Tag: customer service

20 Nov 2017

Holiday Travel Chaos – Are Airline Support Teams Prepared to Handle the Rush?

Last year, more than 6 million Americans took airplanes for their end-of-year holiday trips. With such high volumes of passengers and inevitable winter weather issues, it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong during the holidays, it’s a question of when.

To prepare for the holiday chaos and deliver a stellar travel experience through wind, sleet and snow, airlines must have a strong support strategy in place. This includes gaining a comprehensive understanding of the issues of holidays past, implementing smart technology that provides customers with fast and accurate information, and empowering live representatives to handle the complex situations the holidays inevitably bring.

Ghosts of Holidays Past

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it — the old saying rings especially true when it comes to customer service. Before the holiday madness begins, it is essential that customer service teams know what the most common issues and most asked questions associate with past crises, and ensure they are prepared to answer them this time around.

A comprehensive and centralized knowledge management system can help track which questions are more likely to be asked during the holiday season. For example, customers may be more likely to ask about rental car options if a flight is cancelled on Christmas Eve because they are less willing to wait for a later flight and miss out on family memories. Travel companies can tap into their historical data to prepare their digital channels and customer support teams to handle these unique situations and make sure customers get the answers they need, fast. Being caught off guard by a customer question is not the kind of holiday surprise CX teams want, and this is something they can curtail with the implementation of smart knowledge management tools.

Get Smart with AI — The Gift that Keeps on Giving

With so many people traveling during the holiday season, customer service agents are tasked with resolving thousands of questions — many of which are repetitive and may take less than a minute to answer. The problem is that these simpler questions quickly pile up and take time away from customers who are dealing with complex situations. This is why a lot of travel companies are looking to chatbot technology.

Equipped with natural language processing (NLP), modern chatbots can understand context and provide quick and accurate answers to customer queries. For the traveler looking to confirm a gate change or even start the process of rebooking a flight, chatbots create a convenient channel that can quickly and effectively resolve these issues. During the holidays, time is of the essence in these situations and chatbots help cut out much of the waiting on hold, ensuring a customer’s needs are efficiently taken care of.

When the Human Touch is Needed

Although chatbots can resolve many customer questions, sometimes situations call for escalating to a live agent. Even in these situations, chatbots play a critical role, recognizing when a situation requires the human touch and seamlessly transitioning the customer to the right agent to address their specific needs. This ensures that customers are not bounced from representative to representative looking for the right person to resolve their issue.

Furthermore, implementing chatbots as an internal tool provide agents with a wellspring of customer information to better do their jobs. Acting as a resource, chatbots give live reps the information they need to provide a highly personalized experience and ensure customers don’t have to repeat information or re-explain their problem when they are transferred. Ultimately, this mitigates any customer frustration and makes them feel like their issues are truly being heard.

Holiday travel can be extremely stressful — with passengers wanting nothing more than to get to their destination and airlines trying their best to support them. Travel companies will need to improve their CX strategy with smart technology like chatbots to ease the stress of both customers and employees, and therefore ensure everyone is home for the holidays.

15 Nov 2017

Ditching the Script: Why CX teams need to personalize interactions

Consumers in 2017 have heightened standards for customer service and support.  When they log onto a brand’s website — especially if they regularly do business with that company — they expect the experience to be personal to them.  They expect their interests to be known, their needs anticipated and that the shopping experience will be as intuitive as possible.  During a time where every advertisement we see on social media and every recommended product on Amazon is tailored to our individual interests, customer support interactions must follow suit.

A recent survey found that shoppers appreciate agents who empathize, act quickly, and drop the script.  Meaning they want to talk to someone who is really listening to them and understands what they are trying to accomplish.  Not one who is simply following an “if this, then that” flow-chart.  The challenge for customer service agents is how to take  the time to provide personalized and empathetic support, while still ensuring customer interactions are fast and efficient. To strike this balance, artificial intelligence is helping brands align their CX teams to meet these new standards for customer support, both as external tools and internal resources.

External chatbots understand each shopper’s situation and provide contextual answers, fast

Chatbots are no longer just a buzzword — they are a viable customer service channel that can provide accurate and efficient support.  The technology can be implemented across critical touchpoints — from a website to a mobile app and even on a Facebook page — to ensure customer can get consistent support wherever, whenever.

The reason chatbots are so game-changing is the innovative technologies embedded within them. Specifically, with AI and natural-language processing capabilities these tools have the unique ability to go beyond a scripted, FAQ-like interaction, and actually understand the context of shoppers’ situations and provide relevant, accurate and tailored answers.

Internal AI tools help live reps provide personalized and consistent support

The same virtual assistant tools that brands use to resolve customer problems can also be implemented internally as a resource for live customer service reps. With vast knowledge management systems and the ability to dig into individual customer’s history (previous interactions, purchases, returns, etc.) customer service agents can leverage AI to ensure they have all the insights needed to effectively solve customer problems. Not only does this allow them to tailor the support experience by having the customer’s full history at their fingertips, but it also mitigates frustration by not forcing the customer to repeat information that they’ve shared via other channels.

