance and decreases the time human workers must spend assisting customers.
UK telecom company Vodafone was dealing with frustrated customers and extended call times in their service center, where there is a high volume of expertise needed but also a high rate of employee churn. The solution? Implementing cognitive automation (intelligent automation) to manage the workload. Relevant information can be presented to CSRs as needed to augment decision making, and many calls can be handled entirely by virtual agents. The average call time dropped from 10-20 minutes to just 4-8 minutes, and the previously arduous repetitive task of post-call information logging was automated as well, improving overall operational efficiency.
In addition to being a large and successful hotel chain, Wyndham has begun to invest in providing exactly the customer service needed, when and where customers want it. Again, it starts with cloud technology, uniting data across platforms and 20 different brands, reducing the need for customers to repeat information already stored elsewhere in the system. Customer service representatives use these harmonized systems to help make decisions while assisting guests to help them more efficiently, or guests can opt for self-service through a handy app. Customers are more satisfied and representatives have more time to deal with exception issues that can’t be solved with automation.
Often the supposed drawback of automation is that it’s cold and impersonal, and a human touch is preferable. The announcement of Google Duplex turned this criticism on its ear; not only does this virtual assistant handle specific appointment-setting phone calls for you, it does so with natural speech patterns indistinguishable from a real human. The system can handle a wide variety of natural conversational situations using a recurrent neural network that continually learns and improves.
The implications for such technology and its impact on customer satisfaction are far-reaching. Customers who are hard of hearing, or who struggle with speech, or who simply prefer not to make phone calls can use Google Duplex to accomplish reservation tasks easily. On the other end of the phone line, no special accommodations are required.
Customers appreciate quick responses and immediate feedback. Customer service representatives are happier in their jobs and more productive when they are assisted with their automation and/or freed up from repetitive tasks to focus on solving problems as needed. A cognitive automation solution uses machines to help customer service representatives personalize the customer experience – cognitive capabilities are speeding up assistance, targeting their specific needs, and getting them to a helpful human if needed – resulting in higher customer satisfaction.
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