Omni-channel CX Initiatives Won’t Scale Without AI
Guest Blog by Patrick Joggerst, CMO and EVP of Business Development, Ribbon Communications
In our hyperconnected world, consumers have the power to choose their preferred channel to get in touch with companies, change the channel at a moment’s notice, and share their experiences with others.
What does this mean for a brand, especially in a competitive space where the experience that goes along with products and services has become as important if not more important than the product or service itself?
It means not only doubling or tripling down on investments in delivering great experiences, but exploring and investing in a unified platform which helps follow each customer’s behaviour and preferences in order to predict why they are connecting and how they can be served in a fast, friendly and effective way.
The challenge for organisations supporting millions of interactions across multiple challenge is the same as it was when call centres emerged decades ago: how can we serve our customers in cost-efficient ways that don’t erode our overall margins?
The opportunity for those same organisations has advanced to not only providing the right answer in a short amount of time for the best outcome (retain the customer) but to deepen the relationship with the customer and in so doing expand the share of wallet.
The distinction today between a service and sales call is blurring, adding a layer of complexity along with growth opportunity, and as we start to see companies embark on sophisticated Customer Experience (CX) programs in pursuit of creating loyal, enthusiastic buyers who in turn can become brand ambassadors, the use of Big Data Analytics and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) engines that data feeds becomes undeniable.
Look at it this way: when contact centres started, there were toll-free numbers and agents in facilities answering questions.
As the popularity of these contact centres grew, innovations including Interactive Voice Response systems were invented, along with the menus that frustrated consumers for years, and with the massive disruption made possible by the rise of VoIP networks, the outsourcing market grew into a multi-billion-dollar industry overnight.
Around the same time, the Internet exploded as did the mobile industry, and access to websites, mobile apps, and digital services completely changed the way we communicate, and the demand for multiple channels grew faster than companies in the contact centre industry could keep up.
The chaos grew, and smart brands responded with thousands of innovations, including self-service on the web, push-to-talk features, mobile application contact capabilities, chat, screen sharing and PC control for tech support, and more.
Layer on the dramatic growth of social media, and today Facebook is one of the fastest growing CX platforms for service and sales, Twitter is becoming a preferred channel for demanding service (and sharing bad and good experiences), and over-the-top services like WhatsApp and QQ are driving growth exponentially beyond what any traditional contact centre could handle.
Contact centres are far from irrelevant despite all the changes – in fact the Contact Center Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) market is growing steadily, driven by the requirement to manage all these channels without losing control of the overall CX enterprises are hiring them to manage.
All of this leads to massive amounts of data generation, which can only be mined and managed in the service of competitive experiences by the millions with AI.
By mining the data (respectfully of course, with the right regulatory compliance in place) enterprises are not only empowering their agents to understand the information associated with each call better and faster but are also empowering their managers – or coaches – to ensure quality.
With AI, applications can be built that present the right “script” at exactly the right time so conversations lead to happy customers. Fin- tuning these conversations is becoming a new art form, with innovators developing applications that unify data across all channels with a single customer record, making automated chat bots better and the escalation to a live expert more relevant and faster.
With AI, companies can quickly identify at where a business traveller is in his or her trip and send a text alert when a flight may be cancelled or running late, with an offer to move them to a different flight.
This is not possible without AI – nor is it possible to truly know what great experiences are and how investments in them are working without AI.
The best real time communications technology and automation advance the customer experience when combined with great human agents, and innovative applications that are orchestrated across all channels. Hundreds of new companies are building CX AI platforms and applications to deliver creative service offerings, improve CX management, validate results, and flow information across the enterprise (to product management, marketing, sales, and more).
AI is critical to CX because it can enable the delivery of excellent, personalised experiences across channels at scale. The large amount of data permutations necessary to create custom customer experiences for everyone is highly resource-intensive and unrealistic to deploy without AI.