Customer service interactions in our hyper-digital world need to be personalized — and brands that still train their technology tools and representatives to follow scripted conversations are destined for failure. With the growth of AI-driven virtual assistants, brands can provide highly-tailored engagements that keep customers satisfied and shopping.

09 Aug 2017
best customer service tips for wow cx

6 Customer Service Tips and Best Practices for a Superior Customer Experience

62% of organizations predict that millennials will only get increasingly demanding when it comes to customer service, and 67% believe that strategic partnerships with better digital technology could help them improve their CX to get ready for this.

But when it comes to an investment into the future of your business, digital marketers and business strategists need to be sure that these steps will have an impact. When it comes to a digital strategy, here’s how you continue to beat the competition and impress your customers where it matters.

Customer Service Tips for Consistency Across Channels

Did you know that a study by Macy’s found that customers who use more than one channel to shop are 8 times more valuable than those who don’t? This means that omnichannel consistency is no longer a choice. You want to encourage your customers to find you on all platforms available, and ensure that your message and branding is seamless throughout.

Customer Service Tip and Best Practices

As the amount of time that people spend using mobile devices continues to take the lead against those simply making purchases in-store or on a computer, many customer service tips will now prioritize changing communication right alongside it. Hackermoon describes it simply. “It’s the duty of your business to communicate through social media and mobile messaging as well, because you need to meet consumers where they already spend their time.”

Creating a strategy where you can have a seamless conversation with your customer on the channels which they frequent, and moving holistically from one to the other, is now essential.

Best Practices for Dealing with Customers’ Problems

Take this customer success story from J Crew. A customer used the website to buy an item of clothing with a coupon, and then accidentally cancelled the order. Thinking the coupon lost, they emailed support for guidance. Support replied, happy to honor the coupon price and requested that the customer call to confirm, due to low stock. When the customer was unable to call that day, a separate customer service rep phoned him the following day, talked him through similar options on the website which suited his initial purchase, and then applied a coupon discount at checkout over the phone.

The consumer was not only delighted with the ease of this journey across multiple channels, but was also experiencing an example of a fail turned into a customer service win.

Problems and mistakes are a certainty of life, but it’s how you deal with these errors or challenges which separates a powerful customer service story from churn. One of the most effective practices to keep to is owning your limitations.

Forbes recognizes this when they discuss this year’s CX trends, and the growth of AI within them, pointing out that “The best chatbots are able to not only respond to requests and questions, but also recognize when the customer is confused and seamlessly hand off the conversation to a live customer support rep.”

Being able to combine technology, self-service, and human support gives a far richer experience than any one of these could create alone. And customer service best practice now demands it.

Quick Response Time Importance

It’s also important not to underestimate the value of speed in your customer relationships. CX and customer service guru Shep Hyken discusses how technology creates opportunities for speed. Hyken calls speed “a value added advantage that customers are willing to pay for.” Whether it’s saving on hold times on the telephone by moving to live chat, or saving on time waiting in line in-store thanks to self-service kiosks, the latest digital commerce options are making interactions quicker and simpler.

Time is money, and customers will often choose speed over cost savings. Just as someone might pay more for overnight delivery of an item, they will also be loyal to a business that values their time.

Installing a conversational widget on your website can give your customers the autonomy to find the answers they need when they need them, without being presented with long hold times or the limitations of business opening hours.

The FedEx chat widget is a great example. It’s totally unobtrusive as it isn’t a popup, able to be summoned from the sidebar when it’s needed. The text makes it clear what it’s there for, and explains to customers in a transparent way that they are not talking to a human agent. This is just one example of a modern conversational interface that’s user-friendly and supports the needs of the business while supporting the customer.

Fedex customer service solution

Make the Customers’ Job Easy

The less your customer has to do, and the easier their journey, the better. For example, signing up to a company newsletter or rewards scheme. Even in person, if you’re presented with a lengthy questionnaire to fill in before you can become a member or receive a store points card, you’re likely to give up midway through, feeling that the reward isn’t worth the hassle. Online is no different.

The HuffPost claims that “for each piece of additional information you ask for, your adoption rates are going to decrease.”
Hipmunk are a great example of a website which does it right. Signing up can be done with one click through Facebook or Google+, or by entering just your email address and choosing a password.

Anticipating Needs is a Customer Service Best Practice

Other ways to simplify the customer journey is with anticipatory customer service. Broadly speaking this means working out what your customer wants before they do. Sounds like science fiction? Tell that to Amazon, who have a patent for anticipatory shipping where they can ship items out before they even have a destination in mind. Using their algorithms, they can work out what locations are likely to need certain items ahead of the orders, giving a final address at the last leg of the journey rather than the first.

While you might want to leave this kind of large scale gesture to ecommerce giants, there are still plenty of ways to anticipate what your customers want on the smaller scale.

Take language. If you are using AI on your website, this is the face of your company and should be as helpful as a manager in-store. Create algorithms which can continue conversations in a smart way, just like a human would.

