In the quest for faster, easier and more cost-effective service journeys, we are seeing many organisations across a wide range of industries turning to online solutions or self-service, technology-assisted interactions as the future of customer interactions.

While, in theory, technology-assisted transactions may seem to be the inevitable conclusion of the evolution of customer service, it doesn’t mean that personal care and attention – either in face-to-face problem solving or talking to a live person on the telephone – can be left to sort itself out.

If anything, more input into creating the service journey has never been more important so that at every touchpoint between a company and a customer, a swift and satisfying resolution can be found.

Chatbots 

Chatbots have long been touted as the next big transformation with customer interaction, but problems remain with getting the technology right.

Essentially, a chatbot is purposefully designed software that has been established to simulate conversation with humans. This software is also expected to perform cognitive functions such as speech to text, language recognition and translation, and text analytics, among other uses.

According to Search Engine Journal, “Chatbots are a very well-timed middle ground between automation, artificial intelligence and the changing use of the Internet in a way that could make it extremely effective in doing business online.” (https://www.searchenginejournal.com/future-of-chatbots/278595/#close) In fact, by 2020, Gartner predicts that more people will have conversations with chatbots than with their spouse.

Facebook IQ reported that “two billion messages were exchanged between businesses and customers via the 100,000 chatbots on messenger” between 2017-2018. This represents a 5.6 times growth year on year.  Entrepeneur.com (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/325830)

Entrepeneur.com believes that chatbots will continue to influence consumer behaviour and play a big role in the way businesses interact with consumers due to the fact that they can be wherever humans are with technology, they enhance interactivity, they can manage high volumes of queries, they help human agents handle complex problems and they reach out to newer audiences.  But is it as simple as that?

Our Research

COPC Inc. undertook an extensive global research project (Customer Experience Management Benchmark (CXMB) Series) in 2018 and found that of the 650 respondents interviewed, 57% of users were able to resolve their issue using an unassisted channel.

This is good news for those companies and industries investing heavily in online technology; however, to put this in context, when asked about their unassisted solution experience, 31% of respondents indicated that they were either ‘unsatisfied’ or ‘very unsatisfied.’

In fact, when you dig deeper into the research, it reveals that multichannel users lead the dissatisfaction rate at 42% – double that of traditional care users at 21%, which came in second.

Our research further revealed that users of unassisted solutions are about as likely to try and resolve an issue on their own as the general public. Yet, when it comes to trying to find a solution online, they are significantly more likely (27%) to do so compared to the general public (20%).

Interestingly, members of the general public are also more likely to try and contact brands directly when faced with an issue versus users of unassisted solutions.

The Future of Chatbots

The COPC Inc. research also disclosed that when it comes to the development of artificial intelligence-powered self-service solutions like chatbots, the public was lukewarm about this development. Almost half (47%) had no opinion, while 24% said it has a place, but they still prefer a real person to engage with. A mere 11% thought it was awesome, but another 11% said they will only use it if it works. This indicates that companies have a lot of work to do to convince people this is the future of customer service.

Furthermore, this should send out big warning bells to companies who think that they can ignore the human element when resolving problems and improving the customer experience.

Our service journey methodology ensures that at each touchpoint a resolution can be found.

The last part of the research worth mentioning is that 66% of respondents would be happy if their problem could be resolved with self-service solutions, but 26% want options, and the final 8% want to choose their own solution.

Lastly, 38% of respondents believe the availability of unassisted solutions is making the overall customer experience worse, while another 38% say it is neither better nor worse, with 24% saying it is better.

Again, organisations need to think carefully about heavily investing in unassisted solutions if they don’t have the processes in place to provide answers.

Overall Summary

Unassisted solutions in the form of chatbots and artificial intelligence, amongst others, is definitely the way of the future; however, whether you rely on total technological solutions or still use an element of human interaction, every company in every industry needs to ensure that they have the service journey simplified to reach effective solutions.

A customer just wants a problem resolved, whether it is a first call on a new product or service or even an inquiry. If your service journey keeps redirecting customers to different areas of the business for a solution or doesn’t understand the problem, no technology will save you from bad reviews.

Getting the interaction right from both the business and customer perspective should be first, and every step after that should only enhance the process.

Author Ian Aitchison

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