Keeping it real: customer experience in the Covid era

Martin Taylor, deputy CEO and co-founder of Content Guru, discusses how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed the customer experience.

Customer experience, although already being cajoled into a new direction pre-Covid due to global digital transformation, has experienced a massive shift towards online-only operations thanks to the changed business environment shaped by the pandemic. As a result, the focus for customer experience and engagement has shifted dramatically towards digital platforms. With the pressure on to differentiate service offerings and add personalised value to customer interactions, the most forward-thinking contact centres have been rolling out key AI technologies at pace.

Chatbot version 1

Most of us will have attempted to converse with a badly configured chatbot: an altogether frustrating experience. Previously, many businesses viewed this technology as a less expensive solution to all customer service problems but, in reality, this idea never came to fruition. This year has proven why it is now obsolete to imagine the all-providing IM chatbot as the answer to all customer service automation needs. The human touch is still a crucial aspect of customer experience. However, this technology is now in fact evolving alongside advancements in cloud, AI, and voice technologies to become a valuable part of every wider omnichannel portfolio. The convergence of written and spoken chatbot functionalities should, and likely will, be the driving force behind the rebirth of a new Conversational User Interface (CUI), built on the foundations the original chatbot came from.

Chatbot version 2.0

A branch of AI called Natural Language Processing (NLP) is one of the most recent developments that is pushing the chatbot to become more than it once was. The chatbot has often been defined as just an online text-based engagement portal, but with NLP cementing itself over the past couple of years as a tool that opens up unprecedented insight into voice data – particularly in customer journey analytics – the chatbot should be next in line.

The chatbot of old must evolve alongside these technological advancements in voice from a one-stop-shop of automated responses, and instead become the shop-front to an intelligent customer engagement hub. In practice, this simply means that those customers with more complex enquiries can be transferred to a human agent, and those with simple queries can save time by utilising the CUI alone – all using an automated CUI powered by NLP and sentiment tracking.

Maintaining relationships using sentiment analysis

With NLP, since the call has already been categorised by the time the agent answers a customer, they know exactly what the caller’s issue is. Queries can be resolved faster and more accurately, since the agent is more prepared and won’t have to spend time searching for answers in real-time during the call. NLP is a gamechanger in the contact centre industry, since it is manifestly more efficient than a traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) in providing customers with a satisfactory experience and it supports agent activity.

The next big step for NLP will be advancements in sentiment analysis and will continue to pave the way for monumental changes to the chatbot into the future. This is where a sophisticated mix of keywords, tone of voice, and volume create a much deeper picture of the caller and their needs for the agent. With this information, businesses can ensure that each caller is routed to the agent or department best equipped to deal with their enquiry.

Keeping it real

As we all continue to keep our distance from one another physically, it is crucial that businesses make the effort to keep close with their customers digitally. One logical way of doing this is to ensure they are providing a personalised customer experience despite the impacts of Covid-19 on in-person interactions.

Using technologies such as intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants, with AI, NLP and sentiment analysis capabilities, enable customer engagement teams, across all industries, to continue to care for their customers and provide an excellent service even remotely. As we continue to navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic together, maintaining that human touch in all operations is becoming more valuable than ever before.

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