Let’s say your customer asks for flights to London on a given date, and there are none available. Bots often just give the negative response, the equivalent of a customer service rep simply walking away once a question has been answered. Alternatively, your chatbot could offer available dates in the same week instead- giving your customer more options, and keeping the conversation open.

Listening to the Customer

Personalization and going the extra mile is not a new idea in customer service practices. But integrating this with the latest technology might be. While many could argue that technology can never show empathy, others might say that you can’t improve customer experience without it. In fact, Gartner predict that by 2020, businesses which use empathy in their technology are three times as likely to succeed.

In-built into your AI needs to be the ultimate goal of helping your customers, and understanding their needs. Gartner believe that the VOC (Voice of the Customer) initiative is essential to this.

Automation could be used to monitor your customer behavior, and uncover the times where they show frustration. This could be the language they use when talking to virtual assistants, or even the speed with which they end a session when they can’t find what they need, or something specific such as episodes of rage clicking. All of these can be used as literally as direct feedback to create AI which responds more empathetically and proactively to support your customers.

In a Word- Customer Service Best Practices? Simplicity

All of these customer service tips come down to one clear bottom line: making the customers life easier. From anticipating their needs to finding them on the channels they use, listening to their frustrations, or streamlining their customer journey. These customer service best practices can help you get the most of out of your digital self-service and delight customers with a simple and effective strategy for success.

15 Jun 2017

Don’t Miss Nanorep’s Webinar on How AI Transforms Customer Service, Featuring Guest Principal Analyst Ian Jacobs

I have seen the interest grow in adoption of AI. It is no longer a question of whether there is urgency in implementing a project to leverage intelligent technology, but instead a question of how. Beyond this, though, I have seen that many companies get thrown off once they make a decision to invest. What do I do? How do I do it? With which tool? Why is this not intuitive!??

Studies shown that the customer experience is a crucial factor in consumers’ decisions of where to bring, and keep, their business. it’s also clear that Artificial Intelligence can be harnessed to facilitate customer service, but companies struggle in the step of implementing an intelligent solution in a way that doesn’t leave them drained of energy and resources. What starts as a smart decision to use technology to take support to the next level often leaves customer service professionals frustrated and fatigued by long, complex projects.

Like many of your peers, you might be wondering what you can do with AI to help your brand improve the customer experience now – without jumping through hoops or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. How do you get the competitive edge you need while using the solution to actually improve not just your customer service but also your product, processes, and practices themselves?

We’re excited to let you know that this Tuesday, June 20th at 9 am PST, I will be joined by Forrester Principal Analyst Ian Jacobs to talk about trends and give you tangible tips on such topics as:

  • The need for a seamless customer service experience
  • How chat bots and virtual agents allow you to value your customers’ time while prioritizing high-value queries
  • The ways in which self-service gives the power to the consumer to help himself while giving you analytics and ammunition for optimization

AI has become a necessary component of a successful customer experience strategy, and we hope to help attendees understand the correlation between rising investments in AI and trends in the modern customer experience, empowering them to then apply this to real action in their own organizations. Register even if you think you may not be able to join on the day, register – we will send a recording!

Event Title: Nanorep-sponsored Webinar - Strategies to Use AI to Transform your Customer Service

I will be joined by Guest Speaker Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst for application development and delivery, Forrester Research

Date and Time: Tuesday, June 20th, 9 am PST

The event is free and open to the public, and you can register HERE.

Hope to see you there!

01 Jun 2017
intelligent self service goes beyond expectations of call center deflection

Why Intelligent Self-Service is So Much More than a Cost-Saving Solution

High up on the list in every article about digital self-service is how much money it will save you as a business. Some say it will cut costs on hiring staff for low-level tasks, by streamlining and automating services. Others focus on around-the-clock hours for sales, or even reducing ticket inquiries altogether and improving customer retention and therefore profits. Bottom line? For many companies, it appears to be well and truly all about the dollars and cents.

But what if I told you that the financial incentives for intelligent self-service should not in fact be the primary reasons on your list of reasons to opt in?

Unparalleled Insights

A study by Demandbase has recently looked into how AI can improve the customer experience. 60% believe that AI gives better insights into accounts, 56% believe it offers more detailed analysis of campaigns, and 53% say AI can help with identifying prospective customers.

The sheer amount of data that can be taken in through self-service is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. With the help of intelligent analytics, this data can be turned into actionable insights. The success rate is impressive, with results proving between “2-6x the improvement in marketing funnel conversion rate.”

Scaling your Brand Presence

Your brand is not just the colors and font on your company logo. It’s about how you interact with your customers and the image of your business to the outside world.

Whether visitors are browsing your website, downloading your mobile app, or getting in touch with customer service-one strong brand presence is essential. Intelligent-self-service can give one unified voice to your support channels, as well as helping you maintain the important elements of your branding, whatever those values might be. If your company is known for transparency, self-service can track the questions coming in, identify trends and pre-empt more inquiries by providing the answers on your website. If the tone of your business is light-hearted and whimsical, your support bots can mirror this style while going beyond tone to increase efficiency and efficacy.

