Great Support Experiences Are People-Powered

Human beings are social creatures, and we truly enjoy social exchanges, almost as organically as we do food or sleep. Thus, it is only natural for us to have the same outlook toward a free-flowing conversational experience during our interactions with businesses. This is regardless of whether it happens during the exploratory stages of our consumer journey, or after we've hurdled the trust barrier to become paying customers.

In this digital age, the expectation for conversational experience needs to be seamless regardless of the location, device, or channel. It is imperative that companies create business and technical flows that exceed consumers' expectations throughout their journeys and extend beyond the purchase to create brand loyalty.

The essence of the opportunity and the challenge of creating conversational experiences, regardless of the support channel, seem quite simple on the surface. The reality is that the economic, operational, and technical spheres that such an effort requires are incredibly complex and cuts across various organizations.

Engaging experiences cannot be powered without a great deal of data that's likely siloed in various repositories across your company's marketing, CRM, and call center technology stacks. Aggregating and harmonizing that data in real time to be presented elegantly to the right parties is the first step on the road to providing best-in-class conversational experiences.

Step two involves applying contextual sense, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to automate and improve the performance of both digital flows and self-serve options and to assist human support staff.

And let's be very clear: while ML and AI are powerful tools for engineering conversational experience, human beings remain the consumers' most preferred touchpoint for solving their problems. Make no mistake, this means empowering an agent with tools to preemptively obtain already known information and context, reducing the time to resolution, thereby greatly increasing customer satisfaction while not increasing costs by overstaffing.

Supporting the Total Experience

If you look from the human perspective, before learning to email, text, or navigate a website, most grow up learning to speak first. As a result, when it comes to customer support, it's more natural to speak with another human when you are facing an issue. However, time to resolution is the key metric and to be optimal, the customer support experience must be completely in alignment with experience as a shopper and buyer.

There should not be unnatural barriers between the consumer's expectation derived through digital interaction and what's delivered via the human interaction. Further, the conversational experience provided cannot be a linear interaction; it must be multimodal and multichannel to be successful. It cannot be a series of static, disconnected interactions; as it feels robotic and annoying. Instead, the consumer's perception must be of a single, always-on, always-aware support experience.

And this brings us back again to the crux of the matter: Assisted-AI curating and choreographing a conversation along with a real human delivering the solution with empathy and warmth cannot be substituted with a synthesized, one-size-fits-all system, regardless of the AI behind it.

What your customers want is to not start from square one every time they have to reach out for an issue with their product or service. In this hyper-connected era, especially for an existing customer, your systems already have a ton of their information. That information needs to be highlighted instantly to make them feel like the valued customers you say they are. Asking the customer the same information again and again, making them repeat simple identification, location, or other data will lessen their desire to remain with the product or service.

When a long-time, loyal customer calls support, she is most likely already frustrated or anxious. She might already be contemplating taking her business to a competitor if this is a repeat issue. Companies need to understand that the customer is essentially giving you a final opportunity to make herhappy again and retain her.

A customer support staff is the front line of a company's brand identity. They are continually establishing, improving, or, on the flip side, harming, the perception of the value promised by the business. The world is moving toward mobile, and with smartphone penetration reaching 100 percent in most geographies, the team must be set up and trained properly. This includes not only being able to instantly draw on the customer's entire journey history and have both the tools and permissions to address each conversation with the consumer as it comes. If their journey includes an in-app experience, texting, or a voice assistant, the CSR needs to be able to quarterback that experience without hiccups or loss of context. Very few customer support solutions today even have the capability of integrating data and interactions from in-app, texting, and other emerging support channels. This represents a tremendous risk for companies with deep aspirations for mobile and other consumer technologies.

We are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to driving home the point of delighting customers with every support experience.

Companies spend millions on winning new customers. They, however, don't invest anywhere close to the same amount on customer support, resulting in customer satisfaction and Net Promoter scores diving to the negative. New communications channels have an always-open, always-available model, yet customers still feel frustrated just trying to get a hold of support when things don't work as expected. More than ever, today, there is an incredible amount of data for contact centers to analyze and to assist in a delightful interaction, but companies need to connect the product, service, and support factors in this equation. Having personalized details without a secure and automated way to share them with the support teams will lead to churn and increased customer acquisition costs.

The bottom line is that we are pre-wired to feel and respond warmly to human interaction. The companies ensuring that user experience and automation are deployed in conjunction with humans to provide a great conversational experience will win and enjoy a loyal following.

Anand Janefalkar is founder and CEO of UJET. He has 15 years experience in the technology industry, and served as a technical advisor for various startups in the San Francisco area. Before founding UJET, he served as senior engineering manager at Jawbone and contributed to several projects at Motorola.