Five Strategies for Leveraging Automation to Improve Customer Experiences

Since customers are the lifeblood of companies, we need to make sure they are front and center in everything we do. Yet, keeping customers happy and living up to their expectations can be a challenge. In today's customer-driven economy, people expect to receive the information they want quickly and how, when, and where they want it. And there's not a lot of room for error; brand loyalty is fast becoming a thing of the past, and customers can leave over just one bad interaction.

Digital transformation initiatives can help customer service departments put an end to those bad interactions. For example, chatbots, or conversational artificial intelligence (AI) that mimics human communication, enables companies to service their customers 24/7 through whichever mode they prefer, whether it's phone, website, or social channels. And, deep learning solutions can help them predict customer churn and up their game when it comes to better servicing the customer.

While automating customer service has many advantages, it also can go awry if not managed correctly. We can all relate to being stuck on hold for an hour or more, waiting for a customer service rep to come on the line while listening to a monotonous list of information that is irrelevant to you. Then, after all that, a personal assistant connects you to the wrong department and you have to repeat the same information several times to different assistants. More information is not better if it causes more work for the customer. According to Hubspot Research, one-third of consumers reported that their greatest customer service frustration was waiting on hold, while an equal number cited having to repeat their information to multiple members of the support team.

It's time to rethink our approach to customer service. The problem we've been having all too often is that we aren't really thinking about the experience from the customer's perspective, even though we're all customers ourselves. Here are five strategies for leveraging automation to improve the customer experience:

Start with design experience.

This is an approach borrowed from the design community that places the customer at the center of the process and tries to incorporate a fresh, new way of looking at problems and solving them. Design thinking follows several principles, including talking with customers and truly listening to them about what is or isn't working, stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging assumptions, framing problems in new ways, and trying different approaches for solving them. It incorporates the following key steps:

  • Empathizing with customers;
  • Defining their needs based on the information they give you;
  • Brainstorming ways to solve their problems;
  • Developing prototypes and taking iterative steps to solve their problems; and
  • Testing the solution.

By trying to think like customers, based on the insights and behaviors they share, you can get much closer to identifying and addressing what their actual concerns are rather than those you assume they have.

Use the most effective technologies available.

While chatbots can provide round-the-clock customer service, they need to incorporate robust machine learning technology to continually learn and improve the customer experience. Companies can use data from actual customer service communications to find out more about the minds of customers. Then the chatbots can learn how to accurately reply to the questions that are most frequently asked, as well as those that they were unable to answer. Don't think of chatbots as a one-and-done project, but rather as one that should be continually tested and improved to enhance the customer experience.

AI technology can also be used to identify certain phrases during conversations that indicate customer frustration. Using that information, the company can escalate conversations to humans or send promotional offers to help allay customer frustration.

Another technology to consider is augmented reality (AR), which gives customers a more realistic view of the product they are evaluating. AR can be used to show an outfit in different colors or patterns or to create a fully decorated room with furniture and accessories. AR proved particularly helpful to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, simulating experiences when many stores were closed, but it can be a useful online shopping tool at all times.

Tailor the info.

Give customers as much relevant information as possible and tailor it specifically to them. This can include the status of an order or follow-up instructions on care and cleaning after they receive the product they ordered. As AI becomes more sophisticated based on a larger dataset of customers, companies can hone their communication even further, similar to how Netflix or Amazon suggest movies or items of interest based on previous purchases as well as the interests of others with similar profiles.

Provide an omnichannel experience.

Be ready to move along with the customers from platform to platform. With several devices, such as mobile, laptop, or smart TV, at our disposal, customer service departments should be able to seamlessly continue one conversation that started on the phone to a laptop or other device. It's all about reaching customers where they are.

Strive for continuous improvement.

Maintaining happy customers is an ongoing process, yet an important one. According to American Express, 90 percent of customers consider customer service when deciding with which company to do business. Periodically check in with customers and ask for their feedback, use analytics to assess customer complaints and predictive analytics to see which ones you are in danger of losing, and reach out to address them accordingly.

Good customer service must be king in every business. According to Bain & Co., companies that provide superior customer service increase their revenue by between 4 percent and 8 percent over their peers. By effectively leveraging key digitally transforming technologies like chatbots, machine learning, and AR, companies can raise the bar on customer service as well as their bottom lines.

As chief operations officer and co-founder of artificial intelligence and software engineering services firm Wovenware, Carlos Meléndez helps companies achieve customized digital transformation to propel their businesses to the next level. With expertise in business strategy and software engineering, he has a strong track record bringing game-changing AI, machine learning and deep learning solutions to organizations across a variety of industries.