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AI’s Mark on UC, and How it’s Shaping the Future of Engagement

Over the last few years, digital transformation has had a dramatic effect on the way businesses communicate with consumers. Now that smartphones are the main way that consumers engage with an organization, the focus is shifting toward creating a better customer experience overall. In fact, according to Forrester, 72% of today’s businesses state that improving customer experience is a top priority.
 
As the percentage of consumers interacting with businesses via digital channels increases, organizations are adjusting to meet consumers where they are — and trying to anticipate where their preferences are headed in the next three to five years. Although the outlook of retaining loyal customers may appear grim for certain organizations, the same advancements in technology that ignited this focus on digitization are now offering businesses the opportunity to elevate their customer experience to retain and satisfy customers.
 
Artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, is influencing the unified communications (UC) industry to improve this. Organizations across the board are starting to use UC, for example, to meet the shifting consumer expectations for communication. As a result, they’re also beginning to look to AI technology for new ways to better communicate with today’s digitally inclined consumers. As businesses begin to use AI to reshape the status quo of communication, the next generation of customer engagement is also ushered in. Self-service options through chatbot technology and enhanced consumer-representative relationships are just a few of the ways that AI is currently impacting UC, and directly shaping the way consumers engage with organizations.
 
Self-service via Bot Technology
Consumer preference is shifting to quick, digital conversations that spend the least amount of time solving an issue, and chatbots offer an effective way to do that in several industries. Because of today’s 24/7 culture, self-service options are becoming a preferred method for contacting businesses. According to a 2015 report by Aspect Software, 73% of consumers preferred solving product or service issues on their own.
 
American Express’ 2017 Customer Service Barometer also reported that more than six out of 10 consumers named a digital self-service tool, such as a website, mobile app, voice response system, or online chat as their go-to channel for simple inquiries.
 
As a result, chatbot technology that uses AI to automate the initial interaction – or the entire interaction in some cases – can greatly enhance an organization’s customer engagement. In 2018, Gartner predicted over the next couple of years that AI will become a mainstream customer experience outlet, with 47% of organizations using it for customer care.
 
This goes hand-in-hand with another key strategy that AI-driven chatbots enable — extended hours of service.
 
Businesses using a UC solution in their contact centers can front-end service-related inquiries on the website — using AI to offer support beyond traditional business hours. This also helps to open up the number of available resources within business hours. Through pairing AI chatbot technology with live agents when more complicated requests occur, businesses become empowered to meet the increasing consumer demand for 24/7 service.
 
Enhanced Consumer-Representative Relationships
AI is also shaping the future of engagement by enhancing consumer-representative relationships. Customer experience has become so important that consumers are likely to take their business elsewhere if they are unsatisfied with even one interaction with a company. Research done by SurveyMonkey found that 78% of customers say poor customer service makes them lose trust in a brand.
 
According to Accenture, 75% of consumers are also more likely to make a purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history and can recommend products based on their preferences. Since consumers are often communicating with businesses on-the-go or throughout their workday, having identity and preferences remembered when initiating a conversation can go a long way. For example, consider a patient contacting their local clinic via a mobile app to schedule an appointment. Nowadays, most patients would expect some level of recognition within the app, whether it be a patient’s preferred clinic location or preferred provider, to help streamline the conversation and schedule the appointment quickly. As a result, organizations across a variety of industries are seeking to elevate relationships with consumers to ensure loyalty and retention, and they’re turning to AI solutions to help do so.
 
In addition to making interactions on a mobile app convenient and fast, AI is also poised to enhance consumer-representative relationships with the availability of real-time data or insights during an interaction. Businesses using contact centers, for example, are beginning to deploy tone analysis solutions that provide the representative with insight into their tone of voice, as well as the customer’s inflections, during a real-time conversation. This insight to both parties’ vocal tone, mood, and sentiment can enable a contact center agent to make adjustments on the fly to provide a more personalized level of service.
 
As digital transformation continues to reshape the expectations of today’s consumers in terms of flexibility and convenience in communication with a business, AI is certainly making its mark on UC technology and (in turn) shaping the future of engagement.

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