New interactive technologies have the potential to intelligently transform the customer experience, delivering a deeper level of brand engagement. Despite these innovations, adoption for these solutions remains sluggish: A recent Microsoft survey (via AINews) found that U.S. companies are among the slowest surveyed globally to adopt AI technology. Given the seamless experience consumers expect with businesses today, I believe this is a missed opportunity.
Social media platforms like Twitter and marketplaces like Amazon have opened up direct channels for consumers to communicate with their favorite brands and also receive feedback in a matter of hours as they share detailed information about their individual experiences. Many consumers now expect this type of responsive experience everywhere they go, whether they’re shopping at well-known retailers or local mom and pop stores. As a result, many businesses, particularly traditional brick-and-mortar stores, may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage if they struggle to understand how to adopt new CX solutions. The good news is that these tools need not be overly complicated to install or require a costly investment, and many companies offer them today.
Here are three examples of new technology solutions that can help vastly improve the customer experience.
It’s not uncommon to call your favorite restaurant to order food only to reach a busy signal or be placed on a long hold. Or you may call your local grocery store to confirm its new store hours and find yourself listening to a long recorded message that doesn’t address your question. Companies can use chatbots to alleviate these concerns while driving greater efficiency and cutting costs. Many companies offer chatbot solutions, including my company (MetTel), Drift and ChatBot. In order to be successful, chatbots should always be available and should be able to handle large customer volumes and deliver on basic tasks (such as answering questions about the business) with no human interaction needed. Companies can also train them to escalate the most important customer issues quickly, enabling the customer service team to prioritize the most time-sensitive or urgent cases.
You may receive a text from your customer that is directed to your landline phone number at your store, only to later (or never) learn that your customer’s text message never made it. Where did it go? Many people may not realize that they are texting landlines that aren’t equipped to handle text messages. Landlines don’t support texting as a default, despite the fact that texting is one of the most popular ways of communicating. But the technology for text-enabling landlines is available (companies like mine, MessageKite and SlickText are just a few that offer these solutions), so business owners never have to worry about leaving a customer hanging. HighSpeedInternet.com (via Times Record News) found that 88% of millennials prefer texting over phone calls, so you can use this technology to cater to a range of communication preferences.
Coordinating calls and appointments can be a pain point for businesses, particularly when dealing with different time zones and competing schedules. New solutions from companies like mine, X.ai and Presence.ai employ AI to help automatically find available times. Many use natural language when communicating with customers to help them easily schedule or reschedule based on previous preferences or tone of voice. By employing this technology, you may be able to free up your staff to focus on more important tasks. Working with AI can also help eliminate confusion and customer no-shows by automatically sending reminders and dealing with real-time human answers, which can be costly for businesses.
Hurdles & Challenges
As with any technology deployment — never more so than during the current time of breakneck speed at which we’re digitally transforming our businesses — there needs to be a healthy mix of technologists, business analysts and front-line employees, and you need to make sure they work harmoniously on making these CX solutions successful in your business. These examples of digitizing CX are only as good as the team engaged to deploy them properly; I have seen these specific efforts become both wildly successful and time-sucking dead-end projects. I believe the companies that use these technologies to enhance and assist the current workforce are the ones that will prove successful long term. I think all us have had a bad experience with solutions like these when we’re trying to engage companies.
One other point of evaluation is budget: Make certain that you bite off these projects in digestible amounts. Look for quick wins while creating a long-term strategy that is flexible based on the knowledge you gain from your small wins (or failures). This practice will help you control budget overages.
Because Covid-19 is creating challenges for businesses, there is more pressure than ever to deliver a better experience and reassure customers during this difficult time. Despite the pressure, companies can use interactive technologies like these to help address customer needs in more efficient, smart and innovative ways, which can result in more satisfied customers with stronger loyalty to their brands.
This article was originally featured in Forbes.