Digital Customer Service

2018 Contact Center Trends: Punching Through the Barrier.

By Bright Pattern

Customer experience (CX) ran out of steam in 2017. Almost all companies have by now realized that CX is the differentiator and customers value the experience above almost everything. Enormous effort and resources have been thrown at CX, and there have been huge gains. But according to Forrester’s 2017 CX IndexTM, CX quality plateaued or declined for most industries and companies.

It’s plain to see why. CX was a classic land grab where companies found it easy to deal with obvious problems. But now the hard work begins. Customers are getting used to enhanced experiences and want better and better service. Companies will need to keep up with these expectations or fall farther behind. Forrester is predicting that in 2018, 30% of companies will see further declines in CX performance, which will mean declines in growth or worse.

So are we going to stay put or decline? Or are we going to punch through to the next level? 2018 will be the year where this is decided. So what will be the big stories? How will technology and automation advance the customer experience? Here’s what we think will be the trends in 2018.

 

Artificial Intelligence – It’s going to get real, very fast

In the years running up to 2018, AI has been the solution to almost any problem. And for good reason: chatbots, robotic process automation, and virtual assistants have transformed customer experience and expectations, and have changed the roles of customer service agents for the better. But now the rubber meets the road. The early gains were made by applying AI to existing business operations. The true growth moving forward will be to use AI to invent new ways to interact with the customer, reinvent business processes, and create whole new markets for products and services.

A Forrester survey tells us firms’ investment in AI rose 51% in 2017. But 55% of firms have not yet achieved any tangible business outcomes from AI, and 43% say it’s too soon to tell. That’s because AI is not a plug-and-play proposition. Unless firms plan, deploy, and govern it correctly, new AI tech will provide small benefits at best or, at worst, result in unexpected and undesired CX-related outcomes. If CIOs and chief data officers (CDOs) are serious about becoming insight driven, 2018 is the year they must realize that simplistic approaches will only scratch the surface of possibilities that new tech offers.

Take machine learning for example. Companies are quickly realizing that, ironically AI requires huge amounts of human input. Agents are tagging text and speech, customer interactions. Companies are using their customers to teach their AI, and sales reps are training the AI rather than relying on out-of-the-box learning. Add to this the data hygiene and knowledge management required to keep an automated system up to date, and you will see an enhanced adoption of the blended AI model for 2018 where humans play a critical role in constantly perfecting AI to improve the customer experience.

Bright Pattern is a leader in this blended AI trend and automating with a human touch. For instance, our APIs allow bots to integrate with IBM Watson, Reply.ai, and Alterra to provide human-like interactions that can be switched to a live agent at any time. The agents also have internal assistants and bots that use AI to guide them through the call, offer suggestions, track tone and sentiment using cognitive analysis technology and natural language understanding.

 

Digital Transformation Needs to Pick up Speed

There are now heightened expectations from the customer and companies need to rise to meet them. Digital transformation is the key to making this happen. But it’s not happening at a quick enough pace.

According to Forrester, up to 60% of executives feel they are lagging behind with their digital transformation initiatives. The trend for 2018 will be that digital transformation moves from just an IT or CIO issue to become the responsibility of the entire organization. Thinking will change, it will no longer be looked at as an investment that gets a return. Digital transformation will be seen as the one thing that will keep the company alive. In fact Forrester also has a sobering statistic for this: 20% of CEOs will fail to act: As a result, those firms will be acquired or begin to perish.

 

Moving to the Cloud Will Become Even Safer

Here’s some good news! The cloud is going to get even more business-friendly in 2018. We all know that moving to the cloud provides a way to avoid capital investment in volatile technology and focus on core competencies. And it enables companies like Bright Pattern to provide rapid innovation delivery, instant upgrades and provide integrations with other cloud systems.

Every tennant on the Bright Pattern Call Center solution enjoys the very latest, most advanced version of out software. This includes data, configuration, user management, and tenant individual functionality. Every company, department and user is on the same version and the latest patch level.

And, we offer the insurance of an on-premises option using exactly the same cloud software for call centers, ensuring an additional level of control. Moreover, switching to an onsite option or back to the cloud is as easy as downloading the export file of your account and uploading it into another system.

The cloud will continue to be a dominant force in the digital transformations of virtually all successful companies. With continued innovation from Bright Pattern, we do not see this trend losing steam in 2018.

Self Service is about to get personal

Personalization will be key for companies looking to keep up with customer expectations. The empowered customer is now king, but they do not want to have every option available to them at all times. Their time is precious and they want to have a self-service experience that is hyper-relevant to them.