The more customers engage with online channels and social media to reach out to retailers and businesses, the better a company’s ‘always on’ service has to be. If you’re not there when a customer is calling, they will quickly move on. Digital self-service is effortlessly scalable to meet your business needs, whether that’s at 1pm on your website, or at 3am on Facebook.

Maintain Optimum Quality Support

Sure, digital self-service can reduce the load on human staff. It’s true that it allows your employees to focus on more intricate tasks and feel greater job satisfaction in what they do, and it streamlines and automates repetitive or simple processes. But it’s so much more than that, too.

The support given to customers is guaranteed, not just in terms of round-the-clock service, but also the quality of the interactions themselves. With the help of a centralized knowledge base, answers are immediate and accurate across all channels. Wherever your customer reaches out from, support can answer queries from delivery and product information to opening hours and prices, and if the customer can log in, support has their order history and account information on hand and can take personalized and specialized answers even further. Customer service capabilities are boosted exponentially, and in situations wherein the query warrants human contact, the conversation is simply escalated accordingly.

Intelligent Self-Service: A Requirement in the Digital Age

Having an eye on the financial prize will always be necessary to make a success of your business, and if you’re looking for monetary reasons to adopt a self-service solution, you’ll find plenty. But equally high up on my list of business essentials is a strong and scalable brand presence, actionable analytics for success, and unparalleled customer service quality. Intelligent self-service is not a luxury intended to boost your profits, it’s a must-have to stay relevant in 2017 and beyond.

27 Apr 2017
intelligent customer service in travel and tourism

How Important is Customer Service in Travel and Tourism?

As the winter slips away and the days start getting longer and warmer, your customers start thinking about summer. Whether their ideal destination involves discovering the back streets of a new city, or sipping a cocktail by the pool, ‘Are you going away this year?’ is the first question on everyone’s lips this time of year.

Travel and tourism can be difficult areas for retaining customer loyalty, with websites set up exclusively to pit brands against one another on the best deals for hotels and rock-bottom prices on flights. But is it really all about the dollars and sense? The Qubit Future of Travel Report 2016 shows that investing in customer satisfaction can be equally as important as competing on price points.

Inspiring Real Loyalty, No Cards in Sight

Many businesses in the travel industry have tried out loyalty schemes and reward programs with varied success. But did you know that 77% of these schemes fail within the first two years?

E-consultancy believe that the success of your relationship with a customer depends upon the human loyalty you can create, rather than the corporate loyalty that these schemes often engender. The way we feel about our friends, family, even our favorite baseball team or our pets, is more than points being racked up on a card.

Take a look at JetBlue. Time and time again they top the list of airlines to which customers feel loyal. And when you look at their rewards scheme, it’s all about seeing the customers as individuals.

One great example is how frequent fliers with elite status on other airlines can make the jump to JetBlue and start reaping the rewards of the premium Mosaic status immediately. JetBlue also allows for customers to donate points to a charity they feel connected to or passionately about, a great personal touch to show they understand it’s not all about dollars and cents.

With the average American signed up to 29 loyalty programs and only active in 12, this human element is more essential than ever.
When it comes to the personal side of things, big data ensures that the sky really is the limit to dazzle your visitors and create enviable customer service in travel and tourism. However, businesses need to be able to pinpoint the exact information that is both relevant and actionable from a sea of content.

The right analytics does this for you, adding to the knowledge base of information with every interaction your customers have with your business, grouping questions by trends, and extracting what you need to know and act upon from your own pre-defined business goals.
This can then be used to glean insights from, answer key business questions with, and build loyalty programs that do more than simply rack up unused points in a metaphorical drawer for your most loyal customers. You may even figure out how to build loyalty programs that your customers would actually want to be part of, that would actually (gasp!) engender loyalty!

How Can You Build Human Loyalty to Beat the Competition?

According to a recent Google report, 65% of leisure travelers and 69% of business travellers head online to research and plan their travel itinerary.
As travel is something which customers enjoy researching, creating a seamless experience on all channels is essential to encourage this human loyalty. More than half of browsing is done by mobile, so the importance of integration can’t be undervalued.

Flights and accommodation are not usually impulse buys, so it follows that customers will want to be able to pick up and put down ideas and possibilities for travel while they consider their options. This might take days or even weeks to finalize, and as a business, you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to pick up where they left off.

Group Head of Operations at Thomas Cook, Graham Cook comments to The Guardian that their omnichannel strategy is to “make sure our customers can be served in a seamless way through whatever channel they wish – online through mobile, tablet, desktop or offline in a store or over the phone.” Customer service in travel and tourism clearly needs to follow your customer wherever they might be.

Customer Service Travel and Tourism… So, Where Were We?

Support bots are an effortless way to encourage this seamless customer experience as well as provide opportunities to grow this human loyalty which can feel so elusive to large travel or tourism companies.

Intelligent support bots can interact with your customers on every channel, from mobile website to app, and from desktop to social media. They can simultaneously handle thousands of bookings and inquiries, and have all the information at their fingertips to make customers feel heard and valued.

