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    Tech alone can’t delight customers; we must not forget the human factor

    By: Mark Ackerman, Area VP, Middle East & Africa, ServiceNow 

     

    Just when regional business leaders think their customers cannot get any more demanding, those customers find a way. For example, in a recent Oracle study, 90% of respondents said they thought brands could “do more” to “deliver happiness”. UAE businesses have always sought to get the customer experience just right, but up until recently, these efforts centered on keeping promises, delivering quality goods and services, catering to omnichannel engagement, and making sure that digital workflows were intuitive, responsive, and always on. Now customers, jaded by the pandemic years, require even more. 

     

    At the heart of this challenge lies visibility. Customers may take to channels outside of corporate control to vent their frustrations, which is vital information lost to stakeholders. And even where the customer shares their concerns with the business, by way of complaint or query, engagement channels can often be split across roles, with one team in charge of email and others in charge of social, chat, or voice. 

     

    See far, see wide  

    Brands must be able to see the customer experience as it happens to the customer. This is the only way to deliver rapid resolution of issues. The ultimate goal is first-contact resolution, of course, but mainly, customers need to feel heard and need to have confidence that their concern is being addressed. Digitization would appear to answer many of these concerns, and it certainly goes a long way towards optimal service. Automation tools such as chatbots can handle the standard queries so that talent resources can be deployed to tackle more complex issues. Digitization also ensures that bots and humans can treat customers as individuals by making full interaction histories available to agents at each point of engagement.  

     

    But there are indications that digitization on its own may not be enough. A recent ServiceNow and ThoughtLab global survey found that investment in digital transformation can lead to deeper customer insights and subsequently to greater loyalty and retention, as well as better security and privacy. But across five industries and 1,000 polled executives, the survey found little reduction in complaints. Only around 25% saw any improvement. The pattern that emerged was that silos of engagement and information were holding back organizations’ ability to head issues off at the pass.  

     

    Without having access to the required 360-degree view of a customer’s engagement and purchasing history, it is difficult for a brand to infuse its engagements with the right level of personalization. And chatbots, despite their on-paper credentials of cost-effectiveness and resource optimization, can be off-putting to customers who prefer human interaction. 

     

    The human touch   

    The lesson that emerges is one of an urgent need for human-centered technology. All the AI and chatbots in the world are not going to deliver the personal touch that today’s consumers are seeking. But by combining human ingenuity and empathy with the efficiency and speed of AI, businesses can get a step closer to perfect CX. An AI solution is a better option for monitoring customer feedback across surveys, emails, voice, chat, social media, review sites, and WhatsApp. Natural-language understanding has become so advanced that it can distill the content of human words into meaningful insights that include the sentiment and intention behind the words. 

     

    The implications for such an approach are far-reaching for the human side of the equation. Not only can human agents react in real time to actionable information gleaned by AI systems, but decision-makers can adjust policy, or even their approaches to making policy, by analyzing insights at scale. In other words, one complaint can be handled through real-time insights, but a spike in complaints can be studied after the fact to determine a root cause, leading to valuable adjustments to long-term strategies. 

     

    AI platforms can also be teachers, guiding customer-facing agents to improve their performance and technique, both in real time and over time. Virtual assistants can keep employees on track in adhering to company guidelines, reminding them of how to greet the customer, how to end a call, and everything in between. And AI systems can provide impartial, policy-driven assessments of an employee’s performance, thereby removing some of the friction in reviews, and helping to instill confidence throughout the workforce in management decisions as they relate to areas such as recruitment, dismissal, and career progression. 

     

    Continuous improvement 

    Other AI models can actively mine customer interactions for ideas on how to improve products, services, and experiences. The forward-thinking businesses that leverage AI in this way will not wait for net promoter scores (NPS) and other metrics to tell them how to act; they will move on real-time data and get enhanced experiences to market more quickly than their industry peers. Actions need not necessarily be tweaks to a product or service or even a digital platform. They could be as simple as new guidelines for agents on how to resolve a regularly occurring complaint.  

     

    The curious thing is that many enterprises already have the technology in place to implement human-centric solutions. They merely need to take the time and set aside the budget to discover ways in which their talent and their tools can come together to produce a new CX. Once the organization is set up in a way that allows customer feedback and innovation to be a continuous cycle, customers will be brand ambassadors, and employees will be in it for the long haul. And this is a recipe for longevity. 

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