How Digital Has Changed What Your Customers Want In Customer Service, Contact Centers, Support – Forbes
How has the digital transformation changed what customers are looking for in customer service, customer support, and from contact centers in particular? And how should companies respond?
âThe way consumers communicate has changed dramatically over the past several years,â Bob Segert, Executive Chairman of Aspect Software, which provides solutions to support customer contact, inside and outside of contact centers, tells me. âIt has been a massive transformation, with customers now thinking âdigital-firstâ and showing a preference for human-less engagement. As a result, itâs left companies with traditional models of interacting with customers solely through traditional contact center functionality struggling to keep up.â
I spoke with Segert to get more of his thoughts on how a business can succeed in being where their customers want them to be.
Micah Solomon: How are things changing in what customers are looking forâand demandingâfrom customer service?
Bob Segert, Executive Chairman, Aspect Software: In both their personal lives and the relationships they have with the brands they do business with, customers today operate with a digital-first mentality. Companies that recognize this are allowing their customers to engage with them on these digital channels. And in a growing number of cases, these digital channelsâsocial, messaging apps, SMS, chatbotsâare becoming the first entry point into the entire customer experience. The increase in touchpoints then puts pressure on the customer service organization to not only provide a consistent message and experience on those channels but also to provide the information and contextual responses necessary to create contiguous, not isolated, interactions.
Solomon: Not all companies are rushing to get in front of this new reality. What do you think is holding them back?
Segert: If a company has an outdated and loosely integrated set of engagement options for customers, they may rightly feel that adding another channel to the mix will just make a bad situation worse. Why risk creating greater alienation? The reason so many consumers continue to endure the frustration of being forced into a voice channel and repeating themselves is that the right hand of many customer service organizations doesnât know what the left hand is doing. Though customers are demanding interaction on text and messaging apps, just opening up a texting channel does not equate to true engagement. Companies need to have the ability to create a seamless engagement where a customer can move from self-service or SMS to a live voice agent without having to start all over again.
Solomon: What about companies that are trying to move forward? What pitfalls or common mistakes are they encountering?
Segert: Companies, as a whole, are still failing to understand the mind of the customer. As consumers, we have a growing desire for brands to meet us where we are. But unfortunately, those companies that are trying to enable digital-first engagementâtext, messaging apps, chatbotsâare repeating the mistakes of the past. These companies are adding channels without properly connecting them to the larger customer service ecosystem and, in their haste, are making the same mistakes companies have made deploying IVR systemsâforcing customers to repeat themselves and start from scratch every time they move channels. The way customers see it, as you are a customer, there is no end to a brand conversation. It starts from the minute you make a purchase until you decide to buy a competitive product. So, every question, every query, about any interaction or transaction by every mean and method should be trackable and referenceable for every agent on every engagement, every time. That is what companies need to strive for.
Solomon: What about chatbots? Are they complementing humans or supplanting them–or both depending on the situation?
Anyone paying any attention to consumer behavior today knows that customer desire to actually talk live to companies has been significantly fading. Half of the consumers in our 2016 Aspect Consumer Experience Index research said that they would prefer to conduct all customer service interactions via text/chat/messaging. And 44 percent said that they would prefer to use a chatbot to do so. But if one thing is glaringly clear from the data, itâs that people using chatbots do not want the experience to be in isolation – 86 percent of consumers expect to have the ability to transfer to a live agent should the interaction become too complicated.
We also found some interesting perspectives from the agents we surveyed. As of today, chatbots are designed to handle the easily answered questions, leaving the more complex, less frequently-asked questions to live agents. Nearly 80% of the agents we talked to felt that handling more complex customer issues improves their skills.
So, in answer to your question, chatbots are doing both: complementing human interaction in the contact center by giving customers faster, more easily attained answers to simple questions, and supplanting those same interactions and removing a few of the hindrances that make it difficult for agents to consistently provide that personal touch.