Communicating with companies in the digital age should be fast and simple. Instead, most companies are making it hard and frustrating. One key reason is that companies look at communication channels in isolation, instead of holistically as customer engagement. A prominent example that many brands are guilty of is when an e-mail is sent from a firstname.lastname@example.org domain, without any information as to how the recipient should reply. Another is the use of chatbots, a poor replacement for customer service and FAQs.
Conversational Interface is the latest trend that is focused on improving the way customers interact. Today’s conversational interface refers to the hybrid UI that allows users to interact through chat, voice, e-mail, messaging, contact forms, or any other natural language interface with graphical UI elements like buttons, images, menus, videos, etc. In essence, Conversation UI allows you to interact with computers on human terms.
Technology has now proven to generate tens of millions in return from investments in conversational and process automation, making it mainstream. The question is, how can a conversational interface approach improve customer experience and thus customer loyalty, revenue and profit?
Existing Customer Interfaces are Broken
Most companies are organized in silos based on channels, rather than providing the best service to customers (E.g. for retail it’s often brick and mortar stores, online teams, marketing & brand, customer support, supply chain, finance and HR). For example, when looking at retail its often broken down by brick and mortar stores, online teams, brand and marketing teams, customer support, supply chain, finance and HR, rather than providing an all-encompassing service for the customer. Some examples of broken customer service in recent years include:
Websites of big companies do everything in their power to funnel their customers to their preferred method of communication, rather than acknowledging the customerspreferred method. Furthermore, the website is a never-ending struggle for the user, customer registration, authentication and remembering passwords is a customer experience nightmare.
People want to chat and message with brands, but often the only means of communication is by phone. Customers are looking for a quick response when dealing with brands through mobile phones. However, many retailers require customersto download an app to communicate with them. Let’s take the virtual fitting room trend as an example. Many retailers require their customers to download a separate app to virtually try on a pair of glasses using AR, when a photo uploaded to the website would besufficient. Most users don’t want to install a separate app from a brand on their phone.
Today, there is no link between branded communication channels. If the customer receives an e-mail and contacts customer support via phone, the customer will have to start from the beginning, by describing the issue each time, rather than there being a record of the issue in one universal place.
Don’t Start with a Technology Solution
The most widely recognized approach to solving these issues is to implement a new CRM, a Customer Care platform or even worse – a chatbot. Vendors of technology platforms are invited to present their solutions and they all promise these amazing improvements in customer satisfaction and ROI. Roughly a year or so later those promises have been broken, but new KPIs are created to show improvements and cost savings. Leaving the end customer completely forgotten.
So, what is the right approach to conversational interfaces?
The first, and most important step is pitting the human at the center of the conversation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How does your customers want to communicate with your organization?
- What’s the fastest and easiest way of solving their problems?
Once you’ve identified the potential answers, map out the customer experience across all possible interfaces including e-mail, website, voice/phone, chat, social media, virtual assistants (Alexa, Google, Siri), etc. Then, create a target architecture/solution based on the ideal customer experience. It’s important to prioritize and implement a roadmap based on what’s actually possible, so ensure this approach aligns with your customers’ needs and the problems you are trying to solve.
In 2017, chatbots were the big trend, but we believe that 2018 will be the year companies begin to leverage conversational interfaces for their customer experience. In the past, chatbots have had limited business impact outside of automating customer care, but as the scope expands to process and conversational interface automation, this will change.
Stay tuned for the remaining parts of this series to find out how these six trends are expected to shape success in 2018.
- Low code and no code
- Data security and privacy
- Apps replacing office tools
Chief Innovation Officer