Even the most empowered consumer spends very little time considering the impact of cognitive technologies such as automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language understanding on their everyday lives. In fact, we recently explored the unique demands and expectations of the now consumer in a series of posts that illustrate a single, central theme: Customer expectations are continuing to rise. Businesses who succeed at meeting them hold a distinct competitive advantage over those who don’t.
This ongoing focus on the customer experience is likely top of mind for decision makers examining the potential that cognitive technology holds for improvements in contact center efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It begs the question of just how important human interaction is to overall customer satisfaction. Can IVRs, or their younger, text-based bot cousins, actually take the place of an agent and still deliver the same satisfaction that an agent could provide through a “human touch?” Or do we risk sacrificing positive brand perception for the sake of a few contact center calls averted?
Aberdeen Group recently released a study highlighting the scope of current and planned spend in the areas of cognitive technology. The chart below suggests that while a relatively small percentage of businesses are still leading the adoption curve, a significant number may be following close behind. (Cognitive Customer Experience: The Future Is Here. Aberdeen Group, 2017)
Their report goes on to point out that implementation of cognitive technologies can play a key role in elevating customer expectations. By incorporating proactive machine interactions at relevant stages of the customer journey, companies can transform traditional ways of addressing consumers’ needs, offering solutions that go above and beyond simply responding to requests.
This rings particularly true for me, as I recently found myself locked out of an important account online. Following one too many failed password attempts, I received the error: “Your account has been locked; please contact us at the number below.” Talking to an agent and explaining my predicament was not high on my list of enjoyable activities. But I needed access, so I dialed the customer service number and entered the realm of automation, the IVR.
After verifying some security information, I expected to be transferred to an agent. Instead, the IVR anticipated my reason for calling and suggested, “It looks like your account is locked. Are you calling to reset your password?” To say the least, I was both surprised and delighted that this issue could be resolved so easily. In just a few minutes, I was able to restore my own account access without ever speaking to an agent, and I hung up with a sense of relief and satisfaction. I felt seen, recognized and understood by the company I was doing business with. Ironically, it didn’t take a conversation with a live human being to deliver a personal touch and “know me.” All it took was a machine analysis of available customer data, a solution that worked and the successful resolution of my issue.
This example is hardly unique; we know that customer preferences are continuing to shift toward the desire to resolve issues through self-service applications. We also know that more and more, consumers would rather not pick up the phone at all if they can conduct interactions via text or messaging instead of voice. Because of this, we’re seeing cognitive technologies in the form of interactive text response applications – like chatbots – begin to take center stage.
If you’re interested in exploring these possibilities for your business, we encourage you to visit the NLU Lab for authoritative resources related to applications for natural language understanding, compiled by experts in the field.
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