Not only this, but the channels on and through which bots interact with your customers are well proven to be the most successful to build lasting customer engagement. In fact, live chat has a 92% satisfaction rate for customers, while Facebook messenger comes in just below at 84%.
We don’t have to tell you that in 2017 travel agents are almost obsolete, which creates a huge opportunity, with millennials 23% more likely to travel abroad than previous generations, and expected to spend $1.4 trillion on travel by 2020. More than 80% of holidays are now booked online.

Support bots are the travel agents of the future, with the data on hand to create and manage flights and hotels, as well as entertainment and dining, or even currency and local transport. In short- they hold everything your traveler might need to bask in the five-star treatment, through the channels they want to interact on the most.

A Digital Future for Customer Service in Travel and Tourism

There have been huge digital leaps forward in customer service and travel and tourism industries in recent years. From e-passports and online check in, to Airbnb, online travel guides and tourism apps alike. But digital is more than just marketing and technology. Inspiring your customer to feel a connection to your brand starts with your digital presence and the face of your company through your technology.

If keeping on top of your big data through powerful actionable analytics, and creating a unique voice for your brand with omnichannel support bots aren’t top of your to do list-they should be.

This is keeping up with the competition on a more innate level than simply beating price points. These are measures to ensure that your organizational structure is aligned towards specific business goals for both customer engagement and bottom line success.

In short? We’re putting your business firmly back on the map.

06 Apr 2017
holistic digital self-service solution for customer satisfaction

5 Ways to Take Action and Impress Tomorrow’s Consumers, Today

Broadly speaking, we know that people are more heavily reliant on technology than ever before, both in their personal lives and in how they shop. But which technology is relevant and successful, and what is simply window dressing?

A recent study by Apadmi has given retailers and business owners a glimpse into what consumers really want. Take a look at the following five elements of technology which the study revealed your customers consider essential.

Holistic Solution

Computer weekly reports from the results of the study that “almost half of shoppers want retailers to implement technology that will make it easier for them to use their mobile devices in-store.” From click -and -collect to mobile checkout and order ahead, having a solution that works across all devices for both consumers and staff and makes the most of each is essential.

Your intelligent self-service can and should include touch-points for the Web, mobile devices and messaging channels, and include knowledge management for both customers and employees to get answers at a moment’s interaction. Because comprehensive analytics are used, it can be self-learning, including escalation to live agents when the context calls for it, and best-in-class NLI (Natural Language Interactions).

Broad Analytics

“As shoppers continue to embrace mobile e-commerce and retail apps, the in-store experience needs to remain relevant and incorporate the benefits that can be achieved through shopping online,” ascertains the study.
Relevance is something which is coming up time and time again in what customers want to see. It’s no surprise that it was reflected here too. In fact, 75% of customers continue to participate in loyalty programs and affiliate themselves with your brand due to the relevance of offers and rewards. In order to provide relevance, you need to know what your customers want. And the only sure-fire way to get inside the mind of the customer is with analytics.

Analytics can track your self-service adoption to make sure you’re getting the results you need. Additionally, they can measure the quality of responses that your agents and AI are giving as well as building a picture of the visitor intent behind the questions. The business can see at a glance the voice of the customer, putting them in a perfect place to understand and optimize accordingly.

Unique White Box AI Technology

The study also uncovered that “one in five consumers wants retailers to implement technologies that will make their shopping experience more personal.” But personal doesn’t necessarily mean personnel.
The personal touch is much more than simply speaking to a human staff member. In fact, in a world where Gartner are predicting 85% of interaction with an enterprise will be without human contact by 2020,it is not a pre-requisite at all.

AI technology has come so far that when you choose Nanorep you are choosing proprietary technologies which include Contextual Answers™ and Natural Language Understanding. Customers talking to your AI enjoy personalized conversations with all the information about their order history at their fingertips. Accurate answers and in-context guidance give the personal touch with an added side of efficiency and ease.

User control

But the way customers shop has only changed so far. “It is important to consumers that this technology is used alongside a traditional store experience as opposed to replacing it, with many consumers still preferring to check-out with a person.”

For businesses, this can be a complicated balance to find. Deployed successfully, your intelligent self-service should complement your human staff, making their lives easier and allowing them to leave repetitive or low level tasks considered as done.

Nanorep makes this seamless, with a second-to-none guided, visual User Experience. Your customer service or customer experience departments can control, maintain and optimize the solution alone, with all the tools they need to manage their own unique business and staff needs, and no IT support necessary.

Fast Deployment

Apadmi realize they are not asking for any small feat from today’s businesses, but the consequences seem steep if a company chooses to ignore these new realities. “While it will be challenging for retailers to meet the demands of tech-savvy shoppers, it’s important that they get on-board to retain customer loyalty.”

The clock is ticking, and customers aren’t interested in waiting for a complicated system to be put in place. Not when your competitors are already there and waiting.

In order to succeed at intelligent self-service, you need to choose a company with a proven track-record of deploying solutions in weeks rather than months. A solution which minimizes the Professional Services needed, providing immediate results.

