Several years ago, I had a defining moment at Tokyo airport. Entering the duty-free store to arm myself with some last-minute gifts, Pepper greeted me. A robot standing about 4 feet high, she greeted me as I entered the store and, armed with speech and visual recognition, attempted to help me locate the gift of my dreams. Now the interaction didn’t get very far as my grasp of Japanese was pretty limited, but at that moment, I was confronted with the question – will technology and robotics be the entire service experience of the future. Are humans in service a thing of the past?
Fast forward three years and the industry is innovating and advancing at breathtaking speed, but our people are still a vital element of success in delivering and creating engaging service experiences. Fueled by what we can refer to as the Amazonification of expectations, customers are looking for much more than just an answer. We all function as consumers across multiple industries and typically the highest levels of speed, personalization and insight is what sets the bar for every service interaction we engage in. If Amazon can deliver same day, why can’t every other organization I participate in? If my bank knows me and anticipates my wants even before I know about it, why can’t every company? Customers want products that work or services that add value and feel highly personalized. This creates an experience gap for many organizations, the difference between customer expectations and the reality of the experience for our users. And so, our challenge is to create care experiences that are proactive, personalized and emotionally connected and do it in such a way that it feels natural. We need to walk in our customer’s shoes and ensure that we truly understand the experience, looking beyond the metrics and staying close to what our is essential.
Technology and automation haven’t replaced our people, but it has taken care of the transactional, simple questions and augmented the work of our customer experience professionals
Gartner predicts that 85% of interactions will be without human engagement by 2020, and this trend has already been seen across many industries. The rise of digital care experiences, which provide answers and insights within expertise is central to the evolution of the care industry. No longer at arm’s length from the rest of an organization, customer experience now takes centre stage in most corporations and is a powerful voice alongside product and design. Much of this work doesn’t feel like traditional care. Guidance within experiences leads the customer through thoughtful design. By utilizing predictive insights and behavioural analytics, technology can anticipate questions even before they occur and serve it up in a way that feels natural. AI and ML are deployed to rapidly resolve simple, repeatable interactions at scale and messaging, and bots serve to provide rapid help at the moment in a conversational way. QuickBooks Assistant offers both a chat and voice interface and can quickly answer questions like “who owes me the money” or how much money did I make this month? To date, the assistant has handled over 1.5 million interactions and got our small business customers back to work quickly, armed with the right insights.
For our people, this means they are engaging in the most critical or most complex interactions. Our agents now need the support of rich data and insights combined with powerful CRM and knowledge base technologies. Speech and text analytics can deliver powerful ideas which generate that “know me to feel” in both digital and human interactions. A healthy tension exists between the desire for personal communication and customer fears around privacy and their data. It’s a thin line between using insights to help and support customers and getting into the realm of creepy. This dimension is also highly personal, so companies need to listen and respond quickly, testing their way into what levels of personalization are genuinely comfortable and helpful.
The rise of video-based support and screen share has been a game-changer in creating an instant personal connection and building customer confidence. Having the same visual perspective on a problem rapidly unlocks the answer. Intuit’s TurboTax combines the on-demand help of an expert with real-time collaboration via co-browsing and agent video. This instant connection to expertise created a step-change in the experience for customers, with measures of satisfaction increasing by 18%.
Similarly, in the training environment, a shift is occurring from weeks in a classroom to virtual environments, infused with video-based learning, simulations and gamified experiences to meet the needs of the modern learner. Forester research discovered employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than reading the text — no surprise to parents. But what may be a surprise is the increase in learning effectiveness through these new technologies. Intuit’s ProConnect Group have transformed the training experience, moving from up to 9 weeks in a classroom to modular-based learning, mixing instructor-led and self-paced mediums and infused with video and hands-on knowledge. This approach within the complex world of professional tax has enabled their experts to rapidly get their feet wet, taking simple questions within two weeks and building their knowledge over time. It has also been a critical factor in improving the customer experience by 10%.
Our technology evolution in service is an exciting journey. Technology and automation haven’t replaced our people, but it has taken care of the transactional, simple questions and augmented the work of our customer experience professionals. It’s advancing at warp speed and at times struggling to meet customer expectations in a connected, always-on world. The future promises advances in emotion combined with AI and machine learning, delivering and responding in a more empathetic way and in bringing the real and virtual worlds together through augmented reality experiences. For those companies that embrace technology and put customer experience at the centre of decision making, the opportunity to differentiate and transform your brand is limitless. Pepper isn’t taking over the world, but she will be having a place on the team.