Companies who know what product a customer has for instance, will be able to serve up a limited set of options and disregard the irrelevant. They will learn which channels a customer prefers and route them without having to ask. Organizations that take customer experience seriously through personalization will stand out from the noise and create loyal customers.

 

The Employee Experience Will Be Enhanced, Not Just the Customer Experience (EX=CX)

The customer service employee experience is changing rapidly, so companies need to find ways to ensure that their agents are well motivated and rewarded for taking on new responsibilities. As blended AI becomes more prevalent, the role of the agent or customer service representative will change. Forrester predicts more and more agents will quit because of work overload. An example of this trend would be tagging. A live chat agent can look through a chatbot transcript to see where the chatbot didn’t understand the customer. The agent can tag an intent to that particular phrase. This additional task adds to an already complex list of responsibilities, applications, and processes that today’s agent must own, use, and follow. Without the right tools companies put employee experience at risk.

Bright Pattern provides the most effective agent desktop in an all-in-one call center app, which offers a decluttered user interface that selects and displays the most relevant information based on context. Higher levels of employee and agent engagement are known to improve the customer experience.

 

Automation Spreads From the Back Office to the Front Office

The big news in automation for 2018 will be the migration of many tried and tested robotic processes from the back office to help out in the front office. Automation will enable agents to focus on helping customers and spend less time on navigating systems or post-contact wrap up. Additionally, automation at the desktop will improve quality by decreasing errors of manual data entry, reducing rework, and decreasing complaints. Reducing manual tasks allows for a better focus on listening to the customer, empathizing, and providing a frictionless experience. In 2018, we’ll see better collaboration between the front- and back office, and see the almost immediate ROI that robotic process automation has traditionally been known for.

Channel Proliferation is a Party That Won’t Stop

It’s not news that consumers like to interact in the channel of their choice. And that channel can change on a whim and by the second. A conversation started in a messaging platform can migrate to a call that can shift to an email and back to a message. But companies need to do a better job of offering a true omni channel experience. According to Dimension Data and their 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, only 8% of organizations say that they have all of their channels connected and, in fact, as many as 70% say that none or very few of their channels are connected.

And new channels are coming on stream all the time. Customers are communicating with brands using just emojis. Video chat is starting to be adopted. Screen Sharing, virtual assistants, in-app messaging will all continue there rise in 2018.

The big news here is that this explosion of customer expression will not be stopping any time in 2018. So how can a company keep up, let alone stay ahead?

The simple answer is to have a simplified multichannel setup for call center managers to enable a true omni channel communication style. In practice this means a conversation must be able to be continued when switching or changing channels. It means adding a messaging or content channel to an existing communication is a must. And finally the rich context of the conversation must be maintained at all times.

To do this in 2018, you must have the agent tools to simplify multi channel interaction handling. Bright Pattern has created a web-based agent desktop to make multichannel communication seamless. It keeps all the information needed in the visible portion of the desktop, it intelligently extracts the relevant elements of context to display eliminating switching, alt-tabbing, and scrolling through long pages, and it transparently rearranging the desktop when the the conversation changes from one channel to another.

Conclusion

2018 is going to be a big year of disruption for the contact center. The technology that’s coming online and the shifting attitudes of business leaders will lead to some huge developments. At Bright Pattern we are well aware and well prepared for what’s to come. Because just like you, the expectations of our customers will not stop growing.

4 Best Practices for Your Social Media Customer Service Strategy

The days of wondering whether or not your contact center needs to have a presence on social media are over: the answer is a resounding “yes.” Now, the main questions revolve around how you should be listening and responding. Here are four tips that will help your agents build beneficial relationships with customers through social media.

  1. Use the right platform.

Not all social media platforms are created equal. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for image-focused brands, like retail shops, while LinkedIn may work better for B2B companies. The ideal social media platform is the one where your target customers are ­– don’t waste time on the others.

  1. Keep track of mentions.

Staying on top of customer needs doesn’t mean staring at your feeds all day long. There are plenty of listening tools out there to help you monitor when your company or product is mentioned online, even if your profile isn’t tagged (which it probably won’t be). Modern contact center software with social media integrations will put these mentions right in your help desk. (P.S. Make sure to monitor for common misspellings, too.)