70% of customers expect a company website to have an effective self-service solution for their needs. Finding that balance between AI and human staff, creating opportunities for growth with broad analytics, and ensuring a fully holistic solution with fast deployment should be top of your list of requirements when choosing your own.

28 Mar 2017
telecommunications companies merge for customer benefit

Vodafone India and Idea: Making a Merger Work for the Customer

There are a lot of champagne corks popping in India this week, as Vodafone and Idea finally sign on the dotted line for their merger. The deal will make the new company the largest telecom firm in the country, with a market share of 40%.

With long term goals in mind to bring 4G to residents throughout the country, CEO of Vodafone Group PLC Vittorio Colao comments that the merger has “the potential to transform [the] daily life of every Indian.”

But there are many steps on the journey to achieving that potential, and high up on the list are the 395 million subscribers who are impacted by this deal.

Research shows that in the face of a merger, a customer’s overwhelming emotion will generally be concern. Should they worry about less competition in the market? Will this merge cause higher prices on their own monthly bills? Will the company be so busy with bureaucracy and marrying the two pieces that they’ll forget about the loyal customers who helped them get there? The impact of these fears is uncertainty and confusion, and leads to customers jumping ship. The effect can’t be underestimated, so the question is clear. How can you make the transition as seamless as possible while reminding your customers that you value them and prioritize their experience?

Listening to the Customer

Across all industries, mergers and acquisitions make customers feel unsteady on their feet. The likelihood for a customer to switch banks, for example, increases by up to three times when their own goes through a merger. As customers across the board prefer to simply find an alternative service than to explain why they’re unhappy, it’s up to the business to find out what the customer is feeling and make them feel heard by adopting positive changes.

Analytics are essential for this. With intelligent analytics, every interaction your customer has on your website can be tracked and grouped. This includes the questions they ask and the information they search for, even when it isn’t directly related to customer service itself. Your customer experience team can use this information to gather data on the fears and concerns your customers are feeling, creating a unique way to offer solutions before customers even express their concerns and allay their hesitations before they lead to flight risk or churn.

Billy Fink from Axial comments, “This ability for the company to put itself in the customer’s shoes allows it to understand the pain point and then effectively and appropriately communicate around those problems and questions.”

Sometimes this might involve creating a timeline of essential customer facing issues to put high on your list of priorities. But sometimes, the data can uncover actionable analytics which can be solved instantly. Let’s say for example that your data is telling you that 17% of visitors are suddenly searching for information on any increases to their monthly fees. You can create a landing page or FAQ article content which addresses this concern, providing a pre-emptive response to meet the customer needs.

Companies can also ask customers questions directly, How confident are you in the recent merger? or How likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend? and measure the changing results in the weeks and months after the merger. This is a great way to track whether you are inspiring confidence in your consumers.

Exponential Growth

Customers may also be afraid of the growth of your company, especially if they had concerns in any important areas before the merger. If they had trouble getting through to customer support beforehand, surely it will be even more difficult now?

One great example to learn from here is the merger of NTL and Telewest in the UK in 2005. Telewest was ranked #1 in customer service, while NTL was struggling at the bottom of the list. Reassuring customers and updating their processes to Telewest’s best practice, the company were able to acquire Virgin Mobile only a year later, becoming giants Virgin Media.

Cameron Gunn from Radley Yeldar agrees that a merger is an uncertain time for your customers, but he believes that this makes it the “perfect point to refresh or restore the customer experience and embed some customer-first thinking as part of your new culture.” Customers are looking for what’s new or changing, so show them that the changes are improvements, with their needs at the very forefront. Capitalize on the air of improvement to show your customers that they remain your top priority – refresh your website, update and optimize your content, revitalize the UI so your customer feels as catered to and appreciated as ever – convince them that all these changes are for the better and they have twice the firepower in their corner.

Managing Support

Scaling can be tricky for any large business, especially over a short space of time. Before a merger hits the media, your employees might not even be up to speed. But reassuring your customers that it’s ‘business as usual’ is too important to add to a growing to do list, or to wait until you’ve caught up every level of staff. It needs to be seamless from day one.

Intelligent support bots can be one powerful way to manage this concern. Round-the-clock help and support, empowered with the answers you want your customers to have, they effortlessly manage new or existing customers, with account information and personalized responses gleaned from one centralized knowledgebase. Integrating this kind of solution alongside your employees gives them the time to learn about the changes to the company structure and feel confident they are communicating one clear vision effectively, and gives them access to the same answers that your customers may be searching for. Further, with one-shot learning, an employee can realize that a specific piece of useful information may be missing from your content and add it on-the-fly, updating for all to access and enriching the knowledge base for everyone’s future use.

Two Become One - Merging with Success

A large deal like the Vodafone-Idea merger is cause for excitement and hope for the future. Help your customers embrace the celebratory feeling by minimizing confusion, providing seamless opportunity for growth, and tracking valuable insights from their every interaction.

23 Mar 2017
success factors for bots to add value to customer service

Key Success Factors for Bots that Add Value to your Customer Service

What are the Key Success Factors of a Messaging Bot?

