We’ve all come to appreciate and rely on high-speed Internet access at home over the last two years. I’m fortunate to live in an area with fiber from multiple providers and enjoy 1GB of unlimited data usage that is rock solid—except when limbs fall on the aerial fiber line, which has happened twice recently.
Each incident proved a reminder that in 2022, customer service, or the customer experience (CX) as it’s called in the parlance of our times, seems to disappoint constantly. There are exceptions, of course, but that is what they are: exceptions. Most of the time, we’re either underwhelmed or flat-out disappointed at how we are treated as customers when we need service.
In this case, I had a fiber optic cable lying across my front lawn. I identified the problem and logged into the mobile app to report the outage. The mobile app wasn’t user-friendly and had me jumping through multiple hoops to troubleshoot why my Internet was down. Are the router lights lit? Are they blinking? Did you try resetting the router? After finally exhausting all self-service suggestions, only then was I given a link to chat with an agent.
After sitting in a queue for a few minutes, an agent greeted me with, “Welcome to wireless sales – how may I help you?” They couldn’t help me and couldn’t transfer me to the appropriate group—not surprising. To say I was frustrated at this point would be an understatement. I had to start all over, including going back through the troubleshooting steps, before I could get a phone number. When I did finally speak to an agent, the agent eventually transferred me to the group that was able to log the ticket and send out a truck.
This experience bothered me—the customer, as this is a major company that failed at a very basic task. The connection from self-service to the contact center should have passed along my info, including what I had been doing in the app for the last 45 minutes. And the company wouldn’t even need AI to do that.
As I thought about my aggravating CX experience, I wondered why stuff like this is still happening in 2022. We have the solutions to fix this. I’m sure this particular company spends tons of money on CX. So why is customer service, in general, not getting better? We used to blame it on legacy technology, but COVID-19 has escalated migrations to new solutions in the cloud.
The reality is that this is a difficult problem to solve. We’ve talked a lot about silos for many years now, but it continues to be a huge barrier to intelligent and integrated CX. The organizational silos lead to system silos, and while the self-service portal, in this case, could connect me with an agent, it couldn’t connect me with the right agent. This is the difference between connected systems and integrated systems. Connected is better than not connected, but the systems don’t integrate if they can’t pass intelligence along with the interaction.
Another problem is the limited use of AI and multiple AI engines. Data collected by one AI engine often isn’t passed to another. This problem magnifies in self-service scenarios, where oftentimes, AI is used to power chatbots that are pretty much limited to what users can do for themselves in self-service. I find that many times if I strike out in self-service, a chatbot or even a chat agent, in many cases, isn’t able to resolve my issue either. A single intelligent AI design would allow the system to correctly understand what I needed from the self-service interaction and bypass avenues that can’t help me.
When I started looking into this back in 2021, I asked folks around the industry why handoffs from self-service to the contact center get mishandled often. I had an answer in mind but wanted to hear from the perspective of companies building contact center solutions. I found there wasn’t a lot of interest in having these conversations. To me, that lack of an answer was an answer in and of itself: the contact center industry has focused on CX within its walls and hasn’t been overly concerned with what happens before customers entering the contact center. In my case, I entered the contact center because of failures in self-service, was misdirected, and ended the interaction with a poor customer experience.
Last fall, I had the honor of attending the NICE analyst briefing, which happened to be the first in-person event I had been to in 18 months. As their executives went through strategy presentations, they began to talk about expanding NICE’s reach into self-service. The company talked at length about how CX is so much bigger than the contact center and that the key is the ability to manage and track customer interactions well before they enter the contact center. NICE even showed a brief demo of its mobile app that allows organizations to integrate the mobile self-service experience into the contact center.
Again, this isn’t an easy problem to solve. But I appreciate NICE’s vision and willingness to provide leadership on how to improve CX outcomes by getting involved earlier in the customer interactions. By applying AI and advanced analytics beyond the walls of the contact center, service organizations can get smarter about customer interactions, and we can finally receive the more efficient and personalized service we all want.
NICE isn’t the only company out there working on the problem for sure, and I look forward to digging into future briefings with NICE and its competitors to track the progress of this approach as it matures.
We can't blame lousy CX on legacy technology anymore. But moving to the cloud doesn't magically make things better. Hopefully, as organizations complete their cloud migrations, we will see significant strides in improving CX as they seek to provide better customer outcomes. I'd settle for some small strides at this point.
Now that’s a use for AI I can get behind.
This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.