Enhancing Customer Service to Deliver Concierge-Like Experiences



Times are changing. Customers don't just want service, they want fast service. And when we talk about smart customer service, there is a new wave of innovations now changing the game to help businesses scale at both the scope and speed that today's consumers demand. Bridging the gap, technological innovation has finally caught up, and increasingly, virtual assistants have become more commonplace across many industries, from hotels to manufacturing and everywhere in between. More and more, tools like chatbots are working with customer service representatives to deliver experiences that not only meet, but exceed customer expectations.

Instead of suffering through another painful call with a generic service agent, customers increasingly make a website visit their first move to find the answers themselves. Yet too often, the websites for their solution providers are as rigid and non-intuitive as automated dial-up directories. Customers bounce from FAQ sections to how-to videos to user community sections, forcing them to do their own digging according to the process the company sets up. When websites are set up like brochures instead of being optimized for online customer service, it can cost businesses in their bottom lines.

So this begs the question, what separates good from great? To this end, let's take some lessons from one of the ultimate examples of customer service—the hotel concierge—and apply them to the digital world. A good concierge can accept a request from a customer and help make dinner reservations at a restaurant of the guest's choosing. A great concierge will make a recommendation proactively, with no prodding. He instantly identifies that the family of guests with three hungry young children in tow (not to mention, wearing casual attire) would likely enjoy the family-friendly Italian restaurant just down the road. Oh, and that concierge proactively reserved the last available table as they walked up, even before the customer had to ask. Today's consumers increasingly expect brand experiences to unfold like the latter example.

Instead of merely being reactive and rigid, companies should marry reactivity with a proactive and flexible approach that actually anticipates customers' needs. Organizations need to practice what they preach when it comes to developing a wholesale customer service strategy, leveraging digital transformation, communication, and agile movement of customer data in context from department to department.

Many of today's customers don't want to talk to representatives. They just want their problem solved, ideally via a digital channel. Yet customers have become resigned to being transferred on the phone to different departments or being treated as a blank slate with no past context with the company with which they're interacting.

In recent years, new approaches to customer service have emerged due to the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and analytics technologies. These technologies, when leveraged correctly, can empower organizations to truly get smart about customer service. Every organization wants to assist customers before they abandon the website, making sure they get answers to their issues as seamlessly as possible. Instead of an ad-hoc, mish-mash of self-service features, however, AI can sense moments of need as they occur and change the customer experience game.

Instead of customers having to open five tabs from the same website to only have a decent chance of finding an answer, companies need to embrace AI-driven opportunities to analyze customer engagement history, alongside current movements within the website, to proactively surface only the information the customer really wants at that particular moment, without the customer even having to ask. This is the next frontier of customer service.

We can look to some simple examples for inspiration. Many people know and dread the feeling of checking their bank account and seeing an unusual charge that they did not initiate. With the help of AI, the bank will bring the right resources, whether it's a document to file a dispute, chatting with a fraud expert, or watching a video on fraud prevention to try to mitigate a similar occurrence in the future, to their fingertips before they even have to ask, because it predicted they had an issue and anticipated their needs when they visited the website. And in telecommunications, the business might sense a customer with high customer lifetime value (CLV) trending toward going over on their data and then proactively reach out via SMS to alert the individual of the potential issue ahead and the right plan update to make it all better.

In years past, seamlessly facilitating these interactions would have been challenging at best, but it has become feasible and practical both financially and technologically for today's companies. Businesses need to sense customer needs, both as they are happening and before they happen, so they can own the experience and get it right, not just from time to time, but every time.

Concierges still serve a purpose because they know their customers and can tailor recommendations around them. With advances in technology, companies now have the power and the impetus to carry over this concierge-like experience from hospitality service to today's modern digital customer service strategies.


Jeff Nicholson is vice president of CRM product marketing at Pegasystems. He is a frequent presenter at industry conferences and specializes in digital marketing, customer engagement, customer journey, customer loyalty, real-time marketing, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, previously holding marketing and product positions at Kitewheel, Pitney Bowes Software, Portrait Software, and Kronos.