The Age of the Customer is upon us, and with it, the sources of power for businesses have changed. Your own power as a company now comes from engaging with empowered customers, making the key contenders in this decade businesses like Facebook and Apple who have always encompassed the connection to customer experience within their brand. Moving out of the Age of Information, previous leaders such as Amazon and Google are left to diversify and create business transformation to stay relevant and competitive. The advances that we see in technology and the projections for the future are all focused on making a better customer experience, and creating the ideal environment for engagement.

The journey of mobile apps has been quick and impressive, with apps taking mobile from web browsers through to an entirely mobile-native experience. Mobile apps now truly make the most of smartphones capabilities, including elements such as real time notifications, click-to-call functionality or GPS tracking. There’s hardly a situation where a consumer can’t make use of Apple’s well known tagline, “There’s an App for that!”

But across platforms, the app stores are crowded, and each app has varied success with providing a user experience and an interface which makes sense universally and creates satisfied customers. Apps take time and sometimes money to download, they take up valuable space on your mobile phone, and crucially-are often only relevant once a month or even less.

Enter Bots. Messaging Bots are accessed via our favorite messaging platform which we are comfortable chatting on and used to using. They need no additional download, and we don’t need to get used to a new interface to benefit from them. They take up no more room on our devices, and can be interacted with in the same way we might chat with our friends. At first glance, they certainly sound like the perfect solution. But if you’re thinking about integrating them into your customer service strategy in the Age of the Customer, here’s what you need to know:

Simplicity is Key

Using a bot needs to be simpler than any other channels available to satisfy the customer’s need. If you can simply send off a line of text and get the answer you’re looking for about opening hours or product price, that’s efficient and likely to encourage customer engagement. But if your Bot relies on scripted answers and can’t use context to fill in gaps or get the query answered the first time around, your consumers might well wish they had simply picked up the phone.

While intelligent Bots are fantastic for answering short questions (How much is next day shipping?) or ordering a repeat purchase (My usual order of 10 sleeves of Nespresso pods, please), longer text conversations exemplifying more convoluted needs might be better supported by other channels. Consider encouraging your customers to engage via Bot and then complete the more complex elements of their queries or transactions via app, phone, or web browser. This way Bots fit seamlessly into your omni-channel strategy.

The sophistication of Nanorep’s virtual customer assistant enables the bot to have continuous conversations and understand natural language, but even so sometimes the system realizes that the customer is better served by being rerouted to another channel. In these cases, our solution is able to transfer the customer to a human-assisted channel or another touchpoint, even to act as a meta-bot and task other bots with a specific function, like transferring funds or completing a purchase.

While the future will likely see us self-serving completely through full-service Bots with astonishing capabilities, the current landscape requires smart use of a rules engine with which businesses can determine how to route which kinds of queries and customer needs to which channel.

It’s Essential to go Across Messaging Platforms and Connect all Touchpoints

Messaging platforms have now surpassed social media in terms of monthly active usage. The vast majority of smartphone users chat via messaging platforms daily, and most of those use more than one. If Bots are really going to make customers lives easier, the business and developers need to utilize cross-messaging platform tools so that the user can find the answers they need without feeling frustrated or elongating how long the process takes.

A single centralized database means that all interactions can be found quickly and easily, no matter what channel they were initiated on originally. Customers don’t need to try to figure out whether they had a conversation via email, on Facebook or Whatsapp or Slack, or from their mobile, whatever the content they’re remembering, it can be accessed by both customers and staff alike from any channel and across all messaging platforms.

Think about how much extra time is spent managing and maintaining apps for multiple platforms such as iOS and Android. The last thing you need is to be doing the same thing for your Bots across messaging platforms. You need to ensure that all channels can access one centralized database.

Expectations Must be Met

Consider what service you’re trying to provide with your Bot. Is your bot single-action, like a Bot which provides opening hours for a store, or can schedule a meeting? While these are useful, they need to be marketed correctly so that users know what to expect. If a Bot asked “Can I help you with anything?” and its ability is limited to one or two tasks or key pieces of information, the customer is likely to end up disappointed. Consider using language like “Would you like to schedule a meeting?” which manages expectations from the outset. A disappointed customer is not likely to try again.

You need to strike a balance between providing a full-service Bot which meets the customers’ expectations (perhaps from using your app or website in the past) and the time it will take you to market, create and manage your offering. Your Bot can and should represent your business, so take the time to think about what that means. Rather than a Bot that does one thing, for example tells customers their order status, aim to offer a good-sized portion of the ideal, (everything your business does) and plan to implement more in the future.

One good way to manage user expectations is to create ways to measure and track user intent at every stage of their journey with your business. As VentureBeat advise, “This may take more than the simple automated responses that a lower-tech bot can provide and may require a messaging platform that is integrated with customer records and leverages powerful automation, analytics, and integrations.”

Routing You to the Right Channel to meet your Needs Has Inherent Value

Bots continue to solve many of the most frustrating customer problems, such as lengthy wait times, or providing quick answers to simple questions on a familiar and omni-channel platform. But they can’t solve everything, and they aren’t meant to.