  1. Respond quickly.

Customers use social media for convenience and speed, and you need agents who can respond quickly. Since social media is based on live feeds, customers have different expectations than with other communication platforms. Whereas a 24-hour response time may be okay for email support, a 30-minute or 60-minute response time is expected on social media. You may need to adjust your scheduling to accommodate for this quick response time, especially during something like a product launch.

  1. Customize your tone.

Tone is important for customer service overall, but with social media it can trickier to (1) figure out the right tone for the situation at hand and (2) fit an appropriate tone into a character limit, like on Twitter. Here are three quick tips for getting the tone just right in-the-moment:

  • If the customer uses a casual tone, like through slang, exclamation points and emoticons, you can reciprocate.
  • If the customer doesn’t seem to be 100% fluent in the language, keep your tone basic and avoid nuances.
  • If the customer is agitated, be more empathetic and apologetic than usual.

 

While social media support is a necessity for contemporary customer service, you can simplify the process by following these basic, tried-and-true tips.

How AI Serves the Customer Journey

By Nick Deininger

Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a ubiquitous technology in consumer devices and services. What does it mean for the future of the contact center and how organizations serve customers?

AI-enabled bots and intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are already transforming post-sales service by enabling better self-service and allowing more forms of customer engagement. But the role of AI is not limited to post-sales interactions. For contact centers, intelligent assistants can significantly improve the customer experience by gathering data, predicting the customer’s needs, and learning about the customer’s behavior.

As Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research principal analyst, recently pointed out, contact centers can use AI to fuel all phases of the customer journey.

Presales:  Showcase more options and overcome hesitations. Predictive analytics and machine learning can help target product recommendations, offer cross-sell or upsell opportunities, and present a coupon or other incentive at just the right moment to take the potential customer from shopper to buyer.

Onboarding: Get customers started quickly. Once the journey begins, intelligent assistants can answer questions before customers even need to ask. AI can drive basic onboarding, such as account activation, to even more complex tasks such as tracking the user’s progress, offering tips for new features, and keeping tabs on customer satisfaction. AI can also capture a potential trouble ticket and route it to a human agent for immediate attention, even before the user asks for help.

Post-sales: Make it easier for customers to serve themselves. Efficient, easy-to-use self-service is clearly becoming the preferred method of customer interaction, and factors heavily into customer satisfaction ratings.  AI capabilities such as cognitive analysis and natural language understanding enable bots to respond intelligently to customer chats and lead natural-sounding conversations.

Anytime: Know when to connect a customer to a live agent.  Done correctly, AI bots seamlessly connect with human agents at any time, for uninterrupted conversations with the customer.

In a world where bots and machine learning are commonplace in all sorts of apps and devices, using AI to boost customer experience is more than smart. It’s becoming essential for every contact center.

5 Contact Center Trends to Watch

Contact centers have a lot of contradictory goals to juggle: focusing on both employee and customer happiness; modernizing while still utilizing helpful legacy systems; and upholding security while being open-minded enough to evolve. Contact centers are almost always in some sort of transitional phrase, with late-2017 being no different. Here are five trends you should either be familiar with or keep an eye on moving forward.

1. Omni-channel, not multi-channel, service.

Some contact centers mistakenly think that offering multi-channel service means they’re immediately able to deliver omni-channel support, but the two are quite different. Omni-channel services takes those multiple channels and seamlessly integrates them. Agent-customer interactions can be switched to a different channel mid-communication without losing any relevant data.

2. New digital channels.

Customers want convenience, which means being able to interact with customer support when they’re on-the-go. Emerging digital channels have to be adopted by contact centers, including mobile apps and web chat. These channels must be adaptable and easy to use, too, and they have to make it simple for customers to troubleshoot on their own and, when needed, get in touch with a live support agent.

3. Additional performance metrics.

Most contact centers have strategies in place to measure voice and call quality, but since digital channels are still relatively new, measuring them isn’t as commonplace. Understanding how agents perform on digital channels, including mobile, live chat and social media, can help to increase agent productivity and improve the customer experience.

4. Dependence on the cloud.

Though many contact centers have switched over to the cloud, others are still relying on their antiquated legacy systems. According to Customer Think, reliance on the cloud is about to increase dramatically, particularly over the next four years. More contact centers will move to the cloud, allowing them to scale globally, improve their data security and increase their efficiency.

5. Two-way conversations on social media.

The ways customers want to connect with brands on social media has changed – they now want to engage in a back-and-forth conversation with support instead of just observing the content a brand posts. Contact centers will need to train agents in how to chat with customers on social media platforms, both publicly (like on a Twitter thread) and privately (like on Facebook Messenger).