Advanced Automation Is Key to Proactive Customer Service

Remote sales, contactless service, and digital engagement have changed the face of how companies service their customers, and it looks like those shifts are here to stay. Now, companies can expect to manage fewer in-person touchpoints but more touchpoints in total, most of which will be virtual and self-service. Twilio found in a survey of 2,500 business leaders that the number of digital touchpoints increased by 63 percent during the pandemic.

Despite the shift to digital touchpoints, both B2C and B2B customers expect relevant, personalized interactions across multiple channels. They also expect transparent, easy-to-access service, or service that anticipates their needs. Now is the time to recognize and meet customers' preferences, no matter how they choose to engage. To do so, companies need to adopt the latest advanced technology practices.

Automated processes that can analyze and act on real-time and historical customer and product data are at the heart of proactive customer engagement. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) can use unified data to give service personnel a 360-degree view of each customer's interactions with a product or service. Natural language processing technology underpins conversational chatbots that can contact consumers with updates, offers, and service reminders or talk them through self-service. Internet of Things (IoT) devices can help companies remotely monitor their equipment for diagnostics and predictive maintenance. Immersive virtual reality (VR),augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) solutions can drive deeper engagement across many touchpoints, from decision making to product setup, and positively impact overall customer and employee experiences.

These technologies can enable proactive messaging platforms on company websites, social media profiles, mobile apps, and within their products. As a result, they allow companies to deliver more intuitive and engaging experiences, help customers get the most value from their purchases, and strengthen customer loyalty.

Here are a few examples of how these advanced technologies can make proactive customer engagement easier and more effective

Chatbot-guided self-service portals

AI, ML, and natural language processing can enable self-service platforms for customers to solve service issues in a convenient, contactless way. For example, natural language chatbots are built to handle many basic questions and even some simple troubleshooting so customers can get quick resolutions for simple issues.

Chatbots are also increasingly popular among B2B technology buyers. This year, more than one-third of customers will rank chatbots among their top 10 ways to engage with companies (Forrester, Predictions 2021). With chatbots and self-service portals for B2B customers, companies can increase engagement during the buying journey with minimal sales staff involvement.

Immersive self-service experiences

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies are becoming more common. They can be effective ways to engage with customers and provide a better infield experience for employees to augment their work. Forrester predicts that in addition to the 36 percent of U.S. consumers who have already used AR or VR, another 10 percent to 20 percent will try it in 2021, expanding overall exposure to just short of half the U.S. online adult population (Forrester, Predictions 2021). In many cases, they can be used to avoid contact.

Real-time service-call and delivery status visibility

Knowing exactly when a service technician or a package will arrive is helpful to customers as they plan their day. It also reduces some of the background stress in their lives, in light of the fact that 46 percent of customers experienced a package theft in 2020, up from 36 percent in 2019. Text, push notifications, or email updates that draw on real-time GPS data or third-party shipping information can improve customer satisfaction. The same technology can also let customers make service requests and share information about their requests.

For example, a service provider to bottling companies developed an app that combines barcode scanner technology, geolocation, unified data, and workflow management capabilities to do the following:

  • Take equipment repair requests from customers;
  • Identify the exact item that needs repair;
  • Track dispatched service technicians; and
  • Generate a service ticket that the customer can save for review and reference.

This shows customers that their repair requests have been received, predicts when the technician will arrive, and what steps are taken to resolve the problem. The data that customers share in the app also helps technicians plan to bring the right tools and supplies to each service call for faster resolution.

A single view of the customer's service channel engagements

The bottling equipment repair app shows how unified data benefits customers and employees to ultimately deliver a better experience for both. This kind of data, combined with AI- and ML-driven predictive tools, can help service agents and self-service programs tailor their offers to each customer's moods, intent, and needs across channels, including social media.

A popular airline implemented a single customer view across voice, chat, and social media platforms for agents to use in their cross-sell and upsell offers. With the new unified view in place, the airline soon engaged in 3,000 chats and more than 2,500 social media interactions daily across a dozen global markets to improve customer experience and generate more revenue.

The time to become proactive is now.

To meet customers' expectations, companies need to invest in automation that helps them anticipate customers' needs, solve problems quickly, and match relevant offers in real time. With proactive advanced technology capabilities, companies can provide superior customer service, retain customers, earn their loyalty, and use data generated by the platforms to keep improving their services and products, all of which contribute to a more engaging customer experience.

Bill Donlan is executive vice president of digital customer experience at Capgemini North America. He has more than 26 years of experience helping companies improve customer and value chain relationships through a combination of business strategy, process tuning, industry best practices, and technology integration. He is experienced with all of the leading software vendors in the CRM space as well as several mid-market packaged solutions.