While businesses should be making the most of Bots to engage with customers and find success in the Age of the Customer, this also includes knowing when to channel consumers elsewhere. Perhaps you’re being faced with customer frustration or anger, or a complex issue which needs human support or clearance. At first glance it might feel like the Bot has failed. On the contrary. Using Bots here can be another type of win for this kind of digital support. Imagine your Bot seamlessly inviting a human member of staff into the conversation who has all the information on hand to solve the issue, or getting the customer on the phone with the right agent who has the perfect skills for this situation. You’re creating a happy and satisfied customer.

When Intelligently Planned and Executed, Bots are Key to Successful Self-Service

Bots are an exciting new way to engage and chat with your customers and solve many of the problems which apps have fallen prey to in recent years. Knowing what you want to create, managing customer expectations, and ensuring you provide a simple cross-messaging, omni-channel experience are the key elements to consider for success.

16 Mar 2017
self-service lessons from fast food

Can I Take Your Order? What We Can Learn from Fast Food Digital Self-Service

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of a customer’s interaction with a company will be without human contact. And this isn’t just online. As well as McDonalds, the latest restaurant business to jump on the self-service bandwagon is Wendy’s, with the announcement of 1,000 kiosks arriving by the end of the year to a store near you.

CIO David Trimm says one strong reason behind this investment is simply to “enhance the customer experience.” But how does this work, exactly?

Putting the Customer First

Sometimes, the best customer service can mean getting out of your customer’s way and letting them control their own experience. We’re all familiar with the frustration of ordering your favorite fast food exactly how you like it, only to find out once you take the first bite that they didn’t listen to your pickle aversion (or worse, take seriously your food allergy).

Professors from Cornell and Mississippi State found that self-service options increase the accuracy of transactions. More automation means less chance for error, and more confidence from the customer that they are going to get what they want.

Self-service also gives more opportunities for inclusion and accessibility. A good example for Wendy’s might be a deaf person being able to order their burger and Frosty confidently and efficiently in a noisy, busy store for the first time. Online, self-service helps not just those who might struggle in-store, but also opens up around-the-clock hours and can give visitors the opportunity to access information from anywhere, in multiple languages, with increased relevance to visitor’s specific needs and easy access to the answers they currently seek.

Giving the Customer What They Want

Customers can benefit from being given the knowledge they crave as well as the french fries. Kiosk technology has the potential to give nutritional information, calorie intake, and even some background on the preparation and sourcing of the ingredients. When customers have questions, they want answers they can trust and rely on. Studies have shown that we trust technology more than humans, perhaps because in our day-to-day life we turn to computers and smart phones to give us accurate and efficient answers.

The same is true in any customer-facing business. Customers love the ease of online shopping, and enjoy using the same technology to get answers as they do to make purchases. Rather than pick up the phone, in a survey of 3,000 consumers, 91% would use a single online knowledge base if it were tailored to their needs and easily available.

It’s easy to see that giving your customers a way to take control of their experience, alongside all the knowledge they could ask for, is far from limited to the fast food industry.

Happy Staff, Happy Customers

But it’s not just the customers who are putting the happy into ‘happy meal’ in this scenario. Staff working alongside this new technology have a lot to smile about. Shorter lines and fewer queries mean that they are less busy during peak times. This gives them the opportunity to engage with the customer in a friendlier way than a simple “would you like fries with that?” In many cases, staff are also reallocated or promoted to jobs with more responsibility. Seeing a surge in customers and sales, companies have been shown to hire more staff in the long run, to keep up with the surge in business.

The same is true across the self-service industry. Companies that successfully implement digital self-service are helping their staff by facilitating their work and giving their jobs more depth, and arming them with the right tools and background knowledge. Low-level queries could be handled by support bots, the same way your website might take orders while you sleep overnight, ready for you to fulfil come 9am. The bot can be the line cook, getting all the ingredients ready for the agent to then take over with finesse, better prepared. Like a burger and fries, it’s the perfect partnership. While you could have one without the other, why would you?

Keeping Track of Your Bottom Line

It’s hard to ignore that if customers and staff are both satisfied, your overall experience is looking pretty good. But what’s happening behind the scenes? Self-service can also help you improve your entire business model with the help of data. Just like on your company website, the information you collect on each interaction by kiosk can drive actionable analytics to increase profits and make smart changes.

While it might seem like you’re not going to get much information from how many burgers were ordered on any particular day of the week, think deeper. Which meals did customers abandon after seeing the price tag? What customization options created a bottleneck? Can you increase sales by having ‘add on’ side dishes or drinks at checkout? The possibilities could be endless.

Digital self-service can use Voice of the Customer analytics to give you a tangible overview of what questions are being asked and when. As this updates in real time, you can spot trends and modify content, or empower staff accordingly.

Self-service moving into the fast food arena is just one more example of how the technology is becoming integral in creating happy and motivated staff and satisfied customers. So if you’re not making the most of self-service for your company, you’d better start playing “ketchup.”