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Creating Smart Customer Experiences, the IT Way

Information technology’s transition from a cost center to a growth driver is one of the most significant elements of the digital transformation era. In the arena of customer experience, IT has the vital responsibility of ensuring brands are accessible (and successful) through the many digital channels that customers are rapidly embracing. Launching these channels isn’t enough – anyone can set up a Facebook or Twitter profile to source customer feedback – all channels need to work together seamlessly to guide customers through a single, cohesive journey. In fact, 91% of customers polled expect a seamless transition between customer service channels, but only 24% of businesses give themselves an excellent rating on doing so.
 
Getting transitions right is an important step in creating brand advocacy among customers, but it isn’t a quick fix. It requires a delicate blend of artificial intelligence, as well as support for contact center agents who serve on the front lines of customer experience. When assessing the right solution that balances expectations of modern, digital-first customers and the skills of agents, here’s what IT needs to keep in mind:
 
Digital, Voice Channels are Blending
In the early days of customer experience, the most IT professionals needed to assess was the phone system. They asked questions like: Does it have IVR functionality? Can it route customers to the agent with the right skills? Today, channels for customer service are much more dispersed, with tools like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp gaining popularity and chatbots and SMS text becoming more common.
 
Just because customers are leaning on these new digital channels, it doesn’t mean they’re forsaking traditional functionality. In many cases, they’re using the typical service functions within them. Again, WhatsApp is a good example. Known for its messaging services, customers are increasingly using voice messages within the tool to engage with businesses. The result is a much more integrated, and complicated, omnichannel functionality that IT professionals need to solve for.
 
When building a true omnichannel system, IT professionals should consider launching new channels, and channel functionality should start with a proof of concept and be built out on a use-case basis. Furthermore, consider partnering across the entire business to understand specific instances where your digital-first omnichannel strategy isn’t measuring up to expectations. By taking a measured, iterative approach, businesses can keep up with customer behavior as it evolves and changes in real-time.
 
The Best Agent: An Emotionally Intelligent One
Customer service success metrics have traditionally revolved around speed and efficiency. Therefore, the best tools IT could invest in are those that reduce Average Handling Time (AHT) and increase First Response Time (FRT) rates. It’s a safe bet since research has shown that 94% of customers expect companies to direct them to the fastest contact method.
 
Technology has evolved to the point that businesses can measure emotional responses and feelings of customers through digital channels. Creating a customer for life is now based on building consistently positive emotional memories, measured with metrics like Personal Service Level (measuring agent commitment to each customer) or Net Promoter Score (measuring customer sentiment toward a brand).
 
In response, IT now needs to focus on supporting a new type of agent, one that balances speed of resolution with emotional intelligence to create exceptional experiences across any digital channels. This puts a new emphasis on natural language processing and coaching features to help guide agents proactively. Agents need to learn from both positive and negative indicators, so they can adjust course, and provide the best customer experience.
 
AI Should be ‘Invisible’
It’s no secret that the potential of AI is far-reaching. Currently, contact centers use AI in the form of chatbots, which handle low-impact customer service issues and can reduce call volume. Chatbots aren’t always effective, though, and 79% of consumers say that chatbots and virtual assistants need to get smarter before they regularly use them.
 
As AI matures, it’s important for IT leaders to not buy into the hype of AI for the sake of it. Rather, IT needs to emphasize AI’s role in eliminating repetitive tasks, so staff can better address complex customer issues. Start by assessing the top five most repetitive tasks within the organization and look at AI deployment through that lens. When AI is working correctly, it gives businesses the resources they need to be more human.
 
Mapping Technology to Humanity
The future of customer experience is leveraging human potential through technology. As the foundation for any business, IT has a responsibility to strategically deploy solutions that help meet and exceed customer expectations and support a new generation of customer advocacy. That, ultimately, will be a major driver of growth across the entire organization in the experience economy.

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