As technology changes, so does business. The most successful brands keep up with the rapid technological changes and continually innovate their customer experience. In today’s world, it’s disrupt or be disrupted. Customer experience has never been more important, with the majority of customers saying they would pay more for a better experience. A large part of the experience is technology.
These three technology transformations have had large impacts on the business environment and how companies drive customer experience.
AI and Machine Learning
Without a doubt, the biggest development in the service industry has been artificial intelligence and machine learning. In our data-driven world, it’s simply impossible to sort through all the information available and draw out meaningful connections. Not to mention that many companies are siloed internally, so employees in one department have no idea what’s going on in another part of the company. It makes it difficult to create a cohesive and consistent customer experience.
However, AI and machine learning have the power to change that. When combined with human interactions, the technology can be used to amplify what brands are already doing, increase efficiency, and make it possible to actually use all of that data strategically. Automated analytics can create a continuous feedback loop for customer interactions that improves with each interaction. Instead of simply guessing what customers want or what the next step should be, automation helps brands operate with more certainty. Brands can use that to earn customers’ trust by being relevant and providing value.
As chatbots get better at listening and providing relevant information, their value will continue to improve
Consider Sprint, which had a churn rate of 2.3% in 2014—twice as high as its competitors. Much of that was due to customer experience agents who were relying on their own judgment to look through customer data and plan the next steps for each customer. Sprint turned to data and adopted a system of predictive analytics that could pinpoint customers who were at risk for churn and then provide them with personalized retention offers. The data did the trick—Sprint’s churn hit historic lows, its NPS increased 40%, and customer upgrades increased by 8 times. Perhaps the best number is that customer service agent satisfaction hit new highs, all because of data allowing agents to do their jobs better.
Data on its own isn’t enough. Brands need to take it to the next step with automation and machine learning.
Closely related to machine learning and AI is the growth of chatbots, which have streamlined how customers interact with brands. Instead of having to call the contact center and potentially wait on hold, customers can now use chat or voice commands to connect with a chatbot whenever they want. The beauty of the technology is how it can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each brand. Chatbots can do anything from send out personalized marketing messages to answer routine questions and recommend products.
Sephora’s innovative chatbot gives makeup tips, shares beauty routines, and provides personalized product recommendations. One of the reasons it’s so successful is because the bot engages the customer in an actual conversation. It learns about each customer’s preferences so it can make accurate recommendations and remember their choices in the future. Sephora is constantly updating its chatbot with new features to keep the experience fresh. The chatbot is definitely working—engagement levels have risen, and the first-to-market strategy has cemented Sephora as a digital leader.
Chatbots are also incredibly cost effective. Instead of hiring agents to sit in contact centers, brands can now build chatbots to do much of their jobs. Although there is some initial cost, a chatbot can save money over time. The future is bright for chatbots, especially as the technology improves for better understanding and interaction. As chatbots get better at listening and providing relevant information, their value will continue to improve.
Another trend for the service industry has been improved customer interaction technology. According to a recent survey, customers say the most important attribute of a good experience is a fast response time. Many digital-first companies offer customers online self-service so they don’t have to contact the company as often. It’s a win-win: customers get the answers they need quickly, and companies can save on contact center costs with a lower call volume.
Self-service can be as simple as an FAQ page or as involved as an online chat feature. Improved technology has made it easier for customers to find the answers they need without having to wade through irrelevant information. Amazon is a leader in the self-service revolution with robust customer answer forums and it innovative cashier-less grocery store. The company also makes it easy for customers to search the site for answers to their problems and also has the Amazon Co-Pilot feature that allows customer service representatives to see the Amazon screen of the customer to answer questions via real-time chat.
Using design thinking helps brands create plans that improve customers’ lives. Instead of the traditional way of creating products to drive profits, design thinking puts customers first. Companies that focus on design thinking have outperformed the S&P 500 index by 228% over the last decade. Design thinking has led to the rise of self-service technology as brands realize what customers want and make that a key aspect of new products and services.
Changing technology definitely has a huge impact on the business environment and customer experience. Companies that can stay on top of changing trends and technology will be the leaders of customer experience and the brands with loyal customers who keep coming back for more.