Conversational Service Automation: The $350 Billion Industry That Will Surprise Everyone with Its Next Move

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When one considers industries that have drastically changed in the last five to 10 years, it is clear that those leading the pack did not take linear steps forward: they leapfrogged to where they knew they needed to go. Instead of going from point A to point B, they went straight to Z, many times by taking advantage of impending technological shifts based on what their customers were asking for. We’ve seen this happen in the retail industry, for example, with online shopping, and in my opinion, the next sector to leapfrog is going to be customer service.

The reason why? The fundamental foundation of customer service has shifted. NewVoiceMedia found in a recent study that U.S. companies lose more than a staggering $75 billion a year due to poor customer experiences, a $13 billion increase from 2016. Reasons for this varied, with some customers citing they “left” a brand because they were not able to speak to a real person, others getting frustrated with being passed around to multiple agents, and many mentioning unnecessarily long hold times as well. People are increasingly looking to customer service to solve complex problems, on a multitude of platforms, extremely quickly – and the brands that can find a way to do all of those things will build long-term affinity with their clients.

Here’s my take on how companies can achieve success by keeping their customers around with efficient, personal, and proactive customer service:

  1. Use emerging technology, especially automation, without compromising the customer experience. At the end of the day, bots can solve many customer-related issues faster than humans. It’s as simple as that in many cases, but as problems get more complex, bots start to show their weaknesses. Therefore, a combination of automating between bots and humans is essential to support the growing customer demand for easy, quick, on-the-go answers. Companies need to invest in self-service touchpoints like mobile chat and virtual agents that use artificial intelligence (AI), speech recognition, and natural language processing, with the capability of also seamlessly being able to handover communication to a human touchpoint – all while ensuring that those humans are able to detect and analyze the customer’s emotions, understand the real intent of why they are calling in real-time, and improvise as needed.
  2. Never underestimate the power of conversational data and analytics. Emerging technologies like AI are not just about automation. Technology can also help support business decisions by collecting and reporting back data that allows companies to improve faster than ever before – all with the goal of better serving their end customers. Pattern recognition using AI and natural language processing (NLP) can lead to extremely advanced analytics – in the case of customer service, patterns might be questions that customers ask time and time again. This type of information can help customer service agents recognize the real intent of customer calls – and because of how fast technology is advancing, this type of data can be shared faster than anyone ever could have dreamed possible. With real-time feedback and insights, agents can establish a brand-new way of talking and serving their customers.
  3. Embrace new ways of serving your customers, even if you don’t like change! John Chambers, who served as CEO of Cisco Systems for 25 years, has said time and time again that companies and leaders who stay stagnant will fail – but those who disrupt and lead fast, rather than follow slowly, will find success. This sounds so simple, but putting it to practice is not always so easy. Right now, customer service is broken. Customers are frustrated, which negatively impacts the bottom line. Embracing a new way of doing things with an eye towards digital is critical to the long-term success of companies everywhere that are struggling to serve their customers in the way they want to be served.

Brands that can quickly adopt a new “service” – what I call Conversational Service Automation where the winning combination is automation and analytics working closely together – is the only way customer service will be able to cross the chasm and leapfrog into the future. We can no longer sit back, waiting for customer issues to come to us and reacting from there. Many times, it is too late when a customer reaches out to customer service because they expect a resolution “immediately” (i.e., within 10 minutes or less, no matter the channel). We must step up and take a proactive approach to serving our hard-earned customers, and Conversational Service Automation can help you get there.

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